Digame: Miriam Lara-Mejia of La Gorda Feminista is Dismantling Fatphobia

Miriam Lara-Mejia is using her platform, La Gorda Feminista, to talk about fatphobia, body liberation, self acceptance, and bodypositive parenting

La Gorda Feminista

Credit: La Gorda Feminista | Courtesy

Miriam Lara-Mejia aka La Gorda Feminista is an educator and mom dedicated to using her platform to celebrate body diversity for all. Drawing on her 15+ years of experience developing popular education health materials and her unique multicultural perspective, she uses her platform to talk about fatphobia, body liberation, self acceptance, and bodypositive parenting. She pokes fun at fatphobia in the Latinx community, peeling back layers of trauma, intergenerational violence, and resilience through humor and community. With her series on fat representation in Spanish-language media, body positive parenting, and movement for all bodies, she’s hoping to inspire critical thinking, make people laugh, and break down barriers that stop people from knowing that they belong. Through her work on Gorda Libre Media, her newsletter Noticias Gordas and her podcast Gorda Libre, she’s dismantling the harmful beliefs and systems that have perpetuated fatphobia within the Latinx community in a way that’s accessible for both English and Spanish-language speakers.

Which Latina(s) have had the greatest impact on your life and why?

My grandmother, Sara Gongora, my tita, is one of the most influential Latinas in my life, embodying the courage, rebellion, and feminism that has shaped me. She grew up in Veracruz, Mexico and defied societal expectations by pursuing higher education and becoming one of the first women to attend law school in Veracruz. My tita is the true essence of being a badass! She was an avid reader and a dancer, and did yoga up until her 90s. Her fearless approach to life and her unapologetic claim to her body and rights have been a source of inspiration for me throughout my life, even after she passed. But more than inspiration and guidance, my tita gave me love. She loved me deeply and unconditionally. And that kind of love is the kind that transforms and transcends. It is how I express my love too. She gave me so much of the food that is my love language. It is funny that this is coming out in March, because I always celebrate her birthday, March 30th, by making her favorites: pollo en pipian rojo: a spicy Mexican sauce made with pumpkin seeds, tepache: a fermented drink made with pineapple rind, and capirotada: a bread pudding with a cinnamon-flavored syrup, raisins, and queso añejo.

If you could meet a Latina icon who is no longer alive, who would it be and why?

I would love to have a cafecito with the Mexican poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz to chat about literature and how to bring down the patriarchy. Her life and work stand as a testament to the relentless pursuit of knowledge and the right to self-expression, despite the restrictive norms of her time—we are talking 1600s—very much like my tita. Sor Juana’s audacious questioning of norms and her unwavering commitment to her intellectual growth resonate with me as acts of feminist defiance. She inspires me to know my worth.

Her decision to join a convent, so she could study without being forced into marriage, exemplifies her extraordinary determination to forge a path for herself in a world that offered women few rights and opportunities. When there wasn’t a path, she made one her own. That is why she was a beacon for feminist movements across Latin America, in her time and still to this day. Her famous “Respuesta a Sor Filotea de la Cruz” is particularly inspiring to me; in it, Sor Juana asserts her right to knowledge and intellectual freedom, advocating for the empowerment of women through education. It is a value that is central to my work, that education and knowledge are keys to action. This is the driving force of my educational content.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

As a body acceptance activist, I know just how hard it is to not compare our bodies with others. It is everywhere we look, in every interaction, and in how we see ourselves in the mirror. Look at how we describe our bodies: always in how close or far it is from a fictitious and unattainable “ideal”. Look at my “big” butt, in comparison to a “small” one. Our “droopy” breasts, in comparison to “perky” ones. And so on. So often we speak about our bodies from a place of dislike, from an outside lens rather than an internal compass, and it is stealing our capacity to see our own beauty…as we are.

When comparison starts to gnaw at me, pulling me into a spiral of self-deprecation and impostor syndrome, I practice thinking and saying, “that person is beautiful, too”. That small word at the end, that “too” is the key. It allows me to see my own beauty while also recognizing someone else’s.
Incorporating this mindset into daily life isn’t just about fighting comparisons; it’s about fundamentally changing how we engage with our bodies and with the messaging we receive about bodies. It’s a practice that underlines the importance of embracing all forms of body diversity, fostering an environment where body acceptance isn’t just an aspiration but a reality.

Who was the first person to believe in your dreams/goals?

My husband was the first person to believe and support my goals to becoming a media creator.
I started La Gorda Feminista four years ago as a way to create Spanish-language content on diet culture, weight stigma and fatphobia. I didn’t think it would grow as much or as fast as it did. It was exciting! But my husband truly saw that this wasn’t just about being an influencer or creating content. Working to empower people and parents to cultivate body acceptance through the lens of body diversity is my life’s work, my vocation. It was a big dream and he did all he could to support me.

He got me my first ring light and my first pro subscription to Canva. He rearranged his work schedule to stay with our son so I could go to networking events. He is curious and supportive of my day to day work, and every new study, book, article that becomes part of my library. He is doing the internal work to challenge the deep-seated fatphobia we all have. He always offers up ideas and advice, and long hugs when things don’t go as planned. And now with my new venture, Gorda Libre Media, he is helping me build the next step of this work: body liberation content in Spanish in all the formats!

How do you stay connected to your cultural roots?

The ways I stay connected to my cultural roots and become a cultural anchor for my son is through food, language and ritual. From taquitos de pollo and tuna casserole to pork chops and ajiaco, food is where I feel so much of the love and history that connects me to my parents and their parents. I have the privilege of being able to cook all of the meals for my family and it is fun to see just how wide our family’s heritage spans.

Spanish is another big piece of how I stay connected to my cultural roots. When my son was born, my husband and I decided that Spanish would be the language of our home. It was hard for me to speak only Spanish, but the reward is seeing my son learn to read and write in Spanish and having Spanish become his love language; our love language. Plus it is fun that his vocabulary is rich with both Mexican and Colombian Spanish: bombillo and foco; qué pues and órale.

As for ritual, I am a big fan of making my own rituals based on traditional rituals. For Day of the Dead, I make a mini altar that I put in my kitchen so I can see it every day. It has all the things my mom liked, like thin mints and mini bottles of Whiskey. I also put caramels for my tita and abuelo. We also celebrate Mexican Independence Day on Sept 16th.

What do you wish more people understood about what you do?

That creating content—whether it is written, video, or audio—is a lot of work! Especially for educational short-format videos, which is my bread and butter. There are a lot of steps, from coming up with the idea, writing the text/cues, recording, editing and making sure to put text to make it accessible, publishing, and then promoting…it is a lot of time!

I also wish people understood just how important it is to develop and cultivate a positive relationship with our bodies and a deep sense and respect for body diversity. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes and genetics plays the biggest role in how our bodies are. So we need to stop trying to have the body of that celebrity we saw on Tiktok. Own your unique self! Health also comes in all shapes and sizes, so we need to divest from the weight-centered health paradigm and embrace health at every size. When we center diversity—osea, not just accepting it but celebrating it—we make the world better for everyone, a world where everybody and every body fits.

But the most important thing I would like people to understand more is how harmful anti-fat bias is, how prominent it is in the latinx community, and how much power we have to combat it in our homes and in our communities. It is not just calling out the tias for telling you you gained weight, it is questioning how the belief that bodies changing or different body sizes are worthy of disdain. It is about challenging the ideas that there are good bodies and bad bodies. No! All bodies are good. We have to go beyond the interpersonal, to question the systemic and systematized oppression that is fatphobia.

What motivates you?

On an intrinsic level, what motivates me is injustice and learning. That is how I got into the field of body liberation and anti-fatphobia activism. Fatphobia is systemic oppression that makes us believe that fat people are inherently inferior, unhealthy, and morally corrupt. That is false. I knew I wanted to learn everything I could about fatphobia from the first moment I first heard the term. That is why one of the first things I invite people to do is to start learning about weight stigma and fatphobia. As soon as you start on this journey you will see just how widespread fatphobia is, in school, work, mainstream media, everywhere. You will see how it has impacted you, how it impacts people you love. And you will gain tools and power to interrupt and question fatphobia everywhere.

But on a social level what motivates me is my son. The evidence is very clear: hating your body is harmful and it can be deadly to pursue a body that is not the one you have. I want to give my kid the tools he needs to navigate the world knowing, respecting, and accepting his body in all the ways it is unique. But also truly knowing that all bodies are cool and valuable and why and how we have created systems that tell us that some bodies are good and some are not. It is never too early to learn about fatphobia. That is why I created “Crianza Body positive” or body-positive parenting. And it is not just about telling our kids, “oh you are beautiful” that is important but it is not enough. We have to talk about body diversity and consume books and media that includes body diversity (and question when it doesn’t). We have to do our own internal work to cultivate body acceptance and to divest from diet culture.

How did you end up on the professional path you’re on now?

My career path has been quite diverse, but the one guiding thread is the fight for injustice and the belief that education and information are key for action and change. For almost 15 years I worked as a writer/researcher and editor for a small publisher focused on health education resources. The driving force was the belief that people have the power and the right to be actors in their own health but also in their community’s health. We can talk forever about individual health but social determinants of health play a huge role in people’s wellbeing. It was in this line of work that I first encountered the Health at Every Size (HAES) work that helped me understand body size discrimination, fatphobia and body acceptance.

I was already creating body-positivity and body acceptance content when the pandemic hit. After years of a pretty mainstream body-positivity movement, suddenly people were making fatphobic jokes openly and shamelessly. Talking about people’s bodies, especially people who are fat, became a national sport.
And then one day my mother-in-law was talking about a niece of hers that was six months pregnant, and she was praising her for being so thin. I was like, that is not acceptable. Thin does not equal healthy, especially for a pregnant person! I decided to start La Gorda Feminista on a whim to share all the research, evidence, and activism around body acceptance, fat liberation, fighting fatphobia and everything having to do with body diversity. And I was shocked to see so little in Spanish in the U.S. Not just “love your body” content but really questioning the colonial, racist, misogynistic system that is fatphobia. So that is how I started to create content for La Gorda Feminista and now I am a full-time content creator, writer, and podcaster.

What is your greatest professional achievement so far? Personal achievement?

My greatest professional achievement is in the works! After almost two years, I landed an incredible opportunity to produce and host a podcast original for a huge media company. It is going to be in Spanish. I am excited, nervous, and tired. And when I get lost in the sauce I remind myself how much I worked for this. No matter what happens, I did this. I worked and hustled and got it. And I am so proud of myself.

My greatest personal achievement is being a mom. Parenting is the hardest thing I do on a daily basis. Not because it is intrinsically hard, but because I want to parent from a place of love, acceptance, knowledge, justice, feminism, and yes, body-positivity. And that is a tall order. But mothering is a radical path toward social change and I am proud of myself for leaning, healing, and loving.

What is a goal you have that you haven’t accomplished yet and what are you doing to get closer to accomplishing it?

I want to publish Spanish-language and bilingual childrens’ books about body diversity, body acceptance and yes, fatphobia! I have been working on several manuscripts and really want them to be fun in addition to educational, just like my content in La Gorda Feminista. Kids learn best when books are silly and joyful not just serious. And I have started networking. Still need a lot of help. Yes, I can self-publish, but I think there is something incredibly valuable about shifting the industry. There are sooooo many super fatphobic books out there, put out by big publishers. So let’s start changing that!

What pop culture moment made you feel seen?

I felt seen when Ashley Graham graced the front cover of Sports Illustrated in 2016, making history as the first plus-sized model to be on the cover, ever. I actually was more interested in the behind-the-scenes of that moment, the videos of Ashley posing, because, let’s be real, she was super photoshopped on the magazine. But in the making-of videos I got to see a body that looked like mine in many ways. I think there is much to be said about how Ashley still represents an ideal body: curvy, tan, beautiful face. And I’d love to see more different kinds of fat bodies represented in the media. But for me, that moment was pivotal. I was already working on accepting my body, and that moment felt like a breaking of the levee for me.

How do you practice self care?

I use micro-joys, the practice of finding a few minutes every day to do things that bring me joy. I might strum a little on my ukulele (just learned Selena’s “Como la Flor”). Dancing one Zouk song. Putting a few drops of aromatherapy oil in my diffuser while I brush my teeth. Giving myself a one-card tarot reading (I am just learning to read cards) or eating something spicy. Nothing is too big or too small, it is truly about connecting to joy and giving myself permission to do something just for joy. You deserve joy.

Quick Fire:

Shoutout an Instagram account that could use more love and tell us why you’re a fan:
Zariel Grullón, @loveyourchichos. She is a non-diet dietitian, who is also in a larger body. It matters that her practice is based on scientific knowledge but rooted in lived experiences.

Shoutout your favorite Latina owned business and why:
I love, love, love Vive Cosmetics. Their lip colors are vibrant, long-lasting and have names like Corazon on Fire and Chingona (that’s one of my favorites). But more than great products they serve up social justice and a real commitment to the Latinx community.

Digame is a monthly series featuring prominent Latinx leaders, activists, entrepreneurs, and public figures uplifting the community and making a difference.

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