THIS. IS. MY. JAM.
And is sometimes cause for an occasional eye-roll as I step onto my soap-box [sorry, not sorry.] Yet another concept requiring minimal nutrition education, this is something each and every one of us can relate to: respecting and accepting bodies. ALL OF ‘EM.
We all have ‘em. They all look different. They all have different abilities, shapes, sizes, colors, lumps, bumps, marks and experiences. It is finally time to formally address this “thing” I’ve mentioned in almost every past blog – weight stigma. Before understanding the level of acceptance or respect you have for your body, never mind work toward mending this relationship into something beautiful, I want you to CHECK. YO. SELF.
Fatphobia is a term we use that refers to the way our society promotes a fear of being fat, which in turn creates a massive, often ignored, oppression of people in larger bodies (hence, weight stigma). Whether it come from experiencing this oppression first hand [ie. bullying, verbal/emotional abuse, or simply not being able to find a comfortable chair to sit in in that waiting room], or second hand fear of witnessed oppression [ie. the simple desire to avoid these oppressive circumstances] fatphobia is real. Unfortunately, it also affects our current understanding and relationship with health and wellness.
Think about it. If diet culture hadn’t convinced us all that being fat inherently meant “poor health,” and/or being judged, how many people do you think would still fall into obsession around their scale? Or feel too ashamed to frolic upon a beautiful sandy beach because of some cellulite or belly rolls? Or force themselves to attend that gym class despite how mentally and physically uncomfortable it was? Fatphobia and weight stigma are the things that lead to negative self-talk and poor body image. They are the reason diet culture exists and thrives in promoting obsessive thoughts about food and exercise, fad diets, and unsafe use of fitness. It is something that contributes to weight-biased health care. It is the reason so many people struggle to respect and accept all bodies, especially their own.
First, I want you to consider the likely existence of fatphobia in your life. Does it affect how you feel about your own body? Maybe even how you feel about other bodies? Second, I want to call out thin-privilege. Is your clothing size typically provided in most stores? Never given a second thought about your seat on an air plane? Always able to ride your favorite amusement park ride? Don’t think twice about the comments or looks you might get if you choose to wear shorts on a hot day? You probably have thin privilege. If you can get on board with the awful existence of fatphobia, then it’s also time to recognize thin privilege in this culture.
None of this is to promote shame, guilt, or worry of any kind, no matter your body size. All bodies are good bodies. I need to address the simple evidence that our society is sucking the respect out of so many communities in order to ever help anyone address their own body respect. Truth is, genetics can account for up to 80% of our body shapes and sizes. The other 20%? Oh sure, that’s super vulnerable to diet culture influence. Consider your foot size. Your height. Your eye color. Despite the ways we’ve been given to manipulate them, all of these things are an original concoction of genetics, just like that beautiful sack of skin you live in [I heard this reference to a body once before and it made me laugh so hard – I HAD to say it at least once].
There are so many problems with this culture’s view of “health” and “wellness” and “average” and “normal” and “acceptable” – weight stigma is just part of it. It’s about oppression. It’s about power. It’s about sexism, racism, ableism, and so many other marginalized groups of people. If you’re as sick of it as I am, start here:
- Get rid of the damn scale. Seriously. If you’re truly ready to start seeing and accepting your body for what it is, there is no need to confirm or deny body image beliefs with a number. Hide it, sell it, throw it out, smash it – just stop using it. Not here yet? It’s okay. Start with checking in around how you feel (and why) before stepping on that scale. What are you hoping for in that number? Is there something else you can do to meet that need?
Another wonderful scale-smashing tip: You can absolutely request NOT to be weighed at your doctor’s office. So many people have fear and shame around weight-biased health care and have no idea that it is your right to say, “not today, thanks.” Be your own advocate [and I’ll be right there beside you].
2. Avoid body checking. This might include the extra minute you spend staring in the mirror, or the stack of clothes in the back of your closet that no longer fit. Give yourself permission to move on. Count to ten if you’re in that mirror, and commit to going about your day. Stop trying on those clothes that don’t fit – donate them, sell them, pass ‘em down – it is okay to let go of whatever you might be hanging onto.
Speaking of clothes – wear comfortable ones! If you’re extra sensitive to how your body feels in any moment, it may not be helpful to also feel a waist band digging into your belly. There’s nothing wrong with a great pair of yoga pants and a flannel [‘tis the season].
3. Challenge negative self-talk [or just negative body-talk in general]. It could be in your head, or maybe sometimes out loud. It could be about yourself, a friend, coworker, or complete stranger – STOP IT. Not only is it mean and unnecessary, it definitely isn’t helping squash our societal bad habit of judgment. In fact, it’s adding to it. If you’re feeling an extra boost of “Hell Yeah,” I would encourage you to actually start saying really great things instead.
Those pants are so cool.
You have great taste.
That laugh is contagious.
You are glowing today.
Take your pick.
4. Clean up social media. Better yet, actively change it up. Notice – do you see the same body type over and over? The “socially accepted?” Consider how this might influence weight stigma alone in our culture. In your life. Unfollow anything and everyone that doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzies. Start adding people that are different. Different looking. Different acting. With different opinions. Broaden your horizons a bit – I promise it’s worth it.
I see you. I hear you. I am here for you and whatever body you have. It does not, and never will, define your worth on this planet, so we need to stop acting like it does. As part of NEDA’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week, take some time to consider how you already do, or need to work on, body respect. Talk it out with friends, explore with your partner, or decide as a family, the ways you will commit to respecting and accepting all bodies, including your own.
Whoever needs to hear it – It’s time.