I first discovered I was fat when I was 13 and my mother put me on a Slimfast diet. I was 5' 7" and about 130 lbs (which is actually underweight for that height). My body was still figuring itself out and it would later settle in a curvaceous 38-24-36... and I still thought I was fat. I wore over-sized clothes and, even though I was in dance and had legs of iron, never wore shorts. By the end of my senior year I figured out that I shouldn't be ashamed of my body, but I still thought I was fat because I wasn't skinny.
I haven't used the word "fat" to describe myself or anyone else in over fourteen years. What changed? I had a daughter and an epiphany about self-love. I am not fat, I have fat. I have more fat than I should for my height and it's not healthy, but it has nothing to do with how I face the world or my sense of worth. If I want to lose weight it is for health, not to meet someone else's standards. I can feel more attractive at a size 16 than I did at a size 8. When I hear someone complain about or judge someone for being fat I cringe at the word as strongly as I might if they used a racial slur.
I now have two daughters, both young teens and nature is working itself out. One has very, very low body fat, that's how she's built. One is more like teenage me, and that's how she's built. I have tried to promote portion size and nutritional values, but I don't teach calories. They know I am overweight and need to exercise for my health. They encourage me to exercise because they love me, not because I should meet some standard of beauty. I don't want "fat" to become part of their regular vocabulary or value system. They will face plenty of struggles in their lives without the ever-present specter of being fat or being afraid of being fat following them constantly.
How does this relate to writing:
Romance heroines are beautiful... but what does that mean? In my first draft I wrote Frances LeSieur as so-so (with or without the makeover). Not unattractive, but not stunning. I wanted the sense of her beauty to shine more and more and Henry fell in love with her. My beta reader's feedback said I should change that. Why? Because romance has that element of fantasy full of beautiful people.
The rest of my heroines are, so far and forevermore will be, beautiful. That doesn't mean they will be created from cookie cutters from Playboy.
Beauty is so many things. Frances is a size 8-10 and has a body that has born five babies. Mary is too slim to be fashionable then but would be adequate today in a size 2-4. In her era, however, this was not a positive trait. Jane (coming soon in Courtly Abandon) is petite and curvaceous in a way that wouldn't fit most clothing today--she would have to shop in the petite plus size section (she is, in fact, more in line with the standard of beauty appropriate to the era). While none of these ladies are a 2XL (yet) they are beautiful in their own ways and highly attractive to their mate.
None of them worry about being fat. None of their friends complain to them about their fat legs or pooch or flabby arms. It's a non-issue. Mary is a little self-conscious about a very toothy smile and tries to emphasize her bust, but, out of all of them, she might bemoan NOT having more girth.
If I had to whittle this down to my main points it would be that beauty is subjective and something we force on ourselves, so why destroy it with self-hatred? Romance novel heroines may be figures of beauty (in the book, based on the book's standards) but even there there is no standard they all meet. They find what is beautiful about themselves and learn they are worth the effort of claiming happiness.
I have fat and I am not thin, but I am me I am beautiful in my way.