‘Despite the bullying, I am plus-size and proud’
Students share fat-phobic bullying experiences
January 26, 2022
The lunch bell rings and Belle Smith walks down to the first floor to meet her friend on her first day of freshman year. She wears her blue, oversized sweater and bulky, diamond-patterned backpack decorated with rainbow colors while sweating out her first day jitters.
She looks for her friend, but can’t find her. This makes her nervous – not just because she is insecure about being overweight, but because she begins to walk by a group of freshmen boys who start to make stomping noises.
“At the beginning of the school year, my glasses broke and I would walk around with big clothes and a heavy backpack,” Smith said. “All I could think about was, ‘People are staring at me, people are talking about me and people don’t like me.’”
Smith said she was insecure in ninth grade because she was overweight and scared of what people would think of her.
“I thought people might think that, since I’m overweight, I was a loser walking in the halls alone,” Smith said. “I was red with embarrassment.”
Smith walked through the crowded halls causing her to become anxious, then the exact scene she’d been dreading came true.
“I was walking past these freshman boys and so many thoughts went through my head: ‘What are they going to say to me?’ ‘Are they going to make fun of my weight?’” Smith said. “For a few seconds, I thought nothing was going to happen but something did. It was my worst fear come true. They were making stomping sounds as I walked by. I started shaking, and I wanted to cry.”
They whispered to each other: “Haha, she’s fat.”
For freshman Citlaly Morales, her experience being overweight is not any different. She also faced bullying up until high school.
“I transferred to a new elementary school in the middle of 2017,” Morales said. “I had two friends who were boys. After a few weeks of being friends, they started to make fun of me. They would call me ‘Shrek’ because of my weight and the way I looked.”
Smith and Morales are among the many students who struggle with getting help regarding a personal bullying issue. Only one out of every five bullied students reaches out to an adult for help.
“I did tell a teacher that I was being bullied, but he just brushed it off,” Morales said. “After that, I never told anyone.”
Bullying can have long-lasting effects for victims like an increase in stress or loss of interest in activities, possibly leading to a lifetime of trauma and judgment of oneself.
“My bullying experience was traumatizing because, now, I always think people are judging me,” Morales said. “That’s the reason I don’t socialize that much.”
When overweight students are bullied, some become subject to insulting and demeaning language by others. Sophomore Kimberlin Juarez’s experience can attest to that.
“I was bullied in elementary school,” Juarez said. “Students would call me names like “fat” and “ugly.” They would tell me that I would never have friends because they would hate me because of my size.”
Juarez said that some days were not great, but she still tries to keep her head high.
“Sometimes it did affect me and forced me to have a bad day,” Juarez said. “But, I just ignored them and lived my best life.”
Even though Morales’s experience was detrimental to her well-being, her struggles helped her learn that it is OK to be overweight – she can still be happy even when the world is against her.
“This experience matured me and made me think about how I should not let this bring me down,” Morales said.
Smith said that she does not care about how people view her anymore.
“I started to get into the mindset that I am a plus-sized girl and I am proud of it,” Smith said. “I told myself that it doesn’t matter what people think of me because I am comfortable with myself and my body.”
Juarez is hopeful for the future.
“All that matters is that I love the way I am,” Juarez said. “Not everyone is perfect.”
Smith said one piece of advice she would give to other people in her position is never to let anything hold you back.
“You should not be brought down by what you think people are thinking about you because it’s all in your head,” Smith said. “You are beautiful just the way you are.”