Sometimes the smallest change in language can have a major impact in the journey toward self-acceptance.
Body image coach, writer and speaker Jessi Kneeland recently shared a gym selfie that proudly shows off her cellulite. Except she didn’t just refer to it as cellulite ― she referred to it as “fancy fat.”
“Fancy fat is just a natural, healthy, built-in decoration (or at least that’s how I choose to see it),” she wrote.
“There is absolutely nothing objectively true about statements like ‘cellulite is ugly’ or ’perfectly smooth and toned is more attractive,’ she added, in part. “Those are just examples of a social reality we pass along to each other so often, that our brains start to believe they must be true.”
In “re-casting my so-called embarrassing cellulite in the role of beloved fancy fat,” Kneeland is taking away the power of the word “cellulite,” a word too often used in a negative context even though cellulite is extremely natural.
Unfortunately, not all of Kneeland’s followers were as keen on the normalization of this normal part of the human experience. Among the roughly 70 comments was one from a follower who felt it necessary to critique Kneeland’s body and health.
Not to worry, though. Instead of letting her troll get away with his hateful comment, Kneeland put him on full blast, posting his comment and once again putting a positive spin on things.
“Me and my ‘unnatural, unhealthy body fat’ are just going to be over here helping women understand that there is nothing wrote with cellulite (or anything else about their bodies!),” she wrote on Instagram, “and that trolls like you are ignorant and uneducated.”
Contrary to the commenter’s belief, cellulite has nothing to do with size or fitness, and in fact occurs as a result of collagen fiber strands attaching to the skin in 80-98 percent of women, according to Dr. Jennifer Lucas, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic.
“What you’re seeing is normal fat that everyone has,” she said in 2015. “Why you’re seeing it, is because there are areas that are being pulled down.”
A week after Kneeland’s first post, she shared yet another photo of her cellulite, calling out an issue with the positive responses generated by the first one. Kneeland argued it is heartbreaking that women are calling her “brave,” pointing out that “we are a culture in desperate need of more exposure to real bodies.”
“It has become so utterly unacceptable to have a normal human female body, that the thought of other people seeing our normalness or humanness is mortifying,” she wrote.
Thanks to in part to Kneeland, her powerful message and her “fancy fat,” hopefully that experience will seem a little less mortifying to more and more women.
We’ve reached out to Kneeland for comment; this post may be updated.