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For a long time I refused to use the word fat. I was soft, I was curvy, but I felt by saying fat I was calling myself a bad name. But what is that extra softness made from? It’s not fairy dust or feathers. It’s fat, plain and simple.

Lately it seems that everyone is trying to fight stigmas on women’s bodies. Models are trying to #DropThePlus, brands are making extra weight sexy with #ImNoAngel, and those of us who aren’t rail thin are calling ourselves curvy, fluffy, voluptuous… everything but fat.

I’m not “the new 30.” Even if I could hop in a time machine and go back a decade I wouldn’t want to revisit that age. I’m 40, and I think it’s pretty fucking fantastic.

When it’s hot out (or when I get stressed or have to go to a horrible blogging event) I don’t glisten, I sweat. It’s not glitter coming out of my pores, it’s perspiration.

While I could just say I am standard size, I am a size that isn't sold by every retailer. Not all Larges are created equal, and most trendy brands and boutiques don't cater to me.  I am Cusp Sized.

Not every fat woman is curvy (and along with that, not every curvy woman is fat). Not every fat woman is big boned, and not every big boned woman is fat. Not every overweight woman wants to be seen as a sex symbol or described with a sexy word. And you know what? All women regardless of size and shape are real. I’m okay if you would prefer to use a different term for yourself, but me deciding to call myself fat is a choice, and a positive one. I’m not trying to pretend I am something I am not, and by being honest with myself I can accept, love, and nurture this fuller figure at its current size.

I am fat. And that’s not a terrible thing. I don’t think that fat people should feel ashamed, should be treated differently, and I don’t think putting a cute term on what we are makes it any different for how we see ourselves or how society sees us.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I love your honesty, but I really wonder why we as women have to label ourselves as anything based on the size of our bodies. As I have lost weight, I get a lot of the “You’re so skinny!” things, and I find that to be borderline offensive. On one hand, I know that for many of us, that could be a compliment and maybe it is to me, but on the other, I think for a lot of folks the word “skinny” is almost always followed by “bitch.” Yeah, thanks Megan Trainor–appreciate that (eye roll). And really, why is it worth commenting on at all? I am also a mom, a runner, and I can bake a damn good cheesecake, all of which are more interesting than the size and shape of my body. Why can’t I just be a combination of all that awesome? Honestly, when I look at you, I don’t see skinny or fat or cusp sized or anything…I see a lady. A lady who has a life beyond her body. A lady with a life and interests and stories to tell. I wish we didn’t have to even comment on or worry about the other muckity muck. There’s better to stuff to say.

    1. I try not to label myself as anything, it doesn’t matter, but since I choose to put myself out there and have photos of me displayed on this blog, I have put myself in a situation to be labeled. This post was inspired by a comment on a previous post where I casually mentioned being fat and someone was hurt that I would use such a term for myself. And many who read this blog are shaped like me and they come here because I do put myself out there. It’s impossible to not connect shape and size with fashion. and that’s what this blog is about. I wrote this because I knew there were likely others who have been called pleasantly plump, curvy even if they’re not, voluptuous and sexy when they’re not trying to be, big boned, pretty if they just lost a little, etc. All these stupid euphemisms, from skinny bitch to more to love. I agree I wish we had other things to talk about, but I think by actually taking away all the euphemisms is a way to help end these conversations.

  2. I feel the same way too. There are women who are certainly NOT curvy and cute, but overweight and fat. But that word, for me stings. Having been called that growing up (and even as an adult by OTHER adults to my face!) I still feel a pang when I hear it. Now at 36, I am right on the border…sometimes a 12, others times a 14, etc. and for a while a 16/18. I’m short, but I’ve always been on the heavy side (it’s all in the hips and butt). I know what it’s like to sweat and cry in fitting room when no dress on the planet would fit, or not being able to wear jeans because they simply didn’t make them for short, big hipped, gorditas (pre-stretch). And yes, not all sizes even if labeled the same are created equal.

  3. This. Is. Awesome! I had to go back and read the horrible blogging post (which I led to me an audible chuckle or two at my desk!). I love your honesty and the rawness of Wardrobe Oxygen! You are great, Alison!!!

  4. I keep coming back to this post and the comments- there is so much going on here, there is so much raw honesty, and yet clearly everyone has their own perspective/lens/blinders they bring to the conversation. For what it’s worth, I too am 40, have always been “not-thin” — it has fluctuated over the years and different weight-loss methods. But like you, I have found turning 40 incredibly empowering and liberating in so many way — I have embraced who I am, inside and out, in a way I never have before in my life. The other thing that was pivotal is that I found a book called “The Emotional Eater’s Repair Guide” and it was a real eye-opening, life-changing book for me. I have no idea if emotional eating is an issue for you, or any other readers, but it has always been for me, and the reason why WW or Whole30 or any other diet-like thing has not been a long-term solution. As the author points out, no one is born an emotional eater, there’s a reason we develop those tendencies. Different reasons for different people, but certain things she discussed just resonated so strongly with me it took my breath away. I journaled a ton through it all, re-read passages, reflected more, delved deep into some unpleasant emotions, pulled up some long-ago memories, and just dealt with it ALL and then at last achieved some closure and could let things go. And the need to eat emotionally has died down so much, it is so liberating — can I say it will never happen again? No, of course not, but I now have so many more tools to manage and feel my emotions as they are happening so I don’t repress them or eat through them. Sorry this is so long, but most women I know who struggle with weight struggle with emotional eating as well, and this book was such a help for me I felt compelled to share it here in case it could help anyone else.

  5. I think it’s a good idea to go into your 40s with some body plan in mind. You’re coming into a stage in life -perimenopause- when your body is going to be prone to putting on weight, followed by a period -menopause- when it’s going to get harder to take weight off.

    I don’t view a plan to stay the same size as a big body denial, just a reasonable thing to do. You’ve got a great wardrobe, watching your diet and activity level so you can keep fitting into it doesn’t seem too extreme.

  6. I don’t understand what the intent is of this post. How is it constructive? Who is the intended audience? Why is being pretty and fat or ugly and thin even a thing on this site? Sorry just being honest. I find this off-putting. And I’m not a fat, so all the haters and WKs go take a seat.

    1. I think, perhaps, if you’ve never experienced significant body change, that you might have a hard time understanding the point of this post. It might be, as you suggest, about audience. But for this particular audience member, it’s delightful. I was not fat for most of my life, but I am now, and have been for about 5 years -I’m cusp-sized like Allie on a small frame — and negotiating that body shape change is complicated. There is a space in which you live for awhile, where your whole mindset is fixed on the fact that your body is changeable and that you ought to “just” go ahead and change it. But obviously that ignores the many life-factors and respondent habits that have contributed to your having become fat in the first place. That space is really rotten to be in, and it can last…but it certainly does NOT produce change (in happiness OR body shape OR productivity OR peace…) Shame is a circular feeling – it doesn’t move a person forward. It’s not, as you say, constructive.

      So I think Allie is trying to do a couple of things by going ahead and using the word “fat”. One, trying to demystify the word. Take the sting out of it. But also two: trying to live in her skin right now, looking around herself and observing what she sees and feels without judgment or filter and without hedging. Kind of like you’re supposed to do in yoga at the end of class – observing your feelings and thoughts as they go by. THAT is a habit of mind that DOES produce happiness, forward motion, growth as a person. Because you’re learning not to be scared of stuff. And dropping being scared of stuff lets you make decisions, not live in a constant state of reaction.

      That got long, but I wanted to try to explain why for some of us this is a really great post – I can see why it might be confusing to others and so I hope my perspective adds to the conversation.

      1. Thanks EW. I’m open to greater understanding. I started reading Allie when she was doing WW. We cheered her on at each weigh in. She talked about how great she felt being physically as a result of the weight loss. And how being mindful about your food intake was empowering. Later, the WW posts disappeared with no explanation. Later it was Paleo. And then Whole 30. Now it’s: Eff the scale. I’m fat. I’m proud. I feel betrayed. Who is the real Allie?

        1. Thanks Lawgurl for starting this conversation. You have inspired me to write about this in more detail. I shared this because it’s part of my journey, and while this blog is a resource for fashion advice it is also a place where I have documented my life, failures, and growth. I did leave WW without explanation and have tried other methods, and I understand your feeling of betrayal but as a woman who has struggled with weight her entire life it hasn’t been a black and white experience for me. It does deserve further clarification. Thank you for speaking up. <3

          1. Thanks, Allie. I’m not trying to harsh your mellow, srsly 🙂

            I am a bit perplexed and wounded, to be honest. What are we supposed to do/think/be? I think you are real, and you keep it #100.

            We just want authenticity. No need to jump on every bandwagon and cheer it as THE.NEXT.BEST.THING. That’s the part that makes me feel duped. I felt the same way with Oprah, after she dumped Bob Greene or whoever (remember his book and Oprah’s tears of joy?) And then O didn’t say no more about dude =.= Please don’t do an Oprah!

            We trust you and your honesty. Hit us with it — good, bad, ugly. Looking forward to your updates.

  7. You are awesome. I particularly agree with what you say about not all fat women being curvy – and not all curvy women being fat. I hate euphemisms because they imply that the truth is somehow shameful or should be hidden. When you say that you are fat, you are taking away the judgemental nature of that word – you are just stating something and not calling it good or bad. I love that.

  8. Thank you for being honest. I am a 60 something who has recently come to terms (almost) that I am not the 25 year old thin cutie I was. I have a pot belly, fat around my bra and jiggly underarms. I finally decided that worrying about it was not a way that I wanted to spend my older years and that I needed to make the best of what I had. I called a Mary Kay rep and had a make-over, went to a local department store and bought some pants that fit and some really rad tops that look great on me. My personal style may have changed over the years, but at last I’m over the mountain and feel great. You are a wonderful blogger and I have taken a lot away including finding your personal style and being the best you can be. Not all of us are 25, size 2 and have a perfect life. LOL

  9. I get your point but I’m just not seeing you as fat. When I hear the word, I picture a roundness. But as long as it’s not negative, whatever works for you, I guess.

  10. You are amazing! Are you aware of the “fatosphere’? There is a lot of evidence that show how diets don’t work. You give me courage. A great place to start with food and body images is the Fat Nutritionist. I love her. Admitting the truth is so freeing. You are what I would call a small fat. I admire you so much for loving yourself, dressing yourself in an awesome way and seeing through all the hype of the importance of being thin, Not everyone can be thin and I admire how you are embracing yourself. I am still working on my body image issues but you give me so much hope.

  11. Allie,

    This is such a difficult topic. You are always so brave!

    What is a fat person? What definition do we use? % body fat, BMI, general consensus? I don’t know. At any rate, think the word fat has become more acceptable. A lot of the sting has been taken out of the word by the hard work of people like Ragen Chastain at Dances With Fat.

    The word I can’t tolerate is obese. I know that has a specific medical definition but I think it is such an ugly word.


    1. Great question Chris. Who is fat, the woman who can’t lose that last 5 pounds, the woman who, like me, is told by her doctor that her waist circumference is in the unhealthy region, or do you need to be 50 pounds overweight, 100, 200, who decides? I think of that line in Meaghan Trainor’s song All About the Bass where she mentions skinny bitches and says they also think they’re fat. I have many times in my life been what others would consider slim or average and I felt fat and hated myself. Even at this weight people may not consider me fat. I feel the word is appropriate though, it’s not fluff, it’s not curves, it’s not softness, it’s made of fat plain and simple. 🙂

  12. Allie, if you are going to refer to yourself as “fat” then you must be brave enough to describe yourself as “beautiful,” because you truly are. Your coloring, your hair, and your face are lovely, and I expect to hear you say so!

  13. I think you tell it like it is….I feel the same way about myself and I am totally okay with that. Since when is 12 or 14 or 18 or whatever, anything but a number? It’s how we look at ourselves that matters. And, it seems as though you give yourself permission to be who you are. Me too, Alison. 🙂

  14. Ok. So it is taking EVERYTHING in my being to scream out, “You’re not fat! Now me, I’M fat!” But that’s not helpful here. I know you are Kit fishing for compliments. And I know that everything is subjective. But I think there is a healthiness in owning how you describe yourself. Unfortunately the word “fat” has so many negative connotations in our culture. For many “fat” is a synonym with “ugly”…Not for me, though. It’s just a word to describe body size – no different than “tall” or “slim.”

    My question is – what happens next? Are you thinking of trying to lose weight? Or just embracing your present size. (Actually I don’t think those two things are necessarily mutually exclusive but *shrug*) Personally, I aspire to be cusp-sized. Right now if I have a last minute shopping emergency I have to pray that there is a major department store or Lane Bryant nearby. Anyhoo what is next?

    1. I’ve spent so many years… hell DECADES waiting on next. While I am trying to improve my health with exercise and what I eat, I’ve stopped having a goal size or weight. When I focus more on the weight than the endgoal of longevity and comfort, I miss the mark on health, and more importantly, on the now. This post is a bit of me putting it out there that I am honest with who I am, embracing who I am, and my next steps are to be a better, stronger, longer living and happier me, no matter the number on the tag of my dress <3

      1. I love it! (And I can soooo empathize with you on waiting decades to freakin’ figure out “next”.) If you’re up for it, maybe we can get together to do power walks or something. Email me if you wanna 😉

  15. Goodness, I love your honesty, Allie! You are awesome. Thanks again for being so inspiring.

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