I’m a fat girl. I’ve lost a fair amount of weight, admittedly – but trust me, I’m an expert in being a fat girl. And I run this blog: Fat Girl, PhD.
In 2010, I was 290lbs, and I needed crutches to walk. I was in such intense knee pain on a daily basis that I was taking upwards of 20 painkillers a day, resulting in an addiction to opiates, and a general sense of having no idea what the hell I was doing. And I was newly single, having been co-dependently limping – quite literally – through my time at university, only to find myself graduating into a recession in which I was virtually unemployable. Times were pretty bleak.
But after moving into a flat conveniently positioned above a curry house, across the road from a Subway, a Chinese, and a chippy, I discovered a local gym. Since then, I’ve lost almost half my body weight, and gained an insight into feminism, self-esteem, and what it means to be a woman.
And so, one night in April 2012, I was sitting at home, wearing a bad hat and fluffy socks, freezing my butt off and waiting for my house to heat up – so on a whim, I started a blog. I’d lost a fair amount of weight by that point, so I figured I had something to share – and my first post was read by a grand total of ten people. At least three of those were my Mum, my Dad, and my sister, and I have a feeling two of the others were me, testing whether it worked on my laptop and my phone. A grand entrance it was not.
But pretty quickly, it became something huge. Something which really has changed – or rather, taken over – my life. In the last 12 months, I’ve had over 100,000 unique visitors, who’ve racked up over 300,000 page views – and I’ve had some pretty amazing coverage from big media outlets, including the Huffington Post, MailOnline, The Sun, The Star and a couple of BBC radio stations.
Frankly, I’ve been totally floored by it. The numbers, the publicity, and so on have all been so far beyond what I’d expected that I can’t quite get my head around it.
But more than that, I’ve been amazed by the crazy levels of kindness I’ve seen in response to some of my posts. I receive amazing emails, tweets and Facebook messages every day, but to quote just a tiny selection:
- “This is a safe place for me. I feel like it’s a brilliant example to all of us of how to live, really, truly live, not just exist.”
- “This blog has been a welcome refuge. Thank you for the work you do to demonstrate the importance of nutrition, wellness, and emotional growth. Thank you for confirming that “mistakes” don’t mean failure, and that “success” is little more than a day lived with joy and intention and self-possession.”
- “Please keep changing the world. Thank you for helping all of us who are desperate for honest help and a legitimate, understandable path to a healthier life.”
One of my most recent posts, called “Body Shaming, and the Secret to Effective Weight Loss,” was by far my most widely read post. It involved me, standing in my knickers, flipping the v’s at snark culture and the idea that weight loss makes you perfect. It doesn’t.
I’m proudly not perfect, and I’m of the mind-set that accepting your flaws is the route to a healthier life. Yes, in a way, it’s a health blog – and I feature healthy recipes, workouts, and so on – but I’m also the first to admit that I love cake, and will happily lose weekends from time to time to pizza and wine. That’s okay. That’s what being a real woman is about.
Of course, it’s taken me a long time to get to this point. Three years ago, I was morbidly obese, weighing in at over 290lbs. I needed crutches to walk, and was popping prescription painkillers like sweets to get me through the day. Things weren’t good – and that makes it kind of a miracle that nowadays, I weigh almost half that. I run, I lift weights, and I enjoy every minute of my life. That’s pretty cool.
But the main thing I’ve learned over the course of this journey is that no matter what your size, your shape, your weight, or anything else – you deserve to be happy. Unfortunately, as women, there are a lot of things that stand in the way of that. Women’s magazines, for one thing, seem intent on bashing self-esteem into submission; and the stigma surrounding binge eating, and in fact eating at all when you’re a little on the heavy side, does nothing to help people who need advice and guidance, rather than judgement and snarkiness.
I’ve become, to put it simply, a feminist. I believe that we’ve got it entirely in our power to put an end to poor body image and low self-esteem, and that if we can fix these issues, healthy lifestyles – including weight loss – will inevitably follow. It’s just a matter of making it happen.
And I’m getting there, slowly. My readers have, between them, lost over 2500lbs in the last 8 months, through taking control of their health and changing their attitude to their bodies. Most of them have done this without following a diet plan – because the whole diet industry is something I’m passionately, angrily against. They’ve just started eating real food, enjoying regular exercise and – crucially – accepting their bodies for being awesome.
It’s that kind of thing that keeps me writing, even though I have to work hard to balance it with my job, and some semblance of a real life. It’s worth it, because it turns out people are amazing, and can do incredible things if they believe it’s possible.
I’m shouting from my soapbox in the darkest corner of the internet – but I’d like to think that in my own way, I’m cancelling out some of the bad karma that the media puts out every day to squish our self-esteem and make us miserable. And if I can help even one more person flip the v’s to that culture…
That’d be mission accomplished.