If you’re fat (yes I said fat; you will be seeing this word a lot in my posts and I will tell you later why it’s not a bad word).
Anyways, if you’re fat and on social media then you may have heard the term ‘body positivity’ being used a lot. Have you ever really thought about what the term means? What it has to do with you? And who came up with it? Well, body positivity is just a fancy term given to the concept of being able to love and celebrate the body you have regardless of your size or your shape. You may believe that you have to be fat in order to be body positive and that could not be further from the truth!
Body positivity is for every BODY because the idea of being body positive encompasses mental, spiritual, emotional and physical wellness. In the Caribbean, the term is becoming more commonly used and accepted however, I have found that body positivity has a different meaning here in North America vs. the Caribbean.
In North America, the body positive community is much more welcoming and accepting. There are individuals who are dedicated to fighting for inclusion and acceptance of fat men and women. There are various forums and groups on social media where fat people are celebrated, educated on how to deal with society and encouraged to love themselves. However in the Caribbean, I find that it is much more difficult for people to accept the idea of loving themselves as a fat person because we were always taught, sometimes indirectly, that being fat is one of the worse things you could be.
In Jamaica, your alias is based on how you look…so it goes without saying that every fat woman is called ‘Fatty’. Whether you choose to accept the name or not, it is forced on you by your peers. Our elders would reprimand us as youngsters if they thought we were gaining too much weight; even daily greetings can be condescending at times…how many times have you heard “Hey, how are you. A suh yuh get fat!”
What we fail to realise is that aliases like “fatty” “mampy” “bigga” and backhanded compliments may cause permanent damage to our self esteem. We may take it as a joke but subconsciously we always remember how the word, phrase or greeting aimed at our body made us feel. Caribbean people are also extremely proud therefore seeking acceptance for something that is shunned by the society can make you appear weak and vulnerable. But it is up to us to change the way society views fat women by not allowing our size to limit our success, dreams or potential.
I asked a few Caribbean women to share their definition of body positivity:
Latosha Hart, plus size model from Trinidad :”Body positivity and what it means to me living in T&T, specifically Trinidad. Hmm, I guess it means intersectionality. I think intersectionality covers everything. Does it exist here? No. You have to be the “right” shape, size, height, shade, have the “right” look and the “right” grade of hair/hairstyle and probably be straight. Body positivity comes with limitations and exclusions locally. I would like those to go away. If we focused as much of our resources on mental health as opposed to the resources used to shame and alienate the disadvantaged, we’d be much better off. I want people to realise that guilting and shaming yourself or anyone else into anything, particularly losing weight, almost always backfires. Body positivity should be for everyone, especially the groups most disadvantaged by a society that says they are ugly, lazy, poor, not worth love or respect, etc.”
Yolande Edwards, registered nurse and plus size woman from Jamaica: “Body positivity means not giving two shits about what others say about me. Once I’m content with myself and living a healthy life, I’m happy with me.”
Alisia Jarrett, founder of the Curvy Caribbean Conference and plus size woman from Jamaica: “Body positivity means to me accepting my body in its present state. Loving my body, that is, caring it with exercise, good nutrition and sufficient sleep/rest. Celebrating my body, that is, with gorgeous clothes and all the accessories I want to enhance how I interpret “my beautiful”. Body positivity equals confidence, self love and self esteem buck!”
Jody-Ann Beckford, radio presenter and plus size woman from Jamaica: “Body positivity for me is looking in the mirror at my naked reflection and feeling absolutely ok that I have a tummy and love handles.”
Renee Edwards-Ambrose, plus size model and drag car race driver from Antigua: “Body Positivity to me means accepting yourself and knowing that you are enough. With that solid foundation, it’s pretty easy to exude glass shattering confidence. Confidence that is not seen…but felt. Confidence that speaks without moving your lips. Confidence that isn’t selfish! Body positivity should not plateau or remain stagnant. It’s important to ensure that you nurture it and watch it grow. Which, by the way, can’t be done by keeping all that ‘Fluffines’ to yourself. Build others up! That’s where we find strength, happiness and POSITIVE VYBZ.”
Body positivity includes all sizes and shapes but the most important part of body positivity is how you feel about your body and how well you treat your body. I mean I am not here to preach health and fitness to anyone but through my experiences I have found that the food you put into your body and the things you say about your body and the energy that surrounds your body can have a negative or positive effect on your body positive journey. Balance is essential in any journey and yes there will be some bad days but there will also be good days.
The word fat is just a descriptive word and it is time that we save it from its negative connotations. Yes, I know…it is the way most Jamaicans tease each other about their bodies but how different would things be if you did not allow this one word to completely change your day, or your smile and especially your attitude towards your body? How is being fat such a bad thing? Where is it written that fat people are lazy menaces to society who simply exist to eat and take up space?
See this is where you come in. How you carry yourself says a lot about how you feel about yourself. And whether you’re fat or skinny, you have to treat your body with the respect and love that you expect from others.