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Fat Experiences

How Eating Chips Helped Me Find Peace In My Fat Body

"I used to fear and crave chips simultaneously."

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Written by Emma Kenny.

Art by Talitha Khachik.

I think it’s normal to fear junk food. We all live under the thumb of diet culture, in societies that are informed by beauty standards, which are in turn informed by a multi-billion dollar diet industry. When concepts of what we “should” and “shouldn’t” do with our bodies are so unstable — so easily upset by the latest wellness fad — junk food is an easily-identifiable enemy. Our cultural associations between thinness and goodness are strong, and they taint “junk food” with invented immorality.

As a fat person, the knife’s edge you need to balance in regards to junk food is particularly sharp. You should never eat it because if you do, people will know that’s why you’re fat; but if you only eat ‘virtuous’ foods, then people will know that you hate yourself and are actively trying to become thin.

So when my aunt asks me if I “miss chips too,” I’m extremely sad, but I also understand.

I don’t miss chips. I eat chips almost every day. I’m eating chips as I write this. Junk food is such a regular part of my diet that I consider myself something of a connoisseur. The comment is sad to me for two reasons, though. One, the only thing standing between my aunt and chips is herself; and two, I do know how it feels to miss chips.

What if nothing could stop me from eating several bags of chips a day? What if I ate so many chips that I swelled up like that kid from Willy Wonka and died?

I used to fear and crave chips simultaneously. As much as I wanted to eat them all the time, I also believed that chips were absolutely not for me, because if I ate them regularly, I would lose control. What if nothing could stop me from eating several bags of chips a day? What if I ate so many chips that I swelled up like that kid from Willy Wonka and died?

So, what changed for me? The easy answer is that I simply acknowledged that many people eat chips on the regular and they have not died from it. I recognized my desire for chips as normal and acceptable and started including a bag in my weekly grocery haul.

The difficult, and perhaps more truthful, answer is that I learned to uproot my internalized fatphobia.

I worked hard to understand my aversion to particular categories of food as a function of the fear that I would become fatter than I already am — and in the process I realized that this fear is the essence of fatphobia.

How could I claim to love and support fat people if I was afraid of looking like them?

How could I consider myself fat-positive if I couldn’t bear the thought of growing fatter myself? How could I truthfully say that “all bodies are good bodies” if I couldn’t apply those words to my own life? How could I claim to love and support fat people if I was afraid of looking like them?

Faced with the choice to either make myself miserable trying to get thin or accept my body the way it was (as well as whatever it might become in the future), I chose acceptance. To do that, I began the lifelong work of untying the Gordian knot of my self-image, figuring out how much of the despair I felt about my body was actually mine and how much of it had been forced on me by a society that loathes and fears fatness.

I could not just flip a switch and live my life as though the years of social conditioning that taught me to be hostile towards fatness never happened.

In choosing to accept myself, I defy the framework through which we are all taught to relate to our bodies and the bodies of others.I don’t want to misrepresent this choice as a simple one. It was not simple. I could not just flip a switch and live my life as though the years of social conditioning that taught me to be hostile towards fatness never happened.

I spent ages adjusting and interrogating my attitudes towards my body and others. I rejected moralizations of which foods are “good” and which foods are “bad.” I tried different kinds of exercise and sports to figure out which ones made me feel good about my abilities instead of ashamed of my limitations. I had (and still have) to contend with the generally fatphobic flavour of almost every aspect of our society.

I also had to reframe “letting myself go” as “letting myself experience the full range of joys available to us as humans on this earth.” Junk food is one of those joys.

Every year, in defiance of the idea that fat people can never be fulfilled or content, I get a little bit fatter and a little bit happier.

Most importantly, in this process I was forced to acknowledge a truth some might call perverse — that once I allowed myself the freedom to eat and do and speak and dress as I wanted, I did get fatter. I also got happier. Every year, in defiance of the idea that fat people can never be fulfilled or content, I get a little bit fatter and a little bit happier.

Every year, I feel more at home in my body and less heedful of its appearance. I get a little closer to becoming my best, most authentic self. Giving myself the gift of a small bowl of chips every day is an affirmation of those choices. It’s a constant reiteration of my values; a reclamation of the narrative of my body from the story that diet culture would inscribe onto it. It’s a small thing — a bowl of chips — but it’s important.

Indeed, junk food used to frighten me. It represented the dangerous possibility of “losing control.”

Now, I can see junk food for what it truly is: food. It’s literally just food.

It’s particularly tasty and it’s packaged in visually-appealing ways, but there is nothing better or worse about it than any other kind of food. You don’t need my permission — or anyone else’s — to eat the things that bring you joy, or comfort, or delight, or any other positive emotion. Free yourself. Eat whatever you want.


About the Author

Emma Kenny is queer Virgo with a lot of opinions, living and sometimes writing in Ottawa, ON, Canada. When she’s not stuffing her head with romance novels and her mouth with ketchup Doritos, you can find them working on their roller derby skills, cooking an elaborate vegetarian meal, or petting her cats. You can find more of Emma’s work on Medium at @emma.w.kenny.

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