February 25, 2013

Fighting Fat Talk

"Ugh, I'm so fat."

"My thighs look disgusting in these pants."

"You look so great-- you lost weight!"

"I hate my body."

"I have to lose 5/10/20 pounds, and I have to weigh X pounds. I would be so happy then, and my life would be so much better!"

Do any of those sentences sound familiar? Have you ever given or received praise for losing weight? Have you ever looked in the mirror and glared at those spots that are a little rounder than you'd like? Have you ever complained with your girlfriends about how you feel fat/look fat/are getting fat and need to do something about it?

We all have.

One of the most challenging parts of having a positive body image, meaning viewing your body size/shape/weight in a positive way, is that in many societies and cultures, it has become the norm to trash talk our bodies. It is socially acceptable to say that skinny and thin are better than not-skinny and not-thin. It is socially acceptable to be disgusted by people who are overweight or obese and attribute negative traits to them (out of control, undisciplined, lazy, unintelligent) solely on the basis of their weight. It is socially acceptable to to talk about foods in terms of "good" and "bad" and to gush over "guilt-free," "sin-free," "low-cal" foods as though we have accomplished something truly great by consuming something with a marginally lower fat or calorie content.

I don't think anyone is a terrible person for doing any of the above. Again, we've all done some of them at some point. But I ask you this: What if we didn't?

What if the next time we looked in the mirror, we said, "You're beautiful" and smiled at our reflection?

What if we shifted the focus from weight and pounds to health and strength?

What if we told our friend who just called herself "fat" that she is beautiful and that she is worth more than a number or a size?

What if we looked someone in the eye the next time they make a rude comment about someone who is overweight and said, "That's not okay to say" and didn't laugh along?

What if we stopped praising people for chasing an unhealthy thin ideal and started praising people for other characteristics with more enduring value, like their kindness, their tenacity, their faith, or their creativity?

Stop. Close your eyes. Think about how you would answer those questions. I don't mean them to be throw-away questions. Really think about them. What would your world look like if you did any of those? How would your own self-view change? How would you impact those around you with your new perspective?

This week, in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I am taking a stand against fat talk.  I am embracing my body, I am not judging any one else's body, and I am using my voice to encourage others to think about the way they view and speak about their own bodies. Then, when this week is over, I am doing it all over again.

It's normal to have a negative body image. Our culture says that we need to look a certain way, and that ideal is very unattainable. Rather than struggle to fit the mold, however, I choose acceptance and health.  I choose love, and I choose a positive self-image. I am more than a weight or a size or a shape, and you are, too.

Let's fight fat talk together. You deserve it.