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Death, Sickness and Fatphobia

A week before my TEDx Talk my Dad was discovered dead in his home. A man who had a picture of his cat in his wallet, a man who had a t-shirt made with the picture of his car on the front, a man who collected pictures of trains ever since he was a child.


He lived, at times, being his brave authentic self (no matter how quirky it was), and at other times he couldn't.


I had been working on my TEDx talk for 15 months the day my sister called and said “Daddy is dead”. Everything stopped. My family wanted me to do the talk, my Dad wouldn’t have wanted me to miss it.


So I kept going, I kept repeating my talk, practising, making sure every word was solidified in my bones.


But it took so long. My 15 minute talk would take me 30 minutes to say. I kept stopping and thinking. Was he scared? Did he know he was dying? Was he sad?


Such a mess of emotions as the biggest day of my life approached, a joyful day, mixed with the tremendous pain of losing a parent, something I have never experienced before.


How did these emotions manifest?




Even though I have spent years combating self hate and thinking critically about society’s beauty ideals, when I was at my lowest (and highest), my inner critic started telling me things like “Your belly is so huge”, “People are going to be disgusted with your body” and “Ugh, look at that fat”.


I noticed these feelings when they came up and because of my vulnerable state it took me a while to realise what was going on. I was about to do this incredible thing, achieve a dream, and in tough circumstances. The only way my inner critic could really try pull me down was to remind me that I don’t match what is seen as desirable and acceptable by many.


These standards in our culture are so freaking powerful that my inner critic was still using it to try to keep me small.


The difference now, versus 10 years ago is that I can see that what my inner critic is telling me is not based in reality. Beauty is a construct. I am a fucking queen. And so I went on that stage and I rocked that talk, and not once did I think about how my body looked.


A couple of weeks after my talk I got gastroenteritis. I couldn’t eat for a few days and looking in the mirror pulling up my jeans I noticed by stomach was flatter. A thought flashed into my mind “Men will like this new flatter stomach, you are now more attractive”.


What the hell?!?


I immediately caught the thought and sat with it. Why did I think this? Where was this coming from? I realised that again, I had been in a weakened state. Not only had I been sick, I had just been awake for 40+ hours travelling and had a lot on my plate with deadlines. And again...fatphobia reared its head.


How often are we in stressful, tough or expansive situations and our inner fatphobe comes out to play? What triggers your inner critic to tell you you’re too much, too fat, too visible?


This experience has taught me that self care is so important and extends to being mindful of how my inner faphobe may rear it’s head in trying times.


When do you experience internalised fatphobia?


The second thing this experience has taught me is that because of the work I have already done challenging these thoughts, it was way easier for me to deal with. If you build your resiliency around these messages then when shit hits the fan, you will be so much better prepared. Really. So when your inner critic says “Ugh, you’re too fat”, you can reply with “Yes, I am fat and goddamned fabulous!”.