Fat. Such a tiny word with so many larger implications. No longer just a descriptor, it is a word loaded with prejudice, judgments and preconceptions.

Recently, on a packed train, I spoke to my toddler on the phone while standing in the aisle trying to give him the verbal version of a ‘mummy hug’, which, in this case, involved me blowing raspberries down the line.

As I put my phone back in my pocket I met the eyes of a woman who looked down at the round of my stomach in my jumpsuit and said, ‘Oh, I am so sorry. I should have offered…do you need this seat?’

And because I wasn't thinking of anything so much as getting home to my kid, I replied blithely, ‘Oh, no, that's really kind. But I'm not pregnant. I'm just a little bit fat.’ The look of horror on her face was something to behold and the entire carriage hushed as though I’d just described some tragedy I’d been victim to. Because I could see she was mortified, I wanted to reassure her, I tried to make a joke, and, patting my belly said, ‘Please don't be embarrassed! It's okay. I know I've got a bit of a tum.’

I did wonder then if this is where the perpetual myth of ‘jolly fat people’ comes from, us trying to ease everyone else's discomfort about the supposed horror of our physical appearance.

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I am quite newly fat. I have really only been overweight for around a year and a half, largely thanks to daily steroids and chronic illness that left me bed bound for around 60% of the time. But, of course, even me saying this, explaining my fatness, is part of the problem, my rushing to reassure you that it is not because I am lazy or overindulgent, though, in fact, I do love chip suppers and empire biscuits too.

The point is, for the first 40 years of my life I was not fat (though of course I felt I was). I could go to High Street shops and know they would have my sizes and that most things would look fairly decent on me (though of course I felt I looked terrible). I could order dessert at a restaurant and not add little apologetic statements, lest people judge me, about hitting the gym tomorrow or how I’d skipped lunch (though of course I did).

I can tell you, in terms of how the outside world behaved towards me, not being fat was much nicer, perhaps because so many other prejudices around being overweight are tied up with negative ideas about the person’s values, willpower and motivations. So when I met people then, they did not automatically eye me up and down and make wild assumptions about who I am and how I live my life based on my clothes size.

My frustration is that there are so many worse things than being fat. I could be rude to waiting and retail staff, I could be a misery, constantly loading my own bitterness onto other people, I could, heaven forbid, be a Tory.

The irony is that at this stage in my life I really like who I am, perhaps for the first time. Going through a pandemic, having my first baby and enduring two life altering illnesses made me stronger, yes, but also more empathetic, warmer, and much more likely to seize every moment of joy. I've built a great career, I'm a really good mum, I try to be a good partner and mostly manage it and, thank goodness, most of all, I'm not a Tory nor have I ever kissed one.

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What a stark contrast from when I was at my slimmest, subsisting on apples, Ryvitas and two exercise classes a day, when I was often deeply miserable and using a lot of my precious headspace on remembering the calories for every item of food I’d eaten. Literally brittle with the effort of trying to appease the powers that be that said, ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.’ In fact, I can tell you from personal experience that almost everything tastes better than skinny feels.

I do see some positive changes for younger people. Most mainstream fashion brands now have diverse sizes of models. Indeed, even high-end magazines like Vogue occasionally pay lip service to the idea that women might not all have the bodies of 13-year-olds.

While looking for my son's Christmas presents I saw that there is an option for a ‘Curvy Barbie’ though frankly she looks like she could use a few more mince pies to qualify for the title. I genuinely hope that this next generation of women will not grow up as I did with the spectre of heroin chic, Bridget Jones desperately counting every calorie as though her life depended on it, and Ginger Spice being the ‘fat one’, and instead use their precious lives to please themselves and not some unseen power that declares their thigh gaps more important than their achievements.

This Christmas, I intend to wear the tight satin and sequins if I feel like it – though honestly I will probably stay in pyjamas for most of December. I’ll eat whatever I want without calling it, my least favourite description for food, ‘naughty’ or stating that, ‘the diet starts January.’

I've realised that one of the most radical things I can be as a grown woman, in a good place in my life, is to be contentedly, happily, openly fat. Even if that packed train carriage and much of society has yet to catch up.