• Julia Sidwell

I'm fat, so what?

We helped the gorgeous Fran share her story in the Daily Mail and then got it printed in Pick Me Up magazine for her. She has one clear message - to love yourself, no matter what size you are. We salute her!

As a child, Fran Hayden was bullied for being overweight. She had curly hair and wore glasses and was mocked for the way she looked. She took the bullies' words to heart and convinced herself that every insult she was given was true. She beat herself up for eating too much and was trapped in a negative spiral of defeat as she put on more weight.

Fast forward ten years and the marketing assistant from Brightlingsea, Essex, has come to realise that she can actually thrive in her own skin. Being fat is who she is and she isn’t afraid to show it, especially when it comes to uploading photos on her Instagram account. There, she flaunts her size 18-20 body wearing just underwear or a bikini and doesn’t care what the haters think. She does it to be inspiring to others who might have body image issues.

‘Looking back, I don't think that there was a single part of my childhood or early adult life that wasn't peppered by body image issues,’ she said. ‘Growing up as the fat girl wasn't easy, and I know that I'm not the only one who's been on this rocky road. But now that I've got body positivity running through my veins, I realise that my body does not define me and that actually, I am worth more than what I look like.’

Fran describes herself as fat but accepts that it merely describes her appearance.

‘I've reclaimed the word fat and in doing so it doesn't have that negative power over me anymore. The things I'd do to be able to go back 10 years and tell my younger self that it would be okay in the end. But you see, the 14-year-old me wouldn’t have listened to the 24-year-old me - not in the slightest,’ she said. ‘Not out of ignorance or insubordination, but because the words of the bullies and the reinforcement of beauty ideals had become so ingrained in my consciousness that I wouldn’t have considered that I could love my body. My teenage self would have brushed off such positive comments and spiraled further into body negativity, scorning myself for eating a muffin or a pizza, and repeating the bullies’ words to myself.’

‘As I changed from a girl to a woman I discovered that I could love aspects of myself that I couldn't before. I’d become so focused on society's ideas about fat people - that they are lazy or unattractive, unsuccessful and undesirable. But I can categorically say that none of this is true.’

When Fran discovered Instagram she decided to really push herself out of her comfort zone.

‘After following a lot of body positive accounts and chatting to other BoPo women and men, I decided I'd put up a revealing photo of myself almost as a challenge,’ she said. ‘Because I'd seen others do it with such pride and love, I wanted to see if I could do the same.’

‘I remember when I first uploaded a full-length photo and, shock horror, you could see my belly! I was nervous and scared, but most of all I felt empowered. Then the comments started rolling in, and for every negative, bullying comment I received, there were five positive and encouraging ones.’

‘Since then, my confidence has snowballed - not to the point of vanity, but to a point of self-acceptance. I blog and write about bullying and body image and am constantly working towards a change in beauty ideals. I now find that young people across the globe look to me for support and I am so incredibly humbled by this. I don't want another generation to have to go through the same collapse of self-confidence that I went through.’

When people reach out to Fran, their messages are ones of encouragement and positivity. Many express a desire to have the same confidence she has.

‘The people I speak to might aspire to feel good about themselves and they thank me for helping them to overcome body image issues,’ she said. ‘I encourage others to do whatever they feel to make themselves feel comfortable. For some this might be stripping off and showing off their bodies, and for others it might mean covering up or just existing in an everyday manner. Body positivity doesn't mean stripping off and showing off your goods, it just means doing what you feel comfortable doing - that's what I encourage.

Fran does not diet and does not step on the scales. She has no idea how much she weighs because it doesn’t matter to her.

‘I eat what I want, which isn't all unhealthy food like some might think,’ she said. 'I do yoga frequently, I walk, I have fun. I enjoy food and am not restricted by toxic diet talk that is so prevalent in the media these days.’

Fran met her partner online, Nate Walker, 24, who has his own set of body image issues being a a female to male transgender (FTM) individual.

‘It’s so refreshing to be in a relationship with someone who understands and offers you their endless support - and vice versa,’ she said.

And a supportive partner is definitely what Fran needs with the negative comments she receives every day.

‘I receive nasty comments tenfold,’ she said. ‘In one day I can be told I'm fat, disgusting and people wish me dead. I've been called all the names under the sun - whale, fat, vile, disgusting, a waste of space, and lazy. They don't bother me, because I know better. If someone is going to bully me, I've more than likely heard it before. And secondly, I know that my worth isn't defined by my size, what's more, I love the way that I look. So why should I care what a stranger has to say about me?’

But Fran admits she isn’t confident all the time and still has hang-ups like everybody else. ‘I am, mostly, completely at one with my body and image,’ she said. ‘I'm not a superwoman and it would be foolish of me to say that I'm always body positive. Even the strongest and boldest of BoPo warriors have their wobbly days.’

‘There might be times when I've consumed enough chocolate to keep Cadbury's in business for the next five years, and I might catch myself off-guard in the mirror and cringe at myself. But that doesn't mean that I love myself any less. I just appreciate that all of us are susceptible to down days and you're allowed to wallow in them if you want to. You just need to know that you can feel better and regain your positivity once more.’

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