What It’s Like To Be A Fat Woman In The Era Of So-Called ‘Body Positivity’

Photo: Courtesy of the author
photo of author

One day when I was about 20 years old, I was walking back to my car after getting my hair done by a professional who works out of her home. I had to park two blocks away because NYC parking sucks.

I was feeling pretty hot; my hair was shining, perfectly coifed, and smelling fresh from the shampoo, a mix of hardcore feminism and apricots.

RELATED: 50 Body-Positive Quotes To Help You Learn To Love Your Body

A car zoomed down the road and I skipped to my car in an effort to not get hit. 

The car slowed down as it drove past me — and the people inside screamed out their windows, "FATSO!" in unison.

I stood there in shock. After waiting a minute to confirm they had really driven away and wouldn't make an encore appearance, I got into my car. I turned on the ignition, put the radio on at almost a whisper level of sound, and cried.

Not just a single-tear-drop-at-a-time emo cry, but a sobbing-heaving-boogers-coming-out-of-my-nose cry, better known as an "ugly cry." How fitting, right?

I am overweight. The only thing I had been looking forward to was that hair appointment. I know the way I look can be a turn-off, but knowing I had just redesigned my hair, and subsequently, my face, was my way to make myself feel rejuvenated.

And those guys in that car took that away from me in less than a second.

When I returned home, my parents said, "Oh, you look so nice!" but it was too late. The damage had been done. I wanted to run to my room and cut my hair into choppy blocks and live the rest of my life under my blanket.

Cut to 15 years later, post-marriage, post-baby, present-day Liza. 

I weigh nearly 300 pounds at 5'2". (I've been telling people I'm 5'3"-5'4" all my life, but recently got measured by a doctor, and my whole world was shaken when I found out I had been living a lie and am, in fact, 5'2".)

I hear things like the following

"You're not fat. You're a beautiful person, inside and out."

"Don't call yourself fat. You have a beautiful heart and that's what matters."

"You're beautiful as you are ... but I can help you if you want to lose weight!"

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful; hardly what I would call myself.

What would I call myself?


These are photos of me from when I decided to document my non-existent weight loss journey on Facebook.

A movement known as BOPO or the Body Positive Movement first took off in 1996. 

According to Wikipedia:

"The Body Positive Movement is a feminist movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards their bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being. Whether people are nurturing their bodies and maintaining their weight, or finding a place in life where they are comfortable through working out or changing their lifestyles to find a better attitude, the body positive movement focuses on building self-esteem through improving one's self-image. The body-positive movement targets all body shapes and sizes."

RELATED: 4 Reasons Why 'Body Positive' Instagram Posts Could Be Hurting Us More Than Helping

OK, that's great! And that may work for a crapload of women, but it does NOT work for me.

I love all the keywords that are used on the regular by everyone involved in the movement (I understand that's a sweeping generalization, but go with me here).

"We are all about body acceptance."

"We are all about body positivity."

"We are all beautiful, no matter your shape or size."


Saying, "No matter your shape or size," is like saying, "You're beautiful ... DESPITE those excess rolls of fat surrounding your stomach (that could probably feed all of China)."

Or, "You're beautiful ... DESPITE the fact that you waddle like a duck to avoid chaffing because you will achieve the seemingly unattainable, yet highly coveted, 'thigh gap'."​

I wholeheartedly understand that those who are dedicated to the Body Positive movement, and even those who aren't but are just good friends of mine, are trying to be considerate when they say these things. But I don't want your pity.

But I have to say, the majority of the compliments I get only make me feel worse — and guilty.

I know I'm fat.

It's not a bad word. It's an adjective. 

I'm fat.

It's taken me years to understand that not everyone can look at me without feeling grossed out, like those guys driving by me in the car the day I got my hair done.

Some look at fat people and think we're just lazy, selfish, and disgusting; "You're wasting our tax dollars because you'll wind up with a whole slew of medical issues because you can't put that Big Mac down."

(I'll have you know that I'm a vegetarian, so screw your Big Mac and give me my KFC's macaroni and cheese. And I pay taxes, too, so shut yo' face!)

At this point in my life, I fully accept my body the way it is. All (almost) 300 pounds of it.

There may be a day when I want to lose weight and that could be tomorrow or it could be ten years from now. But until that point comes, please stop guilting me into feeling like I HAVE to accept my body. I accept things on my own terms.

There will be days I don't accept myself, and that's OK.

There will be WEEKS I don't accept myself, and that's OK, too.

But you cannot force acceptance on anyone, regardless of whether it's weight, race, gender, etc. People have to want to legitimately and sincerely accept something, or they're just being fake to make you feel better.

There's so much going on in all of our lives these days. We need to support each other when we need it, but don't pretend to accept something you don't.

We, the fat people of America, can feel it ... despite our shape and size.

RELATED: Lizzo Says Body Positivity Has Been Co-Opted By 'All Bodies' — Is The Movement Leaving Fat People Behind?

Liza Walter is a writer who focuses on news, entertainment, and true crime.