How Fat Activism Changed My Life

By Dora X Lopez Mata, Adios Barbie Fellow

Editor’s Note: Contents reference fatphobia and diet culture

I began to hate my body shortly after I entered the second grade because family and friends compared me physically to the other “slimmer” young girls. I was called a gordita (chubby in Spanish) because I was not the ideal size they wanted me to be. That was when that I learned to hate the word. I recall how they made fun of one of my aunts who was a gordita.  As a child, the word gordita was the worst thing I could be labeled because even if it came from a “loving” place it still was a way of policing my body by labeling me without my consent.

Even with the “love,” this word carries painful memories of being ridiculed for my body size. I learned to not feel comfortable with my body. This was emotionally and mentally traumatic and I began to feel anxious and nervous when friends or family would address my weight.

To be honest, now when I see pictures of myself from childhood I wonder why I hated my body so much. Because I did not know any better I became obsessed with the newest diet or restricting my food intake. My fourth-grade teacher, who was a gordito told us about his latest diet. He would share his goals of losing weight and he asked his students to make sure that he did not buy sodas at lunch because it would make us fat.

So as a kid, I became familiar with policing someone’s eating through dieting. I think it was during this time, at 9 years old that I first tried to “lose weight” and tried one of the diets he shared with us.

Down with Diet Culture

Back then I couldn’t know that I was buying into the capitalistic notion of diet culture. After that, my relationship with food became a difficult one. I grew up in Mexican culture, and our food is delicious. I love my culture, and it is food, so dieting was painful for me as it was a rejection of my self. Not eating delicious homemade tortillas my mother made felt like I was detaching myself from what gave me comfort.

Fat activism & fat joy exalted by author Dora Lopez Mata Image credit: Melissa Ayala

I have dieted for as long as I could remember until four years ago when I learned about self-love. I realized I was trying to change this beautiful fat body of mine. As a graduate student in the last two years, I had the opportunity to read about the fat brown body in one of my classes. I am so grateful to Monica Hernandez a Fat Conscious Chicana who through her thesis, Making Menudo, Feeding the Soul: Towards a Fat Chicana Epistemology, introduced me to the book Fat! So? Reading her work validated my experience and it reminded me that I matter and that I am beautiful. It was in her thesis she mentioned how Fat! So? by Marilyn Wann influenced the way she viewed her own body. I bought the book never imagining that it would change my life.

Reading Fat! So?  I became familiar with fat activism which challenged me in so many ways. First, it helped me become comfortable with the word “fat”. After reading the book, I would make mantras and practice saying, “I am fat,” “I am a fat brown mujer,” and “I matter.” Before, I would not use these words to identify myself because it was hard to not associate it with being bullied or shamed. Reflecting on this made me realize how I was abusing my fat body by following unhealthy diets.

I used to engage in negative self-talk and believed that I could not be happy being a gordita. Reading the book transformed my life. Now I call myself Gordita and Fat as a way of reclaiming these words. Someone else who has inspired me through this process of self- love is Nalgona Positivity Pride a movement created by Gloria Lucas. I wore her positive body shirts like a shield and began to embrace my body and beauty.


Fat Body Love

So, how has fat activism changed my life? I am now more comfortable with my fat body. I am enjoying life differently. What does this mean? Before I became comfortable with myself, I used to restrict my activities. I felt that I was not worthy of engaging in activities like shopping for clothes, hiking, and much more. This process of self-love is informed by fat activism where I have learned to be kind to my body. So, when someone told me about the Fat Activism Conference, I screamed with joy, and my fat body felt loved. Reading about this conference made me excited to be part of it.

Have You Heard About the Fat Activism Conference?

The third annual Fat Activism Conference will take place on Friday (tomorrow) September 23 through Sunday, September 25, 2016 and it will be online. This means it is a virtual conference where you can get the recordings and transcripts. You can register at the website at:

Being online means that it is accessible to many of us who are low-income and disabled and who cannot travel far. They also give the option to pay what you can.

I am signing up this moment as I am so enthusiastic to learn about the “tools to fight weight-based bullying and oppression.” The topics the conference will cover fashion to accessing health care, diversity of body sizes, fighting bullying, oppression and shaming of fat people and much more. If you have any questions here is the contact information