Dear Stranger, Thank You For Calling Me Fat.


Dear Stranger, Thank You For Calling Me Fat.

  • Lisa Zahiya

    Lisa Zahiya travels nationally and internationally as an award-winning performer and in-demand dance instructor, workshop and event facilitator, and speaker. 


    Lisa is based in...

Lisa Zahiya. Photo: Nicole McConville

On a Saturday morning last spring I woke up at 4:45 am. I was going on the local news to promote my dance studio. I woke up early and drank coffee. I stared at the closet to pick out something to wear. Although I am relatively comfortable on camera, it is, to say the least, an anxiety inducing experience. 

“What do I wear? Do I look hip? Can you tell I am almost 40? What do I say? What if I am goofy?” (The last one being very likely.) 

I went and shot the segment, did my thing, and exhaled a sigh of relief. I decided to get a coffee and then go to the gym. In the Starbucks, I got a notification that I had a Facebook message. 

In all capital letters, a woman expressed her disgust at me. She said I was fat, obese even. She said I had no right to be on TV, especially to talk about fitness and exercise. 

My heart sank. I was horrified. I felt shame. You would think, in getting such a rude message, one with misspelling and all capital letters, I would just laugh it off. I did not; my heart hurt. 
I went to the gym and told my trainer. He, and all my friends, talked about how dumb it was, they all said how fit I am. I still felt really shitty. And very uncomfortable in my own skin. 

I like to think that I am tough, that I am outspoken, that I am essentially, over anyone else’s opinion. But I went home and I cried. I let her get to me. I doubted myself. 

But then, I made a choice. I made a choice to take it back, to take back the power. 

I opened up Facebook and decided to write back to her. I decided that I was going to be happy that day and I decided that I was going to be ok with myself. So I wrote back, and I sent her a picture:


First of all, I love you and I hope you find love in yourself. If you are mad at me, a stranger, then I bet you are mad at someone else too. I wish you ease with that, prayer and peace.

Second of all, I love and celebrate my body and how I look. Sometimes I indulge or feel stress and am bigger, sometimes I work out a lot and am stronger and leaner. I like all those versions of myself. They are mine and I love me. I love fitness, and am so grateful that I can run five miles, lift over 100 pounds and dance for hours. I love to express myself with clothing and honestly, I think I am pretty darn cute.

What you said doesn't bother me. I happily represent my business. We encourage all types of beautiful people to come here and work out and feel good.

However, words matter and mean something. If you had sent me this 15 years ago, I would have been wrecked. You could have sent me into a tailspin of self doubt and reckless behavior. Say whatever you want to me, but if I heard you say that in front of a little girl or to a teenager, you'd see what my angry looks like.

I took this picture of me for you, in all my joy in my favorite place in the world, my successful business. I will continue to loudly express myself in your honor.

    With love,     LZ



I wrote back to her and then I blocked her. I didn’t want to fight with an irrationally angry woman on the internet. And then I posted the whole thing on my Facebook page. I decided to make it mine. My story, not hers. My decision. And then I made another decision, to let it go. (As an aside, I have “Let Go” tattooed on my arm as a reminder to myself. I can be pretty stubborn.) 

This particular incident has amplified to me how much people talk to me about my body. I am a performer, I am curvy, I am not skinny. I like tight, bold clothes and have no desire to hide myself, to attempt to “minimize” anything or abide by anyone’s decision of what I should wear. 

This attitude brings about a lot of conversation. Honestly, I used to hate it. People stop me on the street or write to me about how I feel about myself and how that has affected them. How they feel ok or not. And this, used to make me feel as vulnerable and awful as this woman’s letter. 

I realized recently that I don’t feel that way anymore. I am open and loud about what I have to say and how I feel about myself. Other people’s words do not change how I feel about myself. 

Other people’s words do not change how I feel about you: 


I realize that the shift is because of this letter. I took something that made me feel so awful, looked it in the face and shouted back. With grace. 

If I could write to her again, I would say thank you. Thank you for calling me fat. 




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