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How I'm Reclaiming The Word 'Fat

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I remember seeing ads for Weight Watchers on television when I was three, maybe four years old. One night, I told my grandmother that I was going to call the number on the screen, and if I recall correctly, she laughed. Then I picked up the phone, and she stopped laughing. She told me I was silly to want to call Weight Watchers, but I looked at the women in those ads and I looked at my slightly pudgy belly—at three, maybe four years old—and I thought, "I want to be pretty like them."

Fast forward. I remember wanting desperately to be a cheerleader when Bring It On came out. I was 10 years old and I had just started fifth grade. At recess, I’d “practice” routines learned verbatim from repeated viewings of the movie, and it felt like a natural extension of the dance classes I took each week and the handball I often played with classmates I wanted desperately to beat. Then one afternoon, a popular girl walked past during recess and said, “Don’t quit your day job, fatty.” I didn’t cheerlead at recess ever again.

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Fast forward. I remember multiple boys telling me (or my friends) that if I ever lost weight, they might see me as more than a friend—but until I did that, they just couldn’t find me attractive. Fast forward. I remember walking to classes in college and leaving myself enough time to go to the bathroom, hide in a stall, and mop my face with paper towels because I was so sweaty from the sun, even when I wasn’t out of breath. I remember feeling ashamed of my body and hyper-aware of the redness in my face, terrified that I was being judged by my older, cooler, more adult classmates, that dripping sweat when we started class would make me seem less intelligent when I participated in discussion. Fast forward. I remember my ex-partner calling me “bebe whale” as if it were a pet name, and I remember telling myself that I liked it until eventually, I didn’t even flinch.

Fast forward. I remember every last microaggression, every last moment of insecurity and self-hate and frustration and fear that comes with growing up fat. I remember hating the outdoors, feeling out of place in dance classes, worrying about being The Sweaty Fat Girl in every single situation, and also wanting desperately to just love things the way thin people seemed to love them. That included shopping, exercising, eating… Hell, I would have settled for simply not feeling like the literal elephant in the room any time I went anywhere.

Now I’m nearing my thirties and for the first time in my life, I can say with honesty that I’m quite comfortable in my big, squishy body. I feel sexy in this body, and safe, and secure. I know it and I love it and I am learning to work with it rather than against it, to embrace it rather than reject it. I’m aware of its failings and I embrace them fully—but I also know that nine times out of ten, I can push myself just a little farther and feel better once I’ve met a challenge or goal. I’ve learned to embrace the outdoors through biking, walking, hiking, swimming, and camping.

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy. If I push myself way too hard, I have to stop what I’m doing and take a breather—sometimes, I have to puke or cry or drink an entire bottle of water. I still talk about my body and my self-image with my therapist, every single week. I still, occasionally, cry when I look at the prices on clothes tags—which, for the record, are outrageously high for anyone over a US size 16.

But I’ve also reclaimed the word “fat." I’ve accepted that I take up more space. I’ve started to intentionally take up more space. In doing so, I’ve discovered a whole community of fat folx whose size and shape and ability and socioeconomic status and race and gender and sexuality all factor into how they interact with the world, how they embrace their fatness, how they reclaim “fat” as a descriptor and fight back against the systemic oppression that seeks to punish fat folx for not conforming to mainstream beauty standards. And I’ve grown, and I’ve watched this community grow, and I’ve tried to figure out how to help carve a space for fat folx like me who are eager to be active, but feel intimidated by the weight-loss rhetoric that permeates active spaces.

Thus, Fatventure Mag was born. The creation of this magazine has been a long time coming—even, perhaps, since the moment I got on a bike after 13 years of avoiding them at all costs. It is filled with the words and art of women and non-binary creators whose work I admire deeply. From incredibly personal essays to tips and tricks for smoother sailing on outdoor excursions, this zine covers a wealth of topics by people from all over the world. I am honored to have helped create it, and I am honored that you’ve chosen to embrace it—whether digitally, physically, or both.

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Fatventure Mag is part of a much larger movement aimed at breaking down the structures that tell fat people that we aren’t worthy of respect, human decency, or love; that we aren’t worthy of having affordable, long-lasting clothes that fit; that we aren’t worthy of occupying space on planes or trains; that we aren’t worthy of being seen in all of our unbelievable, fat glory. It is a tiny piece in a massive puzzle and I’m grateful that it gets to exist. I hope, by the time you’re finished reading, that you are too.

IMG 4338 cf824The cover of Fatventure Mag, Vol. 1: Cover art by Rose "Honeyboy" Morris (@boxofhamsters), designed by Carrie Alyson (@carrie_alyson)

Support Fatventure Mag on Kickstarter here. 

Samantha Puc is a co-creator of Fatventure Mag, as well as a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared places like Bustle, The Mary Sue, and SheKnows. She lives in Rhode Island with her spouse and three cats. Samantha likes Shakespeare, space babes, bikes, and dismantling the patriarchy. For more, follow her on Twitter @theverbalthing.

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Fatventure Mag is a printed and digital magazine focusing on active lifestyles beyond the boundaries of weight-loss culture. We’re shining the spotlight on work by fat-identified women and non-binary writers and artists who love spending time outdoors, communing with nature, and being active, no matter what "fitness culture" has to say about it. Support Fatventure Mag on Kickstarter here and visit fatventuremag.com.

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