Proud2Bme | Fighting Fat Stigma: An Interview with Activist Rachelle Abellar

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Fighting Fat Stigma: An Interview with Activist Rachelle Abellar

By Claire Trainor--Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing body positivity activist Rachelle Abellar, founder of Pacific Northwest Fattitude and the creator of a self-care 'zine.

Claire Trainor: Can you describe the projects you’re working on in your own words?

Rachelle Abellar: I have 3 major projects in the works right now: I received a great response to the Self Care Journal I released earlier this year and it’s inspired me to create a series of journals focusing on different aspects of self-care. I am currently collaborating with a friend on a spirituality practice journal which will include activities and journal prompts to help you attend to your spiritual needs.

I am the founder and lead events organizer for Pacific Northwest Fattitude, a fat-positive group in the Pacific Northwest that hosts year-round events to provide safe spaces for people of size to celebrate their bodies, have fun, get inspired, find support, and connect with others. We are currently planning our annual plus size clothing swap, which I'm totally stoked about.

And last but not least, I am working on a 200+ page photo book about fat fashion. Following fat activists and fashion bloggers has played a huge role in my recovery and journey to accepting and loving my fat body. Being able to see people who look like me wearing clothes I never thought I was allowed to wear was life-changing. Though fat bodies are starting to find their way into mainstream media, they aren’t truly representative of how diverse fat people are. This book will showcase fatties from all over the world and it is my hope that it will inspire and empower others.

CT: Where did your ideas for your projects come from?

RA: My ideas stem from my own life experiences as well as practices that have been successful in my recovery. I am also inspired by fat activists and body love advocates to create content that will help fight fat stigma and encourage others to question and rebel against society's unrealistic standards of beauty.

CT: How did your recovery or eating disorder impact your ideas?

RA: I’ve undergone various treatment methods during my recovery, some more effective than others. The treatment that has had the most profound effect on my life is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on identifying negative or false beliefs and working with your therapist to develop healthier patterns of thought and behaviors. I try to include CBT coping strategies that have been helpful for me in the past, as well as ones I still practice today.

I’ve also noticed that a lot of mental health literature and worksheets can read a little clinical, which can feel more confusing and inaccessible than helpful. My goal is to create content that is direct, personal, and easy to understand without coming off as patronizing.

CT: How have these projects impacted your own recovery?

RA: My self-care projects have helped me tremendously because I am constantly learning new ways to approach my own self-care from my research as well as from my zine contributors. In regards to my fat-positive projects, being involved with such a supportive community and working with some incredibly wonderful fatties has inspired me endlessly and has helped me to appreciate my own beauty and worth.

CT: What challenges have you come across in working on these projects?

RA: If I’m being honest, I occasionally struggle with remembering to attend to my own self-care. I know that might sound strange coming from someone who writes about self-care… I’m just involved with so many projects right now that sometimes I get to a point where I try to do ALL THE THINGS when I don’t really have the bandwidth, which causes major burnout. But it’s forced me to really examine my compulsion to take on too much and to discern between genuinely trying to be productive, or using my projects as a way to distract myself from dealing with something negative in my life.

CT: What feedback have you received? Has any of it been negative?

RA: I am fortunate that my work thus far has been well-received. I do get some occasional push-back and criticism from online trolls and anti-fat bullies when I release fat-positive projects but I have a great support system that helps me deal with online harassment.

CT: What are your ultimate goals in the future for the projects?

RA: I don’t really have an ultimate goal for my projects. I just want to be able to continue to create content and share my work with the world. And I hope that my work will help others as much as it’s helped me.

CT: What would you say to others struggling with eating disorders?

RA: Two things: 1) You are not your eating disorder. Your eating disorder is something that happened to you but it does not define who you are.  2) Everyone’s road to recovery will be different. What works for someone else might not be right for you. Practicing different methods of self-care can help you discover who you are and open you up to new activities you never even thought you liked. When I was first in recovery, I rolled my eyes at the idea of practicing positive affirmations, but now they are a huge part of my life!

CT: Anything else you would like to add?

RA: You matter and what you have to offer this world matters.

About the blogger: Claire Trainor is a student at DePaul University majoring in Creative Writing and Psychology. In steady recovery from an eating disorder, she wants to educate, support, and inspire those struggling in anyway. She likes her dogs, hot chocolate, and books.Claire currently runs a (new) blog that can be found here.

For more interviews, check out:

Writing for Recovery: An Interview with Author Neesha Arter

Style Has No Size: An Interview with zacheser of Chubby Guy Swag

Embrace Being Different: An Interview with Olympian + Author Jessica Smith

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