The F Word

In light of Body and Soul week, Jennifer Brereton argues that there is nothing more gorgeous than confidence.

Health and Wellbeing

“There is nothing more gorgeous than confidence”

Just like the F word that may have come to mind when you first read this title, the F word that I am concerned with is also just about everywhere: fat. In light of body and soul week, I’m taking on the chub and baking a (low-fat, no carb, quinoa, gluten free, 100% vegan, cauliflower rice) cake full of rainbows and smiles so that everyone can have a sliver and be kind to one another.

From the magazines spilling the beans on the latest nifty trick to make your clavicles stick out just in time for Fashion Week, from your two-year-old godson appointing you as the Fat Controller during a game of trains, the F word is insidious. With articles appearing daily alerting us girls as to which of our body parts are no longer in fashion and which bones should be visible this month, who among us hasn’t felt like a Ten Tonne Tessy every now and then.

I mean, we’ve all been there. You’ve been on holidays, or if you’re like me, on Erasmus in Italy, the mother of carbs, and now you’re rocking the renaissance bod. Your old friends Back Fat Betty and Tina the Talking Tummy have set up shop and don’t look to be going anywhere anytime this side of Christmas. Feeling utterly dejected and bloated, you root out the runners, pray that your track pants still fit you and hit the pavement. Half an hour later, delirious and sweating like a sinner in mass, you swear you can taste chocolate as you haul yourself up yet another hill. But it’s not chocolate. It’s actually Back Fat Betty and Tina the Talking Tummy’s evil cousins: pain and lactic acid.

Stoically soldiering on, you grit your teeth in the knowledge that you’ll be seeing a lot more of them until Cellulite Sally ever so kindly detaches herself from your thighs. Oh well, maybe if you just wait another week curves will be declared ‘so in’ and you can calm down on the calorie count. Don’t get too complacent though, my fellow chubby bunnies. The word ‘curves’ in fashion-talk loosely translates as some kind of Scarlet Johansson-Jennifer Lawrence hybrid.


This is a narrative all too familiar to too many, not least me. I’ll be the first to admit that the idea that I should write a body confidence article is bizarre and alien to me. I am a veteran of the battle of the bulge and have hopped on the bandwagon more times than I care to count only to tumble right off and into a bowl of pasta. I am a negative by nature but I have recently made my peace with the fact that I am never going to look like a Victoria’s Secret model. Yet, I have also come to realise that just because someone wears anything over a size 10, they can and should feel happy in their own skin.

Easier said than done, I know. With a pervasive fashion industry that deals in the currency of insecurity, there will always be a market that thrives off perceived imperfection. Who among us doesn’t have something or other that they don’t like about their physique? To buy into the jargon of the fat industry, namely “the problem area”. For those of you streamlined enough not to have neither a lump nor a bump, these areas generally include untoned arms, hips and thighs, ass and face, or if you’re like me, the ankle to shoulder area.

The opposite struggle

While in fashion circles and perhaps in wider society, thinness is lauded as a form of success, we must not forget that for some, being naturally slim brings its own set of challenges. The struggle to put on weight is often dismissed, with people on the leaner side being silenced and labelled ‘lucky’. A lack of understanding and empathy exists around this issue. Furthermore, as is often the case with many problems that are perceived as being female-specific, body confidence levels vary among men too, the difference being that it just isn’t given the same exposure both in the media and in social circles.

“the relentless pursuit of perfection exists, because perfection does not exist”

The depth to which this culture of insecurity has permeated our society means that it is unlikely to ease up anytime soon. It is exhausting to constantly engage with such a poisonous mentality and the obsessive behaviours that accompany it and I simply refuse to do it anymore. A big statement it may be, but life is simply too short to spend standing miserably in front of a mirror. I am not calling for an overhaul of one of the largest industries in the world. Without meaning to sound trite, I am simply asking anyone who agrees with me to be just a touch kinder to themselves. I for one am committing to being a little less harsh with myself and to be aware of the fact that the relentless pursuit of perfection exists, because perfection does not exist.

I vow to continue to pick my friends up if they ever need it and never hold back a compliment. I’ll stay (unenthusiastically) committed to my salad for lunch but when night falls, I will eat those carbs for dinner and I will not berate myself for it. The next time I do some exercise, I shall remind myself that it’s my health I’m doing it for, and not in the quest for a bum so hard you could crack walnuts on it. So, what are you going to do?

I have a sneaking suspicion that someday in the not so near future we will look back and curse ourselves for not wearing that bikini, for not believing that we could wear a crop top or show a little skin. So wear what you like, bare that midriff, and when someone tells you that you look great, believe them, and suffering Jesus will you stop with the skinny tea-eat-dust-for-dinner malarkey. The next time I’m feeling hefty, I promise to take my own advice, if you will too. If we can all do just this much then we can make this college a more confident one, one carb at a time. So, whether you’re a skinny mini, svelte and chic, chunky and funky or somewhere in between, embrace it because there is nothing more gorgeous than confidence.