Here’s the thing about the internet that we sometimes forget: people online aren’t always how they seem. People online don’t always look like they seem to.
If you read my blog, don’t worry- I’m as every bit bookish in person as I am on here. There’s no doubt about that. Honestly, sometimes I feel like I’m most myself on this blog, if this post is any evidence. However, I know that I can’t also fully be myself here because something about meeting a person, me specifically, in physical form counts.
The Fat Girl
You see, my dear friends, I’m a fat girl in real life. Maybe for some others it’s easy to see this fact in that photo above. Maybe for some others it isn’t. (I do kind of rock that dress, don’t I? Or maybe I’m delusional.)
But when you meet me in real life, it’s undeniable. I’m a size extra large. I’m a girl who likes to eat. I’m bigger than most people. (At least in Filipino standards.) I’m overweight. I’m fat. And I’m not ashamed of that.
The YA Book
Being both fat and bookish, my heart soars with joy when I see the constant calls for diversity in the YA community these days because this also means representation of different body sizes. But more importantly, this meant more fat representation to come.
As a blogger, I’m lucky enough to be able to read upcoming books in advance. And having such a privilege gave me the opportunity to read a book that resonated me so well because of it’s awesome fat MC. That book is The Upside of Unrequited.
Now, I badly wish I could talk to you guys about all the details that made me fall so madly in love with this book (and by that I mean pretty much every detail), but because it isn’t out until next year and I don’t want to be a spoiler or a tease and because I truly think it’s a book you need to experience for yourself, I’m only going to quickly talk about the fat representation in this book.
Becky Albertalli’s protagonist in her sophomore novel, Molly, is a lot of awesome things. And on that list awesome things she is, this is the one that made me love her the most: She’s a real fat girl with fat girl feelings and fat girl experiences. I remember finishing this book and feeling like I was seen. Like I was known. Aside from relating to her thoughts so much, I also experienced first hand something that happens to her in the book: a person close to her shaming her body.
I remember messaging Becky later, to tell her I loved her book to death about how this particular scene made me cry a bucket. Not just because of Molly experiencing fat shaming, but also because someone, her sister, actually stands up for her. And I’ve never had that. And after reading The Upside of Unrequited, I told Becky I was going to learn to stand up for myself. Because I did not deserve to be shamed for being fat.
The Body Shaming
The thing is, it happened again, just recently. A person I really loved was judging me as not being healthy for just the reason that I was fat and pushing really hard for me to lose weight. And I was so heart broken. Because I didn’t think I needed to change at all.
What’s different this time around is that I finally knew better. Reading The Upside of Unrequited made me realize I deserved to feel beautiful without conditions. It made me realize that I didn’t need to swallow down the hurt I’ve been feeling. It made me realize that I needed to start being honest about my feelings. That only I had the power to stand up for myself. I just needed to inhale and exhale. And speak up.
Writing a letter to someone I love about a really hard thing that I plan to talk to her about.
— Hazel (@staybookish) November 7, 2016
And if you saw my vague thread on Twitter yesterday, you’ll realize now that I did. I spoke up. Because I’m feeling especially brave today, I’ll share that letter I wrote. (Note: some details have been redacted for privacy. This is not the whole letter but this is the heart of it.)
You know I love you. Thank you for always being there for me and for always supporting me in what I do and who I am.
It’s because I love you that it hurts every time you tell me to lose the damn weight.
It’s because you always support who I am that it’s painful when you don’t anymore.
I am fat. And I say that without an inch of hating myself for being so. When I say I’m perfectly fine being fat, I mean it. I don’t mean I want to be fat forever, although there would be nothing wrong if I did. I just accept it. I accept that I am fat.
And it’s so easy for me to do so, to accept this, because I believe that being fat is not a bad thing. That fat is not a bad word.
So why then do I take offense when YOU note how I’m getting fat? Because I know that when you do so, you really mean to say that I should lose weight. I know because you keep telling me that too. And while I accept that I am a fat girl, it breaks my heart that YOU don’t accept that about me. It’s a horrible feeling, realizing that a person you love doesn’t accept a part of who you are now.
I know you don’t intend to hurt me when you say these things. But I’m starting to learn that intent means nothing. That even if you don’t intend to hurt someone, you can. Words can mean so much. And YOUR words mean so much to me.
I also know that you’re only worried about me, about my health and I completely believe you. The thing is- I’m supposed to get there on my own, you know? I’m supposed to just decide for myself that I want to lose weight because I want to be healthy.
Because I know I’d hate myself if I ever tried to lose weight because of other people’s opinions on my own body. I’d hate myself if I let other people make me feel that my body is anything lesser just because it didn’t fit people’s silly idea that being skinny is so much better than being fat and try to lose weight because of that. More importantly, I’d hate myself if I let anyone shame my body.
I don’t want to hate myself. And that’s why I can’t let you shame my body. That’s why I won’t lose weight because YOU think it’s best for my body.
I’m the only one who should decide what to do with my body. I hope you understand.
Saying this letter out loud was even harder than writing it. I was honestly a mess. And the talk that person and I had wasn’t perfect. I was called “sensitive.”
But at the end of it all, I heard the words I needed to hear last night: I’m sorry. I love you no matter what.
All I wanted was for her to realize that body shaming is hurtful and understand that she was hurting me. And she did. And our relationship wasn’t broken. Everything was okay. Not perfect, but okay. We even ate chocolates after.
So this is my fat girl story. And I’m proud of it. But this wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t read Becky’s story. And for that, I’m extremely grateful. The world needs more YA books like The Upside of Unrequited. I’m beyond excited for people for everyone to read it in 2017.
If you’ve ever felt like your body was being shamed by someone you love or anyone else, talk to them. Tell them it hurts. Tell them it’s not okay.
I know it’s hard, especially when you start to reason that they’re just worried about you. But there are no excuses and no exceptions for body shaming.
So stand up. Speak up. I believe in you.
Just gonna say this: you are so fabulous & inspiring <3 <3
I am in loved with this whole post! That book has been in my TBR list in so long that this made me all the more excited for it!
Ahhh I’m so in loved with this post. That book has been in my TBR pile in so long and now I’m all the more excited!
Hazel, you’re one amazing and inspiring human being. I know this feeling so well because I’m like you – so far when people said things like that to me I just let them be. I ignored it and wouldn’t let them see how badly it actually hurt me.
I don’t like talking about this because it makes me feel insecure and sometimes even like … I’m not “enough”. Why do they care about what I look like? Shouldn’t my friends and family love me for who I am? Trust me, I went through this a thousand times and it’s never been fun. I let it drag me down and make me sad but having read your beautiful post now, I know that I should be different. I want it to be different.
I admire you for telling us about this, for sharing this very personal letter and honestly, I’m thankful. It made me think about myself and my body and I know that I definitely will check out the book you talked about – if it helped you, who knows, maybe it can help me as well. So thank you. <3
WOW I AM SPEECHLESS. this is quite possibly the most beautiful and most needed blog post i have ever read.
1. you are rocking that dress like elvis presley in lilo and stitch!! go girl!!
2. i am in love how you are unashamed of your body. people using the word fat as an insult has always amused me. like okay? i am bigger than you? this really isn’t a big deal? what is your point?
3. NOW I NEED THIS BOOK OMG
4. you’re my new role model. btw.
This post is precious and lovely!! And I just started reading The Upside of Unrequited today (like I’m only about 4 chapters in) and I’m soooo keen. It seems amazing and Molly’s voice is amazing and AHHH. I’m so glad it really spoke and encouraged you. Books like this are marvellously needed. <3
For the longest time, I, too, have been battling body shaming. I am fat and I am not ashamed of it. Maybe in the past, but I completely accepted my body and came to love it and all its quirks and flaws, too. People need to know that every body shape is beautiful. In this society that has skinny for a standard, us plus size women are ridiculed and laughed at and criticized because of our physical appearance. It’s even harder when even the people we love judge us for it and wants us to change it. I am so inspired by you, Hazel. In reading this post, I am given more determination to speak out and let all those insensitive people know about how body shaming is NOT okay. And being a lover of books, I cannot wait to get my hands on The Upside of Unrequited. I’ve seen this one circulating on GoodReads but I didn’t know what it’s about.
Stay awesome, Hazel. You are worth it, every piece of you. :)
Thank you for this. Seriously thank you so much. A lot of people don’t realise that words carry so much weight to them and that what they mean has a long list of connotations to follow.
I love that you were brave enough to share this with us, especially those who might be in the same situation. You are killing it girl, keep it up!
Damn Hazel this post got to me on such a deep level! I’ve experienced this constantly in my life and I just hate it. I hate the fact that they can’t seem to accept this aspect of me even to a point that this is the only highlight they see in me, as if the other things I do don’t even matter. I am so proud of you for standing up for yourself and I hope I could do the same (maybe someday).
Also, I am now even more excited for The Upside of Unrequited!
Firstly, I know you’ve been torn about posting this – so I want to thank you and say how proud I am that you did. I know we don’t know each other well, but I do follow you and I follow your work, and I think you’re genuinely a great person, Hazel.
Secondly, I acknowledge the thoughts and I respect the opinion that you have of yourself, and the acceptance you’ve gained to love yourself just the way you are. However, I want to also apologize. That the world has created and validated a culture that has made you think in any way, shape, or form, that you’re fat. Because you’re not. You are beautiful (and I realize those things are also not exclusive), you are talented and even using the word as a descriptor and not a put-down, you’re still not fat. I don’t know your weight, obviously, so I can’t say if medically you’re technically overweight – but most medical calculations of what you’re “supposed” to weigh are decades old, and mostly unhealthy in and of themselves, and they don’t take into consideration things like muscle mass, or fat vs muscle. When I look at you, I see a beautiful girl, who is going to turn into a beautiful woman (and is well on her way there), who has an averaged sized body in a culture where we’ve glorified starving ourselves.
I’m SO happy that you’re learning to stand up for yourself, and that you’re learning that the person who needs to love you the most, is yourself. It took me 29 years to figure that out.
I’m not totally fat but I still get body shamed by a lot of people especially one of my guy classmates. He’s not someone special but when he told me that my tummy was big, I was hurt. I also got hurt when my grandma thought I was pregnant just because I had a huge belly. She even bought a pregnancy test. Urgh! And because of the stress and the body shaming I’ve been through, I ate more. You know, stress eating. :( It was really hard and painful for me for people to say that and to think, being sexy will always be the thing. Last summer, I decided to exercise not because to avoid people on body shaming me but to have a better lifestyle — that I don’t need to exercise so that people would accept me but I do this for myself, my health and my sanity and it had a huge impact on me as a person. :) I hope I can get to read that book soon. :)
I remember you posted about needing to have a difficult conversation and now I get this is what you were referring to. Hugs for finding the strength within yourself and standing up for yourself. No one deserves to be shamed for their size. Everyone has a journey to take and no can rush that or shame you for it. I’m so glad this book exists, for you, and because I think it will bring a great new voice in Molly.
Btw, you rock that dress!
I am completely, utterly in love with this post! <3 I really adore the way you feel about yourself and that you decided to stand up for yourself. I don;t know you at all, but I think it's a really big and positive step to take :) I realize that in society, fat-shaming is a very common thing, people throwing the word 'fat' so easily without even thinking about the consequences. So I think this post deserved to be read by EVERYONE! I want to read this book so badly because 1) it's Becky Albertali and 2) it seems so impactful. Can't wait for it to be released next year! :D anyway, I just found your love and let me say that I absolutely love it!
I have so much to say but ugh remember I love you through THICK or THIN 😍😍😍😍
Beautiful words, Hazel. The society is so judgmental I hate it. It’s nice to know that things worked out well with your friend. My sister is fat and people shame her but me? I admire her because of how strong she is in facing those people. She doesn’t tell them to stop or speak ill of them but she shows them how great she is at everything she does despite her size. Your size doesn’t define you!
On another note, I’m now very interested in The Upside of Unrequited. I love your realizations after reading it :)
I’ve spoken up to my family numerous times over the years for expressing their concerns. I understand their concerns. I’m a fat 25 year old woman over 300 pounds. My dad was so concerned as to suggest I get lapband surgery. My mom gets so concerned as to tell me to lose weight. My husband tries to be playful when he mentions I should lose the weight. But it all hurts. It actually makes me extremely angry. How can I love myself at my smallest if I can’t love myself at my biggest? It’s my body and my decision. I’ve actually hit my highest weight I’ve ever been in my life, but now I’ve been losing weight (stress weight my doctor and I think, but still losing weight), which is a nice thought because my husband and I want to have children. But otherwise: I’ve been large all my life. I don’t know of a time when I was small, not even a kid. It’s hard to love your body when your doctors and family are always expressing their concern (and their concern isn’t wrong). But if I don’t make the decisions on my own, and do things at my own pace and in my own ways, then it’ll never happen.
Thanks for this post, Hazel!
Awww this is so heartfelt, Hazel. And I totally relate with you. I’m also on the overweight side, and it sucks when people call me out on it, making me feel like there was something wrong with me. What they don’t get is I am comfortable with my body, but their constant, and sometimes annoying way of saying I should lose weight makes me think that, yeah maybe something is really wrong with me. This has to be said! And you presented it so beautifully. You are beautiful, Hazel inside and out! And I am happy I got the chance to know how amazing you are!
And I love this picture, is this the one I took? You sure rocked that dress! :)
Preach Hazel, I’m 100% behind you!
P.S! Let’s hang soooooon!!
I’m so proud of you Hazel! These things are difficult to share especially when it comes to something that you’ve been experiencing your whole life. It can’t have been easy but well done!
Very nice and relevant post! I’m glad the book helped you so much. Of course it’s YOU who should decide how you are, not the rest of the world. And I’m glad you can accept everything in such a healthy way. I had my looks problems as a teen, and sometimes still do (even if they’re not weight related).
I do hope your friend just wanted to make sure you are healthy. So maybe she just worried about your well-being and quality of life than society rules or something like that. If she thinks it’s unhealthy, she will try to protect you from it. Sometimes we care and hurt others because we care.
I’m glad you and her sorted it out.
This is easily one of my favourite posts ever! I love how honest you are and YOU GO GIRL! I can’t wait to read The Upside Of Unrequited!
This is a lovely post, Hazel. I am sorry you have had to deal with body shaming. It sucks all the time, but it’s especially hurtful when it comes from someone you love dearly. I too have experienced that awful situation and have had to have serious talks about it. I’m so glad you had a happy ending to your story! And yes, Becky’s book meant so much to me. I cried a ton when I read it because I felt like I was visible as a person. I think this book is going to be huge, and I can’t wait for more people to read it!
Wow, thank you for being so honest. I think it’s great that you’ve come to accept yourself and your body how it is and have chosen not to accept what media says is the ‘right’ body image to have. I think it’s amazing how books are helping people to accept things about themselves which others would view as flawed. This is the great thing about diversity, it means more and more people are seeing an element of themselves within a book and relating to it.
It sucks that there are others in your life who aren’t helping to support you in the way you might want but it’s great that you’ve addressed this and spoken to them. Sure, not everyone will be able to relate with where you’re coming from but at least you’ve put the effort and they’ve taken that in and acknowledged how you’re feeling.
Also, you’ve totally made me want to read The Upside of Unrequited so well done.
This is so inspiring! Thank you so much Hazel for sharing this. I’ve always struggled with loving my body and dealing with the comments from others, so I sincerely appreciate this post and your words and your story. I know I still have to work on standing up for myself the way you did, but I’m so grateful for your inspiration! I love everything about this post! Thanks so much for being honest and sharing all of this!
I will also be adding this book to my must reads for next year!
Thank you again for sharing!!
This is so beautiful. And strong. And inspiring. Thank you ten times for sharing your thoughts and reactions. <3 Now I need to go get my hands on a copy of this book!