Fat And All That is a new weekly column by Editorial Director Mickey Boardman in which he discusses his lifelong battle with weight issues and society's views on overweight people. He'll discuss fat-shaming, body positivity and everything in-between, while also taking us on his current journey to get healthy and find the ideal weight for himself.
We're so brainwashed by our society to think that skinny is always good and fat is always bad. I've been dieting or obsessing about my weight my whole life and it's we fat folks that most wholeheartedly believe society's weight clichés. It's been so great to get to a place in my life where I've honestly learned to love myself at any size, to embrace my flabby self and not see my body as a problem that desperately needs to be solved.
What a relief! And now since I started eating healthy and exercising to make climbing up the subway stairs less of a drama, I've gotten caught up in the excitement that comes with losing weight. First of all, I've reached my goal of being able to comfortably walk up however many flights of stairs I'm faced with. Hallelujah. Now I'm at a place where I've lost enough weight to really look physically transformed. I've gone from a pumpkin-shaped head with double chins to a face with the outlines of a little bone structure. I've gone from a profile similar to a woman in her last trimester of pregnancy to a woman at three or four months.
So people have really noticed my new look and in our society when it's obvious you've lost weight, people act like you've won the lottery. My Instagram comments are filled with people raving about how skinny I look. And yet something feels weird about it to me.
I've spent my life getting to a place where I love my fat self, and now I'm doing what society has always pressured fat people like me to do: lose weight. Am I a sell-out?
I've spent my life getting to a place where I love my fat self, and now I'm doing what society has always pressured fat people like me to do: lose weight. Am I a sell-out? Am I deserting my plus size sisters and brothers to go over to the dark side of skinniness? One crazy thing is that when I call myself fat, I'm getting lots of comments saying, 'You're not fat anymore!' As if I had a disease that's been cured.
First of all, I'm still technically obese according to the BMI chart. I'm 20 pounds over the obese line and 50 pounds past the overweight line. So Daddy is still fat. Also after being fat for 50 years, I honestly think that no matter what weight I'm at, I'll always be a fat person inside. I don't know if skinny civilians can understand that. I've had skinny phases over the years and somehow it always felt like my skinny self was living on borrowed time. Like Cinderella in a mad rush to have as much fun as she can before the clock strikes midnight, I relished my skinniness knowing that I would probably start packing the weight back on at any moment.
Since I've been doing this column, I've had old friends tell me that it's amazing to read me being so serious and frank about an issue that has affected me so much. They're used to me being a good-time guy writing about cute rich kids wearing sparkly designer clothes and dancing on tables. And now I'm 'letting it all hang out,' talking about body positivity, self-loathing and drug addiction. And ya know what? It feels great to talk about this stuff because it's real. Also, I'm pretty much an expert on fat issues because I've been fat for 50 years and seen it all.
I've been fat for so long that it's part of my identity. Now if I'm losing weight and I'm not fat, who am I? When you're fat, you tell yourself things like, Once I'm not fat I'll get a boyfriend. Once I'm not fat I'll wear a swimsuit on a beach vacation. Everything can happen once I'm not fat. Then voila! I'm not fat. Now I stand naked before my greatest fears, having to try all the things that my fatness 'protected' me from all those years. I have to face dating and having a boyfriend. I have to face conquering everything I conveniently put on the backburner because of my weight. And that shit is scary.
You get comfortable having your weight be an excuse for why you don't have any of the things you really want. So, for me, fatness has provided a warped combination of unhappiness and comfort. And giving up comfort is really rough for all of us.
Which brings us to my current conundrum. I love being a body positivity writer and fat activist. It feels so right. And yet here I am on a healthy eating and fitness plan, trying to lose weight. Shouldn't I just love myself at the size I am now? If I love myself at any size, why go to the trouble of losing pounds? I wasn't surprised to find that a lot of my fellow high-profile fat folks struggle with the same issue. And in some ways, it's an issue because fans and followers sometimes freak out when a plus-sized role model loses weight.
I haven't personally had any followers freak out on me, but I think that might be because most of my followers follow the fashion Mr. Mickey and not the body positivity Mr. Mickey. In fact, I sometimes lose followers when I post real soul-baring stuff about my fatness. I get a ton of likes and amazing supportive comments, but lose some followers. And that's showbiz!
Photographer: Ryan Michael Kelly
Makeup: David Razzano
Hair: Ben Martin
Khrystyana is a well-known curve model from Siberia who was a popular finalist on America's Next Model, cycle 24. She knows first-hand how followers can turn. "If you 'disappoint' somebody with simply not being who they want you to be, you could be discarded in no time," she tells me. "Any time I look thicker, I get the most amazing support, especially on Instagram. The second I look more like a traditional sized model, I get less love. I lose followers. I get called out for 'not being fat enough' or 'not being body positive anymore.'"
She struggles under the pressure of being a body positivity activist. "I sometimes feel guilty for posting images I look thinner in, because it will make somebody feel upset, knowing that they never actually liked me, they only liked one aspect of me or one specific idea of me," she says. "It's hard, because at the end of the day, I want people to feel good about themselves, yet I also need to feel good about myself."
Photograph: Celebrity Pink Jeans
Cece Olisa is co-founder of the amazing CurvyCon, an annual lifestyle conference for curvy women. She's also a lifestyle blogger and social media influencer. In 2017, she was hospitalized after a near fatal medical emergency and ended up losing 50 pounds. "I typically gain and lose the same 50 pounds over and over," she says, "but this time, after the trauma of being in sick in the hospital for a month, I decided to stay consistent with eating supportive foods and doing joyful movement like dance, boxing, swimming and walking." Eventually she lost over 100 pounds, which resulted in some fans unfollowing her and accusations that she's no longer "plus size enough."
"As a Black person, I have seen how a white person can use their privilege to advocate for me. I feel the same way about thin people championing for body positivity."
"I'm still fat," she explains. "In two and a half years, I went from a size 28 to a size 18 — I didn't want to be judged for my body at a size 28 and at a size 18 I still don't want to be judged. I've dedicated my life to advocating for plus size women, that work doesn't stop because the size of my jeans changes."
What Cece experienced is typical for high-profile plus size people. Isn't it twisted? It shows that we fat folks have things to learn about being judgmental, as well. Still, Cece has a great attitude about it. "I've heard people express frustration when thin people join the body positive conversation. As a Black person, I have seen how a white person can use their privilege to advocate for me. I feel the same way about thin people championing for body positivity. I appreciate when they use their voice for the good of all," she said.
"I'm definitely not skinny, but now as a smaller plus size person, I am more committed to serving and advocating for women of all sizes. I think it's a shame that my life is exponentially easier at a size 18 than a size 28. The world is nicer to me, I have more clothing options, I can walk into a store and buy something instead of doing 100% of my shopping online. This isn't fair and it needs to change," she continued.
"When I think about my life being easier at a size 18, I know that I now have to work harder to support the woman who is a size 30 because I know how much the fashion world is ignoring her. This is why fashion inclusivity and plus size representation is at the heart of what I do," she said. "Sadly, in the same way that a white activist may be able to make more impact on race matters. I at a size 18 am now in a position of privilege — my voice is heard in a different way and it is my responsibility to use my voice for change."
So, it seems like we all need to work on learning to support and accept people of every size. And in the meantime, I'll work on accepting that losing some weight doesn't mean I can't be a fat activist anymore.
Portrait by Katie Levine