When talking about size discrimination and bullying many people think that it’s not really a thing. People might think that sharing a meme of a fat person is just funny and tweeting and laughing along about how ‘huge’ Gemma Collins is every time she is on your TV screens is just banter. Well here’s the thing: it’s not funny and belittling someone because of how they look is a form of bullying. To put things into context I am a lifestyle and fashion blogger based in London and I write about a number of things including travel, cooking, style and fashion and I also happen to be fat. I posted on my blog recently about my experience of being labelled a bad role in a number of press outlets after featuring in a channel four documentary called ‘Plus Size Wars’. Since the documentary aired I have also experienced a lot of nasty comments about my health, size and appearance on my various social media outlets as well as berated about my size live on the radio. I wanted to share my personal story with the readers of Ditch the Label in the hopes that I can help comfort anyone who has or is experiencing bullying or size discrimination for them to know they are not alone and do not deserve any of the ill treatment they have received due to their size.
Ask most overweight women and they will tell you that they have spent most of their lives on diets, I certainly did. Growing up I was a small sized child, but then at around 8 or 9 years old I developed severe asthma, I was put on steroids and I slowly but surely got bigger and it became obvious to me even though my Nana (the next best thing to a mum to me) told me I just had puppy fat and that I was beautiful and perfect. By the time I hit my teens I was developed in all the right places and had to start wearing a bra earlier than most of my friends in high school, I was most certainly fatter than all my friends but they never made me feel different even though I knew I was. I had the occasional nasty comment about my size, some more hurtful than others, but I was lucky to grow up mostly with nice people that I hope saw me for more than just my weight. However I still hated myself, I couldn’t wear the clothes that all my friends did, they shopped in Tammy Girl and I shopped in Etam and I would cry to my Nan that I felt fat and she would again hold me and tell me that I was beautiful, she was like this best friend that loved me just as I was and for a second she would make me forget. Then one Monday before I was about to head off to school my Nana had a heart attack, she was a smoker and couldn’t stop, that following Sunday she died and I never really got to say goodbye. I was 13 and for days I didn’t get out of bed, My Nan was the matriarch of our family and when she died everyone fell apart, I felt alone and I turned to food as a comfort to fill a hole and my weight increased.
Over the years I built an obsession with wanting to lose weight, I tried lots of things, including starving myself, then binge eating and hiding the packets at the side of the sofa, I tried to make myself sick but that didn’t work out because I hated the feeling of being sick. I went on the cabbage soup diet, the no bread diet, I took slimming pills and became obsessed with the gym. I lost a significant amount of weight for my cousins wedding and when people saw my weight loss they praised me and it felt oddly good, like for once I had achieved the end goal, until it went straight back on. In reality, when I look back I wasn’t even as fat as I thought I was.
Fast forward a few years to University and I was looking forward to starting afresh, yet I still took those troublesome thoughts with me and my weight issues only grew. Drinking made me put on more weight and I was back again being the fat friend of my new group. Boys had no interest in me (that had always been the way) and I always felt used when someone did actually pay me attention. The reality was I was never girlfriend material for them – I was too fat.
Then in 2008 whilst working at my part time job a guy came up to me and asked me out, he was really nice and kind, he asked me on a date and nearly 7 years later, we are still together. Dan taught me that I could be who I was and still be loved, that it didn’t matter what size I was or how much I weighed because he just loved me for who I was, but even that couldn’t stop my weight obsession. Over the years I joined slimming clubs and then started drinking laxative teas. We stopped eating out to save calories and my obsession with food value made me cry whenever I indulged. I made a diet diary blog to share with everyone and to help shame myself into losing weight, it worked for a while until one day, the scales showed a gain and I broke down. Dan sat me down and told me he was worried and I realised the extent to my obsession. That day I got rid of the blog and made a new one I called it From the Corners of the Curve, I started reading other blogs like Gabi Fresh and Arched Eyebrow’s and my eyes were opened to this world where girls of my size were living their lives enjoying fashion and being happy. I decided I wanted a piece of happiness and started documenting my life, my holidays and my new found love for fashion and soon it got noticed . Before I knew it I was being asked to model in a campaign for Evans for a plus size line. It was picked up in press by media outlets I ended up in Vogue Italia with the other girls involved and my blog grew and grew. Slowly but surely my mindset changed and other girls began to look to me for outfit inspiration; my following grew and more brands approached me for collaborations. My mental health improved and with letting go of obsessions I let this whole new life come in. Dan and I moved into our own flat, we travelled for 5 weeks this Christmas across Thailand and Cambodia and on the 19th of December he got down on one knee at sunset on a beach in Thailand and asked me to marry him.
You are most likely wondering why I feel the need to share this with you and why it matters. It matters because health isn’t always physical, mental health is just as important and the years of dieting and punishment on myself caused more damage than good. Yo yo dieting has caused a number of issues for me and ultimately made me bigger than I ever really was. Articles are constantly being written about fat people as though we are setting a bad example by promoting obesity when we aren’t. I have never said HEY I’M FAT COME BE FAT WITH ME, all I have said is love yourself no matter what.
Everyone deserves to live a happy and fulfilled life no matter what their size, and believe me, fat people are not ignorant to health risks because that is something which is shoved in our faces daily by our family, friends and strangers. People lack basic empathy and that’s because they don’t understand there are more reasons to weight gain and obesity than simple greed, some people are ill, some people are taking medicines which cause weight gain and some people have mental issues behind their eating habits. It’s not as black and white as people may think. People also shouldn’t be treated any less if they choose not to be healthy, health is not a moral obligation. Size discrimination also isn’t just exclusive to fat people, every week you see a magazine which uses images of women without makeup or close ups of their cellulite to belittle and mock them. God forbid a woman having a stretch mark or not looking like they are professionally airbrushed. There are ridiculous standards put on women and men every day and it’s ludicrous.
So instead of today judging someone on how they look, try and look at them as a person and not an obesity statistic like the likes of Jamelia who thinks people under and over the ‘normal average’ don’t deserve access to nice clothes. Bullying of any kind is wrong and words especially on the internet can hurt. Be mindful of what you say and don’t support people who engage in making nasty comments or ‘joke’ and mock people on the internet. Until we all unite this issue will always be around, so stand up and be proud of who you are whether you’re thin, fat, tall short, whatever you may look like – you deserve happiness.
Callie Thorpe / @CallieThorpe