When it comes to appearances, scale reads self-confidence

Hey, I’m Angelica. I’m 22 years old, a journalism student, left-handed, an Aquarius, and I’m fat.

“Oh, you’re not fat — you’re just thick/chubby/fluffy.”

Yeah, okay. I own a mirror. You’re not doing me any favors by describing my body as resembling something that comes out of a jar and tastes good with peanut butter.

I’ve been overweight since about second grade. It was always that cute kind of chunky until my mom and I realized that finding school uniforms — or any kids’ clothes that fit, really — was more difficult than expected. Then I turned 13, and my aunt was sending me out of the room fighting back tears with her comments about my appearance.

I grew up thinking “fat” was a dirty word or insult, looking at much smaller women gracing magazine covers and listening to sentiments like, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” and “If you lost weight, you would be a knockout.”

Gee, thanks. I feel so special.

I started losing weight in high school, around the same time I started playing lacrosse, and stayed slimmer for about five years. But with my sports career now behind me, my size is closer to the average for an American woman — size 14. And yet the options for plus-size people in fashion are lacking; the media still shows mostly thinner figures over fuller ones, and “fat” is equated with “lazy,” “stupid” and “gluttonous” in our vocabulary.

But I don’t really feel lazy or dumb at all. In fact, I feel great.

Now, before you start throwing around words like “health” and “attractive” (or trying to replace “attractive” with “healthy,” because let’s face it, that’s what you’re trying to do), allow me to explain.

I’m doing well in school. I’m a section editor for the campus newspaper. I have a great circle of friends. I’m good at my job. There are plenty more aspects to me than my weight — oh, and by the way, I also try my best to eat a balanced diet and get as much exercise as my busy schedule allows, but sometimes I just want to eat whatever I want.

My business, not yours.

My weight doesn’t define how healthy I am. Whenever I go to the doctor, after the inevitable five-minute lecture I get about dropping a few pounds, I’m found to have a clean bill of health. Shocking? It shouldn’t be. We need fat on our bodies in order for them to function correctly, especially if we’re female. And if there’s some extra, it can be a precursor to health problems in the future, but it’s not necessarily a death sentence.

“But it wouldn’t kill you to eat less or work out,” you might say, and you’re right. But for some people, it’s not that simple.

Fat can be genetic. Fat can be the result of things like depression, or stress, or — get this! — eating low-fat foods or not eating enough.

It can be the result of disorders (like an underactive thyroid) that keep you from losing weight, or side effects of medications you may take to stay alive (but hey, who needs to stay alive when being skinny is all that matters?).

Illnesses like lupus and fibromyalgia can also affect joints, which makes it painful or exhausting even to carry out everyday tasks, let alone drag oneself to the gym.

Fat is hard to get rid of — and even if it were easy for everyone, why should I put your desires ahead of my own? Why is it so important to you that I lose weight?

Oh, wait. It’s not. Because as uncomfortable as it may be for you to look at overweight people (and as sad as that is), you have no control over my body, and my body does not control your life.

Also, “fat” is not a bad word. If the worst thing you can say about me is that I’m fat, then I’m doing pretty well for myself. If you ask me, “vindictive,” “judgmental” and “rude” are far worse things to be. It took a long time for me to realize this, and I still have issues believing that I’m a lot more than a number on a scale or a waistband. But I’m slowly, surely getting there, and I feel a lot lighter in spirit in the process.

So the bottom line of this rant is this: Please, stop acting like “fat” is anything more than an adjective, and please stop judging me and others by our appearance under the guise of concern for our health.

If you don’t have a medical degree and my insurance card, I don’t want to hear it.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @A_Rodriguez39