COURTNEY, 24, GRIMSBY
“I’ve been big from a young age.
When I was 10, I was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, so each year I’ve put on more weight. I was always really active, so it was strange. New lumps and bumps formed that I didn’t know what to do with.
I was bullied a lot throughout my school years, and I hated my body - absolutely hated it. It really affected my mental health.
When I was in college, I went on a big, long-term diet and lost five stone. I was a lot slimmer - though I was still big - but I realised I wasn’t a better person, I wasn’t suddenly beautiful, I wasn’t suddenly amazing. I was still the same person, but a lot less happy.
Then I discovered Instagram.
But one night someone commented on all of my pictures saying that I was fat and looked like someone from Star Wars.
I messaged her and asked her why she was doing it. Why she found it fun to hurt someone like that. She replied, and later admitted that she had hang-ups about her own body. She said she felt fat.
It made me think that often people are just pushing their own insecurities out. Someone will look at me and think: ‘I don’t want to be that size, I wouldn’t be happy that size, so why should you be happy when you’re fat?’
It makes me sad to think about people who are struggling so much that they think the only way to make themselves feel better is to put someone down. That’s not the way. You can’t be comparing yourself to other people.
I know it’s not easy, but the sooner you start to see yourself, how great you are, the better. You won’t need to judge someone by their looks.”
ENAM, 23, BIRMINGHAM
“I love the way I look and feel, because I’m just comfortable. I don’t feel any different from anyone else.
I wake up and see myself as this normal person.
Those are the squidgy parts - they might be seen as fat to someone else, but to me it’s just comfortable.
There’s no-one out there who’s going to tell you that you’re beautiful when you’re fat, simple as.
If you find someone who does, treasure them, appreciate them, and tell them how good they make you feel.
Don’t be that person who is always demoralising someone, or always being judgmental, because you also have your flaws. Everyone has things they need to work on.”
KATIE, 34, LONDON
“I have been waiting to be thin most of my life - to lose weight. I’ve put a lot of things on hold.
When I was a kid growing up in Poland, I was quite sickly with upper throat infections and had to go to places we called sanatoriums to get better. Every time I went to one, they would put me on a low-calorie diet.
They were always saying that I had to lose weight. Nowadays, when I look at photos from childhood, I don’t see anything wrong. I wasn’t skinny, but I wasn’t fat.
But I was made to feel that there was something wrong.
A few years ago, I started feeling a growing sense of anger.
I was consuming a lot of feminist blogs and podcasts, and they talked about body positivity and self-love. I got to the point where I thought, ‘There’s nothing wrong with the way I look, there’s nothing wrong with the way anyone looks. I’m just going to live my life.’
I stopped waiting to buy nice clothes, I just bought the clothes that fitted me. I started going on holiday. I started wearing a swimsuit and going swimming, which I always used to love when I was a kid.
I’m no longer trying to change myself to fit society. I’m trying to change society so it can fit me.
Body positivity is not just for fat people or skinny people, it’s for everyone.
Body positivity is the freedom that comes with being able to be happy with yourself. It gives you so much time to do other things, to travel, to think, to write, to make friends without having to worry about how you look all the time.
Everyone could use a bit of body positivity in their life.”
MERCEDEZ, 28, LONDON / CHICAGO
“I was on a flight recently and I asked for a seat belt extender, which I’m totally comfortable asking for - it doesn’t bother me.
I was told I would have to pay for it. I said, ‘No thanks’, and they just ignored it, so I went without a seat belt from London to Morocco and back again.
People think being fat is our fault.
I struggled with not feeling desirable as a teenager. I thought I would never find a partner, that nobody would love me in the body I had.
I look back at the time where I hated myself the most and I’m like - I was so cute. Why would anyone think these things?
I do feel really sensitive about desirability, through relationships and especially the way men have treated me as disposable. But I know that I’m hot.
I know that my body is some people’s greatest fear, and to confront that is uncomfortable.
To confront me being happy and living life and feeling healthy - whatever that means - threatens people’s desires to fit into a beauty norm.
I think it scares people that you can exist in a way that you haven’t been told that you can exist.”
TARA, 30, NORTHAMPTONSHIRE
“Sometimes being fat is awesome, and sometimes it’s difficult.
Spaces aren’t designed for larger bodies.
Public transport is a nightmare. You need two seats on an plane. But a big body has just as much right as a smaller body.
Being fat can feel rebellious. Being fat and loving yourself is something completely different.
I used to hate it. I wouldn’t eat. I wanted my skin to be lighter, so when I was in primary school, I’d cover myself in talcum powder. Now, of course, I realise there’s nothing wrong with me.
It would help if there were fat dolls out there for kids. Dolls like Barbie, have a totally unattainable shape. For everyone - of any size, race, whatever - it’s just not manageable.
As I’ve got older, I've grown into my body. That’s the best way to say it. It kind of grew on me.
When I finally became happy with where I was, when I stopped always trying to improve, that made a big difference. My partner helped loads as well.
People think that if you’re fat then you can’t be healthy. You can be really big, and not as healthy as you should be. But then you’re happy, so it’s about weighing up what’s more important. When I’m smaller, I’m a state.
I’m a happy size, and a healthy size, for all of me. For my mental health and my physical health, which are almost the same thing.”
SHARON, 30, LONDON
“When I was a kid, I didn’t feel happy in myself. I felt that I was ugly and my self-worth was really low because I got bullied a lot.
I developed and came out of myself a bit in my later teens. But it wasn’t until I found out about fat acceptance and fat positivity that I really came into my own.
I was able to start looking at my self-worth as being more than whether or not I’m aesthetically pleasing to wider society. Now, some days I think I’m beautiful, other days I don’t.
I have the knowledge that when things aren’t great, I can actually break that down and think: ‘OK Sharon, it’s not because you’re fat, it’s not because of you, it’s because of society’s impression of you.’
It’s because you’ve absorbed so many images from the media. There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s just the way that you’ve been made to feel.
Fat activism is about liberating fat people from social norms, and the discrimination and negativity that comes alongside that.
We want society to accept us as human beings whose worth is not defined by weight, appearance or health.
The biggest thing is to not make assumptions about why fat people are fat, or that they’re unhealthy.
Just ask us. Ask us how we feel about our bodies. Be open-minded.”