If you ask any of your close friends what they would change about them if they had a chance, usually you will come back with at least one answer. Sometimes you will come back with more than a few. When I was in secondary school, I would have handed you a tabloid-sized list. Every blemish would be tallied on this list and itemized by the ability for me to love myself once this was all removed.
This has changed, however. I am three dress sizes larger since my high school graduation and three hundred times happier with my body. I won’t lie and tell you that I am always this happy. Often, when my friends ask me to accompany them to the mall, I find myself drowning in piles of clothing that either wouldn’t fit or would not look good on my “abnormal” body shape.

So, I find my way to the shoe section of any department store and I now own a lot of shoes. There are gains and losses in this battle I have being different. I can’t say it is all because of being (technically) classified as “obese.”

There are men and women in this world who struggle with gaining weight in the same way I struggle with losing it. I have fought that battle, too. I mentioned that I have gained three dress sizes, but part of that was because I just started eating daily again in my final year of secondary education. I lost my appetite after two years of ignoring it and for some reason, I haven’t lost it again since. Some people take issue with this.

It wasn’t until four years out of high school (in my second year of my undergrad) that I knew what to call these people: fatphobics. I knew homophobics well and was well versed in prejudices that I was not directly targeted by, but never before was I aware of a term for those who do not like overweight people.

I mention homophobia specifically because despite the use of the word “phobia” they do not seem the same at first glance. As someone who has had to fight both of these battles, I do often see the similarities. Much like homophobia, fatphobics believe that overweight individuals should not have rights because there is opportunity for change. People can diet, exercise more, and be less lazy, and suddenly they will fit into the “norm” that others have carved for them.

In some ways, this is true. It is easier for me to go on a diet than it is for me to change my own sexuality. The question I ask is: why would I? If I am looking to be found attractive by someone other than myself, I feel as though I am looking in all the wrong places.

I am not saying it isn’t pleasant to have your beauty identified by another individual. I often buy makeup and attempt look a certain way that I feel other will find attractive. But the end goal, self-love, is what is most important.

In recent studies, 27 percent of adolescent females were reported to engage in “severely problematic food and weight behaviour.” Out of those adolescents 18 percent of these girls will die from complication of their disorders. Self-love is important no matter what your age or gender. If you think of yourself negatively, chances are people will see those negative qualities too.

So, instead of comparing ourselves in the gym locker-room, talking about our former weight in high school (when your metabolism was so much higher anyway), consider looking in the mirror for a few minutes today and making a list of your good qualities; categorize what you find beautiful and the things you would never change. Identify the beauty that your parents and grandparents gave to you: your eyes, your strangely beautiful nose, the lips you once hated but now find unique and beautiful. Love yourself first, you will be glad you did.