Meeting up with a childhood friend is always weird and strange because it’s like meeting a younger version of you. The younger versions of Chloe and I went to the same schools through primary to college, and split off for University. Younger Chloe loved pink and romance books and traditionally feminine things, and younger me had a blue bedroom and short hair like a boy’s and loved action films. 21-year-old Chloe is beautifully bare-faced and has amazing blue-green hair and is about to begin her Master’s in the Lake District doing outdoor activities and hiking. 21-year-old Melita (that’s me) sits in makeup and a carefully cultivated outfit, writes for a living and adores her femininity. I like pink, and I love clothes, makeup and perfume. But there’s always been one huge difference in my mind that’s never changed; I am fat and she is not, and that will not ever change.

So 21-year-old Chloe and Melita sit down for cocktails and a catch-up, and she tells me “You look like you’ve come into yourself. You look confident. It suits you.” The statement confuses me; I’m still fat. I was under the impression that because I am a fat woman, I can’t ever come into myself. I’ll never look confident except if I wear something showing more than the socially acceptable slither of skin for fat people (I hear ‘I wish I had your confidence!’ in my nightmares) and I’ll never look comfortable, because how can a fat person be comfortable? God, look at her, can’t she go to the gym? And then that one simple comment sends me into a confused period of questioning my whole self-perception. I wrote my dissertation on how my life has been shaped by my position as a fat female, and I thought I had it figured out. I was working on the logic that fat isn’t a choice and that I had to just suck up and deal with it because I won’t look the same way forever but I’ll always be fat so what does it matter? If I can’t ever love myself I’ll pour all of the love left behind into supporting the people who look and feel like me.

The first part is true; fat isn’t a choice. Fat people are demonised to the extent that I couldn’t even eat in public. It’s a pretty common experience for fat and plus-size people, going out in public and then scoffing our faces the moment we close our doors in shame. I used to do that, and that wasn’t my fault. God forbid the fat girl eats during her busy day to stay alive, so I’d starve all day and binge once I got home to ‘protect’ people’s perception of me. I was putting people first constantly, even above my health. Society and the media ‘tend to dramatize, moralize, and individualize body weight, particularly when referring to higher weights’ and all plus-size people are aware of it, so we hide ourselves in baggy clothes and don’t eat, and once some of us are done binging, we make ourselves sick and repeat it all over again. That was my life, and I was smaller then, a size 14. I’m a size 16 now (the literal average size, mind you) and although I’m bigger, I eat a lot healthier. I’m happier. I’m stable. I make chicken alfredo, a meal I always wanted to try but never dared to because of the calories in the cream, and allow myself to have the same sugary cocktails as my friends. I didn’t have these things for years at all and tried to lose weight and I was miserable. Funnily enough, I hated vegetables back then because I refused to use oil or butter or garlic or anything that would make it taste flavourful, so I tried not to eat anything at all. Now I fry them up with butter and garlic and eat spinach with my eggs, peppers, baby corn and mangetout with my chicken. It’s healthier. I’m healthier, and I’m bigger, but who cares? I go back to that old almond mom saying - ‘a moment on the lips, forever on the hips’ and - come on. If we all say that every time, then none of us would eat anything good at all.

So I go back to Chloe telling me that I look confident, and go even further back to the Melita she knew in college, the 17-year-old who couldn’t wear white and hated tucking her shirts in case someone paid too much attention to the curve of her stomach. It overthrows every notion that I’ve had firmly planted in my brain since I was young and first dreamed of cutting my fat off with scissors. And sure, I still panic and turn to the side and stare at the slope of my stomach, but I shrug it off and put on bolder clothes and a tighter dress and let my friends talk me into buying the food I want in a restaurant. I look at Chloe, and I see her for who she is, someone who’s inevitably been through things and grown in the time we haven’t seen each other - and I look at myself in the mirror when I get home. Sure enough, there’s a line of ease in my shoulders and a sense of contentment in my face, and I’m not sure when it got there. I’ve healed and recovered and bettered myself without losing weight. Maybe one day I will lose weight, maybe I’ll gain more. But what I do is between me, my doctors, and my friends, so I suppose being content as a fat person isn’t impossible. I hope all people who feel like me, who look like me, find that ease and contentment with themselves without causing any harm to themselves, because it is possible. It’s always been possible.

Melita Hosken
Melita Hosken

English and History graduate from the University of Plymouth and current Bid Writer; I specialise in identity and body politics in contemporary media.

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