Hi! My name is Alicia Roeder, and I identify as a fat woman. For many, the word "fat" may carry a negative connotation, a measure of worth, or an idea of health. However, let me walk you through my journey thus far, to show you how my perspective on this term, and on my body, has evolved.
Since my earliest memories, I've always had a larger body. When I was in first grade, some of my classmates labeled me as "fat" and "ugly." At that tender age, their words began to shape my self-perception, causing me to question why my body seemed so different and seemingly "incorrect." Growing up surrounded by a diet-centric culture—be it through family, friends, or society at large—I developed a profound distaste for my own form. This aversion birthed an eating disorder that not only changed the course of my life but dominated it.
During the throes of this disorder, I was haunted by warnings from doctors about my limited lifespan and received messages of "concern" from family based solely on my size. I was even excluded from a family wedding, the reason cited being the potential appearance of my photos.
Desperate for a solution, I explored every imaginable diet and even underwent high-risk surgery to forcibly restrict my food intake. However, like many, I discovered that these drastic measures often don't guarantee lasting weight loss. Viewing these as personal failures, my mental state deteriorated further, leading to two eating disorder treatment admissions. Even there, I faced the same stigmatizing message: my body was wrong, and I had to change it. Yet, it was during one of these treatments that a staff member introduced me to the "FoodPsych" podcast by Christy Harrison, a beacon that would guide me towards a transformative realization. With the unrelenting support from my therapeutic team, eating disordered behaviors are no longer a part of my life, and I never thought that would be possible.
Discovering the Health at Every Size (HAES) approach via this podcast, was the turning point in my journey. Through this perspective, I understood that one's size isn't an accurate gauge of health. The HAES principles include weight inclusivity, health enhancement, eating for well-being, respectful care, and life-enhancing movement. I, for the first time, was exposed to new ideas, new thoughts, and ways of viewing my world. All folks, regardless of size were to be honored, cared for, and respected. This philosophy completely rocked my world in a good way.
HAES and Intuitive Eating easily go hand and hand. There are 10 principles of intuitive eating, and the principle that stuck most with me was to respect my body and reject the diet mentality. My rejecting “diet culture” and the diet mentality, my brain was free for so many other things than comparing myself to others' and putting unrealistic stressors on my body. I embraced the principles of intuitive eating, realizing that the relentless cycle of diets wasn't a life sentence. No more calorie counting, no more strict regimen—instead, I learned to reconnect with my body, enjoy food, appreciate movement, and evaluate my well-being beyond mere numbers.
Living in a larger body continues to pose challenges in the diet culture we all reside in. Yet, these challenges have also sculpted my resilience and purpose. Today, I am a therapist specializing in assisting individuals with eating disorders and disordered eating. I advocate for a balanced view of food and body—a place where food is simply nourishment, and our bodies are appreciated for their strength and capabilities.
If you were to meet me, you'd find an admittedly awkward, metal-music enthusiast with a love for coffee and an affinity for dogs. By profession, I am a therapist, but by nature, I am a supporter. None of these traits are determined by my size. I have reclaimed the term "fat" as a mere descriptor of my body, not of my worth or capabilities. The past seven years have been a testament to my resilience and growth. My hope is that by sharing my story, you too will recognize that your worth is not confined to a scale's reading but is rather immeasurable in its depth and uniqueness.
Alicia Roeder, LIMHP, LMHC
Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor