“Fat shaming” and “fat talk” are two very real things that I wanted draw a big giant circle around. I stumbled across a New York Times article last night before I went to bed titled, “‘Fat Talk’ Compels but Carries a Cost” by Jan Hoffman and it reminded me of a time when I refused to wear jeans because I was convinced they magnified the fact that I was crumbling under my weight gain. I see this "fat shaming" more and more and it makes me sick. We read headlines about Facebook groups dedicated to shaming anyone overweight. We hear sayings like, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." And to many you think, by calling someone out it will motivate them to make a change. But no, it doesn't work that way. All this fat shaming does is isolate and hurt anyone who feels different.
Many of us are guilty of “fat shaming” or “fat talk” and we aren’t even aware of it. But putting a stop to the “fat talk” only comes by making conscious efforts to change the way we engage with body image. Psychologists have discovered that how you believe your body fits in with society has a direct correlation to who you are and how you feel about yourself. It’s not a secret the self-conscious and negative perspectives are damaging.
After my brother passed away in 2009, I gained 50 pounds. Putting the weight on was effortless and it felt like it happened overnight. It wasn’t until my clothing stopped fitting and I couldn’t recognize the girl staring back at me that, with my mom’s gentle support, I made a change. I joined a meal program and started going to the gym daily. It took about 6 months to lose the weight but much longer to like what I saw in the mirror. Despite the hard work my body image was skewed. I had spent a year and a half in leggings while refusing to go shopping for jeans because I was convinced my thighs looked abnormally large in them. (I am still convinced that my thighs look abnormally large in jeans. But it’s because I have huge, giant, muscular thighs!) For me the biggest hurdle was overcoming that “big” doesn’t mean “fat.”
I hear it all the time from friends, family, co-workers, you name it. I’m sure you all hear this exchange far too often as well:
Person 1: “I should not have eaten (insert food item here.) I am so fat!”
Person 2: “Yeah right, I (insert reason why second person is fat-ter than Person 1)."
”We seem to believe that being empathic by equating ourselves to someone else’s guilt is normal. It may seem harmless but what it’s actually doing is affirming those seeds of self-doubt and they lead to a negative body image. Instead of engaging, just change the subject.
I was born and raised in San Diego California. There is a stereotype for Southern California, (and even a song thank you Katy Perry) that everyone is tall, thin, tan, and beautiful. And don’t get me wrong, people in Southern California are really good looking. To an overwhelming extent. It's impossible not to feel the pressure to look like everyone else because you are constantly in a bathing suit. I was only in elementary school when I started noticing that I didn’t have the same body shape as my friends. I spent my tween, teen, and young adult years stressing and comparing myself to my rail thin, tall, tan, and (what I thought was beautiful) friends. I would look at them and think, “What am I doing wrong?” THERE WAS/IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME. I wasn’t a size 0/2 and it drove me crazy! It took years to understand that it wasn’t because I was “fat” but because I had a different body type. Instead of seeing myself for who I was I only saw myself for who I wasn’t.
Even now, in the thick of marathon training, people will note my “weight loss.” I haven’t lost 1 pound according to my scale, I’m just becoming toned. You can’t run 40+ miles a week and do as many squats as I do without building some muscle. But people will say to me, “you look so skinny!” WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT!?! When people say to me, “You look so skinny” what I hear is, “You don’t look fat anymore!”
If I had one wish for the world it would be eliminate fat and skinny from our vocabularies. It does nothing but develop negative body issues which lead to a higher risk of depression, eating disorders, and anxiety. So instead of pointing out the things you wish you could change, point out the many things you love. I LOVE my GIANT thighs! My giant thighs are a reminder of how hard I am training for my marathon. Stop pointing out your giant nose, cellulite, huge booty, giant feet, wrinkles, acne, stringy hair, “muffin tops” (another word I DESPISE), etc. etc. etc.
Changing the way you see yourself takes time and effort. But by making a conscious effort to look in the mirror and see what everyone else sees you are actually taking steps to feel positively about who you are. We really do need to stop comparing ourselves to those around us. There are way too many definitions of beautiful and we all need to start seeing and believing we are beautiful as well. Embrace your own unique qualities. They are what make the world a more colorful place.
Get rid of the guilt and no more “fat talk.” And honestly, whether you are a size 0 or a size 16, shopping for jeans is always going to suck. It just is. But baby steps, baby steps. Until tomorrow friends, #RunSelfieRepeat.