“Have you ever thought about losing weight?” she asked me, leaning forward in her chair conspiratorially. She = a former coworker. The scene = happy hour drinks with about 10 other coworkers. Me = a 34-year-old dude who has spent my entire life fat.
“Yes, of course,” I answered. Did I mention I have spent my entire life fat? Losing weight has crossed my mind once or twice.
“I don’t mean a ton of weight. Just like 30 pounds. If you lost too much you wouldn’t be you anymore, you know?” she said.
I was pissed. The kind of pissed that mixes with hurt and disbelief and rage to form some sort of stinging behind the eyes. Oh right, those are called tears.
Why was I welling up? Not because she was calling me fat (I am), not because she felt she had the right to comment on my body, and not because she felt she had the right to tell me what to do with my body. I was angry because, in her mind, I was my weight. It didn’t matter what I did or what I said, I was the fat guy. No matter how smart I thought I was, how funny I thought I was, how caring I tried to be, what I brought to the world was solely my body shape.
I wish I could tell you that I came up with the perfect retort to throw back in her face like a slap. Or even that I calmly and maturely explained my feelings to her in a way that would make Oprah slow-clap. Instead, I made up some lame excuse about it being late (it was 8 p.m.) and slinked out of the bar – or at least I slinked out as much as possible for a grotesquely obese person whose legacy to the world is, apparently, nothing but acres of hideously fat skin.
I vowed to take revenge.
It came in the form of Instagram, as so much modern-day revenge does. I started an account, @extraextrastyle, to showcase, well, ME. Me in all my size XXL glory.
Now, I don’t want to give all the credit for my newfound Instagram career to my former coworker. My friend Katie Sturino of @The12ishStyle is a body positive blogger, and she had been encouraging me to start an account for a few months. Over the last few years there’s been a movement of body positive female bloggers, but there really isn’t much out there for us guys in this space. This was the push I needed.
I’ve always loved fashion and clothes but never thought I was able to participate in that world because of my size. I wanted to show other big dudes that it’s possible to have fun with fashion, and I wanted to encourage folks to be more confident in their bodies. So often the conversation surrounding body positivity is so serious, and I wanted to bring some levity. I wanted to showcase more than my weight, I wanted to show my personality (and no, coworker, they are not one and the same).
It’s been about a year since I started my account, and I can say without any exaggeration that it has changed my life. My relationship with my body has changed. I’m more confident. I’m no longer embarrassed to say my size in a store. It’s the positive feedback from followers—strangers—that has helped me find the confidence I’d been lacking. I stopped seeing my size as a liability. I feel like a role model, albeit at very small scale—no pun intended—and with that comes the responsibility of not being ashamed of who I am, what I look like, or what size I’m wearing.
I’ve spent the last year trying new brands and trends and styles that I wouldn’t have worn in the past in an attempt to get a more interesting photo (joggers! white jeans! hats – so many hats!). I’ve even been recognized on the street, once at the Polo Bar (chic) and once at Wendy’s (not so chic). The positive feedback I’ve gotten has given me a little swag that I carry in my day-to-day life.
So, to my former coworker I guess I have this to say: thank you. Oh, and you’re a bitch.