Story of a Plus Size Peace Corps Volunteer
Living in Uganda as a plus-size woman has been interesting and at times difficult. In the Ugandan culture, the concept of being fat is not always negative. Most Ugandans associate fat with wealth. Like in any cultures, being fat is conceived differently depending on where you go. For example, in Kampala, where the culture is more westernized, being fat is often seen as a negative. However, there are always the exceptions. I have met several people in Kampala who view fat with beauty and riches. This perspective is common in the villages and less westernized towns.
I am a plus size woman, and I go through a lot of emotions when encountering Ugandans who like to talk about or point out my size. I will be in town, and people will say “Muzungu, you are fat” or “My size” (which means that we are the same size so we’d have good sex). It has taken me a while to get used to people commenting on the fact that I was a plus size. Eventually, I realized that most of the time they were not being rude, but rather pointing out what they saw to be a fact. If you walk into a place where people know you, and you have gained weight, a Ugandan will most likely tell you that “you have grown fat.” They don’t say it to be offensive; they say it as if they were saying something as simple as, "you are wearing a blue dress." When you lose weight, they will also comment, but it’s usually along the lines of, “my goodness are you okay? You have lost weight, are you sick?” or my favorite was, “Ah, where have you gone?” My response was, "My… Site…?" Then she said, “Oh, no no you have lost so much weight, where did you go?” In most parts of Uganda, plus size women are beautiful. For the first time in my life, I am getting a lot of attention by men, partly because I am a muzungu (white), but mostly because they find me beautiful.
Being plus size in Uganda and then losing weight has been interesting. People don’t see it the way that I see it. I am very excited about losing weight. However, most Ugandans become very worried about me and try to make sure that I am okay. I haven’t lost so much weight, that I am not a plus-size woman anymore, so people still call me fat, it just doesn’t bother me anymore.
I am about to get personal. I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. I honestly don’t remember a time where I wasn’t a plus size. I have always been very self-conscious about my looks, and I’ve never really considered myself beautiful. It also didn’t help that people were mean and would comment on my size constantly. I believed what they told me and I thought I was ugly because I was fat. Being in Uganda the past seven months has given me the opportunity to meet incredible people who have helped me look at myself in a new way. They have taught me to see myself as beautiful, and instead of thinking I was ugly because of my size, I learned to believe that I was beautiful even with my size. I had one person, in particular, that wouldn’t let me ever think that I was less than beautiful. Day after day I was reminded and called beautiful and was forced to look at myself and realize that I am indeed beautiful. I am not fat; I have fat; more fat than others. I am a plus size, not fat. I finally believe this about myself, and I am forever grateful. I used to hate myself and think that I was disgusting. Now I love myself and love my body. It’s not just because I am losing weight because I am still a plus size, but now I can love my body with all of my curves. I am losing weight and am so proud of how far I have come.
I have lost sixty-six pounds in seven months, and it shows. I am damn proud of myself for this. Honestly, I haven’t done much. I try to work out as much as I can but the food is so much healthier here, and I drink a lot of water, I've cut down on soda and am more active than I was in America. I sweat a lot more now because Uganda is HOT. Losing sixty-six pounds has put me the lightest I have been in YEARS and finally below two hundred pounds. I don’t remember the last time that I was in the hundreds. I have yet to reach my goal weight. I still have forty-eight pounds to go but I know that I am going to make it there. Does it feel good to lose all this weight? Absolutely! I love my body at this point, whether I stop losing weight or not. It feels damn good to finally love my body for what it is. It has been one hell of a journey to finally feel beautiful, and it’s incredible.
I am not doing this to hear people tell me I look good; I just want people to tell me that I look healthy. I want to be healthy! I don’t need to hear I look good because of my size. I already believe that I am beautiful and whether other people think that about me doesn’t matter. So here I am transforming my life so I can be healthy. If you are struggling with your size or thoughts of being ugly, look in a mirror and share with yourself all the things that make you beautiful; find them. I know they are there. I promise you, you are beautiful, and I want you to believe that.
Here are some recent pictures of me loving myself, my body, and just all things me.