I used to hate the F-word. I refused to use it. I would not use it here; I would not use it there; I would not use it anywhere. I do not like it, Sam I Am. The only place I deigned to use the F-word was in my own head. The F-word I am talking about is of course, FAT.

The ironic part about the whole thing is that I only used the word fat in my head way back when I was nowhere near fat. I felt that because my thighs were muscled and thicker than my whippet-thin friends, because I wore a larger size (8! Or 10! I was enormous!), the only explanation was I was fat. Obviously, my legs weren’t muscled because I used a treadmill or played soccer or swam on the swim team. The only explanation was FAT.

I took care not to use the F-word around people or to describe people. I would say heavy-set, or slightly larger, or overweight or in one instance “roundy” used to describe a coworker to my mom. I could barely bring myself to say the F-word when describing a particularly rotund feline. It was stricken from my vocabulary as if, by simply uttering the word, I would make it true of myself.

I started gaining weight in my twenties, a combination of depression and the ease of fast food in a new world where I didn’t have a dining hall to feed me and barely knew how to cook. I didn’t particularly like my own cooking and it was difficult to cook for one.

By the time I was 30, I had put on an obscene amount of weight. If you knew me in high school, you would hardly recognize me now. I stopped using the F-word in my head because, suddenly, it was true. I managed to get married and have some kids and didn’t worry about the post-pregnancy weight issue because I didn’t gain weight during pregnancy. In fact, I actually lost weight during most of them. Plus, my body was changed well before there was a fetus growing in it.

I think most of my friends and family would not use the F-word; it might be a female thing. The family I married into, however, uses it all the time. Mostly male, my in-laws are much thinner than I am. My husband comes from a family of four boys and one lone girl. Each one is thin and the brothers will rag on another brother who puts on five or so pounds and call them the “Fat Mearns”. It took a lot of getting used to and not allowing my face to flame with mortification every time the word was uttered. They weren’t talking about me! I had to learn not to be so sensitive.

Author Jennifer Weiner says that fat is the only remaining prejudice. I think that it’s finally changing. With Ashley Graham as a plus-sized and gorgeous Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model and the entire Body Positivity Movement, I can see a change in myself, in how I view myself as well as other people who are overweight.

Yes, being overweight can be unhealthy and lead to heart disease and diabetes. Of course a person should exercise and not eat as much fast food or unhealthy food. But people also shouldn’t smoke or drink to excess or consume so much caffeine (Diet Coke, I love you). In this country, people point to the obesity epidemic as being largely responsible for rising health care costs and consider it entirely controllable, therefor faulting the overweight person for simply existing.

I’m not writing this to justify my ridiculous weight gain. I know I need to be healthier overall and a lot of my motivation comes from my kids. I want to be healthy for them; I want to be able to run around and kick a soccer ball with them; I want to live a long and healthy life. I do want to change. But I don’t want to change because society tells me I have to.

Jen Mearns

My name is Jen Mearns and I live in NC with my husband, three boys under four, a geriatric cat, an enormous dog, and two chattery parakeets. My work has been featured on Scary Mommy, Pregnant Chicken and Babygaga. I am a former microbiologist turned writer, pet sitter and stay-at-home mom.