Last week, my close friend Colleen and I were invited by NEDA to see the NYC premiere of Fattitude. This documentary film was created by Lindsey Averill and Viridiana Lieberman and it explores the discrimination fat people face—done by society, strangers, and even by loved ones.
As a fat woman, the concept of this movie meant everything to me. I am a blogger who speaks on mental health, body positivity, and eating disorder recovery, and I am always fighting for space for myself and others like me in this world where much of the population does not want to hear me, let alone see me.
I am so honored and grateful to have been invited to see this movie. I sometimes feel like my work isn’t appreciated but I always feel so welcomed and appreciated by organizations like NEDA, Project HEAL, Jack.org and NAMI. At times, I feel disrespected or mocked by the world for the way I look or for my thoughts and emotions. Therefore, I look toward the very people who inspire me to fight and open up in the first place and they certainly encourage me to continue doing just that!
I encourage anyone and everyone to research Fattitude and work on getting the movie shown in your town if you’re interested in seeing it before its release.
The message is compelling and valuable for people of any age, size, gender, background, etc. Lindsey and Viridiana truly did a phenomenal job at reaching out to a diverse group of people to interview for Fattitude; even if you are not fat, I strongly feel you will be able to relate to at least one story.
At this event, my friend Colleen and I wore the same exact dress. We wanted to make a statement, which is that different sized women can wear the same article of clothing and both can still rock it.
Colleen is very supportive of me and loves me just as I am. She also understands that I am still working on bettering my mental and physical health in my eating disorder and depression recoveries. She knows that I am working to be healthier but she still loves and respects me at this weight and size.
The aftermath of this experiment was so interesting. Colleen and I wanted to get a gauge of how people would react to our appearances and see if there would be a bias between if someone preferred one person’s look over the other regarding our looks. We planned on reporting back to our blogs with the findings, but in the end, we decided it would be powerful to explain solely our internal experiences and how we individually felt about presenting ourselves in public in the same exact dress.
For me, I felt a bit self conscious walking from the car to the movie theatre on the streets in Brooklyn. My dress was a bit short on me and I had to keep pulling it down and smoothing it out because I am about 5’10”. Colleen is 5’5” so the dress worked for her lengthwise perfectly. Besides that minor detail of the size and length being a bit different on our bodies, the dress was the same.
After the event, I was talking to Colleen on the car ride home and I remembered a time in middle school where I wore the same American Eagle shirt as a popular girl in my grade. Us realizing that we were wearing the same top felt like a scene out of a movie. She and her group of friends were walking down the hallway and I was walking the other direction toward my next class. I saw the girl and noticed she had the same top on but didn’t really care because it wasn’t a big deal to me.
All of a sudden, she and her group of friends slowed down and stared at me. My face became flushed and I felt so ashamed because I felt like I had broken some rule. They didn’t say a word to me but about an hour later, during our lunch period, I saw her enter the lunchroom in a different outfit. Apparently, she went home and changed her shirt immediately after that strange interaction in the hallway.
For some context, this was in 8th grade. I was new to the school and town in 7th grade and had so much trouble making friends because I was so quiet and shy. I was also bullied ruthlessly by one classmate. He would never leave me be. He would antagonize me about my outfits and acne. And he would mock me about being fat and would call me names.
I remember so clearly what I journaled in my notebook later that day, “The most popular girl in my grade didn’t want to be caught dead wearing the same shirt as me. I feel so stupid. I’m so gross. I’m so fat. I wish I could be more like her, maybe I’d have more friends if I was skinny.”
Looking back on that, my reaction feels extreme. However, especially as a child, and especially when all you know is the life you have now, I understand why I took so much pain (anger, sadness, shame) out on myself. My life was dealing with my bully five days a week, going home to a family who wasn’t always emotionally available or supportive of me, and feeling self conscious as the designated fat girl in not only my grade, but in my whole school. I felt worthless because the world around me treated me with very little respect or understanding.
Fast forward to this year, and I am happy and confident, yet weigh even more.
“So what changed?,” you may be asking yourself.
Well, while my weight has gone up and I still face bullies (mostly online bullies now), I have learned to love and accept my body regardless of my size. I also have learned self love is attainable and that I do have worth.
So, this event where my friend Colleen and I wore the same dress was so empowering for me. This experience reminded me that self love is more powerful than hoping for or expecting to be loved by others.
While it would be ideal for everyone to love and respect one another, the conversation of fatphobia and fat people deserving to be seen as human beings is just starting; we have a lot more work to do. I am confident though that we are headed in the right direction if we continue speaking up and showing up. We are unstoppable, valuable individuals. Fat people can.
Lexie studies at Rowan College at Burlington County and has plans to become an art therapist in the future. She is very passionate about speaking up about mental health issues and writes through personal experiences. You can follow her journey on Instagram, @lexiemanion.