Fat Girl in New York City

I love to travel. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a well travelled person, but I’m starting to dip my toes in other waters and I absolutely love seeing and experiencing life outside my small bubble in Indiana. I recently returned from a week long trip to New York City, and the trip forced me to reckon with how I see myself.

One of the coolest things about New York City is how crowded it is. That sounds completely crazy, I know, but hear me out. Life moves fast there (which I love), and everyone is busy. Everyone is walking somewhere with a purpose, and that affords you some anonymity. No one is stopping to stare at you or call attention to you unless you’re doing something crazy. You’re in one of the most diverse cities in the world, and chances are you aren’t the only person dressing or acting a certain way.

As a fat person, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. But no one cared that I was fat. No one made me feel less than because of it. No one stared at me or made me feel judged. I was able to travel and enjoy the city in peace. This weird, comforting feeling of fitting somewhere I thought was so far out from what I’m used to helped put life in perspective for me.

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to blend in. I think it’s a survival technique. In the Midwest, that’s how you live a life of peace. I’m not knocking my home. I love it here for so many reasons. But I grew up in Columbus, Indiana and it took traveling to New York City to feel comfortable in my own skin for the first time in recent memory.

Being a plus size woman comes with challenges that most don’t understand unless they’ve been through it. It’s definitely something that makes you stick out. You become  the fat person when someone describes you, like that’s all that matters about you. “She’s the big lady” or “she’s the fat girl.” Fat has historically carried a negative connotation perpetuated by well-meaning people who will quickly jump in with a “You’re not fat, you’re pretty!” which insinuates that fat = not pretty. It’s thrown as the first insult when you reject a man who you definitely don’t want to date (“You’re fat anyway”/”You’re too fat to be picky”). It’s also used as a synonym for lazy, unmotivated, sloppy, and apathetic.

Add that to other barriers: Clothing that fits well and is affordable can be impossible to find (although it has gotten better in recent years). Job interviews can go south once the interviewer sees that you’re fat and thus associates you with the lazy/apathetic/sloppy stereotype. Seats that are so small you’re cramming in and praying that the seatbelt buckles so you don’t have to ask for an accommodation or get off a ride. Doctors that don’t take your health problems and concerns seriously because they automatically chalk it up to you being fat instead of actually looking into the problem. The list goes on. These are just experiences I’ve had as a fat woman. I can’t imagine what others have struggled with in areas of intersectionality.

You might think that the answer would be to just lose the weight, but weightloss and diet culture can be mentally damaging to a person. Many people believe they are less than human if they aren’t at their goal weight. There’s a cycle of punishment that is common too, like if you ate a candy bar you have to do 100 burpees to work it off. Having been on my own weightloss journey, I can tell you that it’s easy to fall into the mindset that you’re a better person when you lose weight. Last year, I lost over 50 pounds through diet and exercise. I would look at myself in the mirror every day and think about how disgusted I was with how I looked. I would promise myself each day that I would get to my goal so I wouldn’t have to be fat anymore.

It’s a toxic way of thinking, and I’m trying to shift that mindset. I deserve happiness now. I don’t need to be skinnier to enjoy my life and be happy with who I am. I need to accept my body the way it is and celebrate it. I am fat. It’s just a description, and I’m getting to a place where I can be at peace with that. I still want to be the healthiest version I can be for the sake of my wellbeing, but I no longer want to hate myself for how I look at any point in that journey. I was 260 pounds and running a mile without stopping. I was in shape and still fat. I’m pretty and I’m fat. I can be so many things while also being fat. Being fat is not a bad thing.

I often think of Tess Holliday on the cover of SELF Magazine with the caption “Tess Holliday’s Health is None of Your Business.” So many people will “Well, ACTUALLY” fat people about how being fat is bad for your health. But guess what? It’s none of your business. My health is no one’s business but mine. Mental health is also important, and in order to be the best me, I have to start loving myself and my body for what it is, not what society tells me it should be.

Will I be fat forever? Who knows. But I’m going to love myself now and every day after that. I want you to love yourself, too. You deserve happiness now. Chase joy. I know I will.

PS: I highly recommend the following books that promote positive body image:



  1. Becky Schroeder Avatar
    Becky Schroeder

    I absolutely love your honesty and desire to be completely happy with you. This is wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amber Avatar

    I adore this! Thank you for the book recommendations as well. Body image became something I battled as an adolescent… I never felt “pretty and small,” like culture told me I needed to. Looking back on that little version of myself, I hate that I didn’t love me more and have a more positive mindset.

    After three kids and medical issues, the weight has piled on and I just can not shake it. I have decided to love me and take my inner voice of disappointment away. I don’t want to make excuses, but I definitely want to be ok to love myself even when my thighs touch!

    I love that your so honest with your journey. It really reaches further than you know!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. paigeotto Avatar

      You have been through so much, Amber! Your strength has inspired many, me included. I am so glad you have been able to have a big, happy, loving family. It’s so hard so embrace the changes our bodies go through because of motherhood/medical stuff, but I’m so glad to hear that you’re doing that. I wish you love and light! 🙂


  3. David Mattingly Avatar
    David Mattingly

    We live, unfortunately, in a culture that is all too keen on labels. Labels provide a quick fix, they provide security and comfort for people who would otherwise benefit from doing some deep, deep thinking. This piece or courageous writing just might be a great place to start for everyone. You have shown a willingness to share, not just your vulnerability and sensitivity, but your completely courageous side as well. Like all great writers, you are compelled to share your thoughts. But there is more to it than sensitivity, vulnerability and courage, as it those were not enough. There is an inner-strength here that few people could muster. “Boom for Real,” the late, great painter Basquiat might exclaim! Inner strength is one of your greatest qualities. What other quality would allow you to wrestle every day with your students? What other facet has helped you become, among other things, Teacher of the Year, a novelist, a mother and wife? Your inner-strength, inner-resources, call it what you will, is the thing I admire most about you. It is there. One can see it if they care to. It takes time, but it’s there and it’s beautiful.

    I am honored to call you my friend. But perhaps more than friend, a sometimes over-used and even ambiguous “label,” I am honored to learn something critically important about what it means to be a human being in this soundbite, superficial and mean-spirited world we live in.

    Sometimes words are not enough. So I say simply, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing the most beautiful part of you, Paige.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. paigeotto Avatar

      I am so overwhelmed by the kindness and honesty in your words. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


    2. Melissa Ballard Avatar
      Melissa Ballard

      I, as Paiges mother, loved your response to her article. Well said! Thank you!


  4. Krista Mathis Avatar
    Krista Mathis

    This! Please continue to share – your voice is so important!

    Liked by 1 person

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