I am fat. I stand at 5’6 (and ½ )”  and weigh anywhere between 230 and 240 pounds. If you want to get technical, and refer to the good ol’ BMI chart, I would fall into the extremely obese range. Is this something I am proud of, no, but is it something that I allow to define me, absolutely not. Every day we are bombarded with images in the media telling us what beautiful looks like. Although the images have slowly begun to include people of all sizes, it is still quite striking to look at magazine covers in the grocery store and see that the majority of them contain at least one picture of a celebrity’s “perfect” body, or have a variety of stories about dieting or weight-loss. I want to make it clear that I am not promoting obesity. I do not think people should try to become obese. I just want you to know that if, in this moment, you happen to be on the larger side, not only are you beautiful but you can still participate in all of life’s activities.

My weight has been a constant issue throughout my life. I have hated myself more times than I can count. I have looked in the mirror and been absolutely disgusted at the person looking back at me. I have told myself over and over again that no person will ever want to marry me. I have gone to parties and felt like the most repulsive person in the room. This past summer I had a moment of clarity that allowed a shift in perspective to take place. I realized that yes, I am fat, but that I am so much more than that. My moment of clarity lead to the following Facebook post…

 I started thinking about how fat people, like me, get judged by some solely by our outward appearance, and that really bothered me. Now, before I continue, let me mention that I know I am fat and so when I use that adjective I am doing it in a matter-of-fact way. Anyone who looks at me can tell I’m not hiding a six pack under my shirt.

With all of that being said, I decided to put myself out there. I went out and bought a 2 piece bathing suit and I took this picture. Yes, my body has rolls, and stretch marks, but my body is so much more than that. This body volunteered in a school in a slum in Africa and built houses with Habitat for Humanity in both the United States and Guatemala, serving as president of Habitat in college for two years.

This body may be fat, but it has volunteered at the local Special Olympics swim meet for 15 years and sat through classes to become a certified foster parent. This body may be fat, but it has volunteered at the local children’s hospital and worked in many daycare centers taking care of kids of all ages. I’ve snuggled sick babies, helped kids deal with the loss of family members, gotten kids clothing who haven’t had enough, and spent countless hours ensuring those children felt loved and cared for. This body may be fat, but it has taught kindergarten for 6 years, gotten two undergraduate degrees in Early Childhood Education and Psychology, and a Master’s in Special Education. This body may be fat, but it carried my grandmother when she was too weak to walk, and skated in a roller derby league for two years. This body may be fat, but it has run two 5Ks, it has given countless hugs to my niece and nephew… and now it has worn a 2 piece bathing suit.

My body is strong, it’s powerful, and it’s mine. I’m not asking you to think I’m beautiful, or to admire the things I have done. I am asking you to realize that there is more to a person than what their body looks like.

I debated doing this, but while I was in the store looking for a bathing suit to wear I heard a little girl tell her mom how badly she wanted to lose weight. I want people to know that it’s ok to be fat and happy. End rant.

This post ended up going viral. People from all over the world were contacting me. I had a newspaper article written about me, and was featured on three different news stations. I had complete strangers pouring their hearts out to me. I also had very close friends share things with me that I never even realized they were feeling about themselves. At first I could not figure out why so many people were moved by the post. In fact, I assumed they would be a little taken aback, if anything. I quickly realized, however, that people were happy to hear someone say that being fat and happy do not have to be mutually exclusive. These two things can, in fact, occur at the very same time.

Please consider this your moment of clarity, your awakening. Take time today to realize all of the amazing qualities you possess. Every time you want to tear yourself down, don’t. Instead, focus on the positives. We need all kinds of people to make this crazy world go round, and quite frankly life would be so drab if all looked exactly the same.

We wake up every morning with a choice. We can stand in front of the mirror and tear ourselves apart over the “imperfections” that we see, or we can decide to be happy in the shells that we are in. We are given one life, and if we spend it tearing ourselves down then when exactly are we going to find time to live?