Most people, fat or thin, have engaged in fat talk at some point in their life. Many grow up in households where it runs rampant, hearing size shaming comments from parents, watching moms bash their own bodies while getting dressed, having grandparents pinch parts of their bodies or making comments like, "you'd be so pretty if you just lost some weight." Family reunions are dreaded events for these very reasons.
High schools girls sit around the lunch table picking at their food (some without any food), talking about how many calories are in this and that, what supermodels they want to look like, and whether or not they have thigh gaps. Young boys are starting to engage in fat talk too. They are more obsessed with leanness than thinness and want to get the six-pack abs.
Adult women go out to dinner and talk about why they can or cannot eat something while looking at the menu. Workplace break rooms are also full of it. You don't have to look far to see and hear it. It can be subtle or overt, verbal and non-verbal and regardless of how communicated, it is all so very, very damaging.
People spend years and years of their lives on a diet (or thinking they should be on a diet), wishing they weighed this, fit into that, and meanwhile their life is happening. And yet few, if any, people get to the end of their life and wish they'd weighed themselves more often. In fact, there was an article on CNN recently titled "What the Dying Regret." The author says:
There are many regrets and unfulfilled wishes that patients have shared with me in the months before they die. But the stories about the time they waste hating their bodies, abusing it or letting it be abused -- the years people spend not appreciating their body until they are close to leaving it -- are some of the saddest. Because unlike the foolish or best-intentioned mishaps, the terrible accidents, the slip-ups that irrevocably change a life, this regret is not a tragic mistake. It's intentional. It's something other people teach them to feel about their bodies; it's something other people want them to believe.
Many people don't realize that they have a choice; that there is a different path, another way out, and it doesn't involve changing the size or shape of the body. Health at Every Size is a new, evidence-based paradigm that expresses concern about the health effects of the war against obesity and switches the focus from weight to health and well-being. The war against obesity is an unjustified, ineffective and damaging war against our bodies. NOBODY benefits when we see a healthy body only as a thin body.
You can make the choice to stop pursuing the thin ideal and shift your focus toward compassionate, weight-neutral self-care. We do this by putting thoughts about weight on the back burner, so you can start living your life today. We know this sounds hard given the culture we live in, but it is possible. To do it, we invite you to notice the things in your life that increase your pre-occupation with the thin ideal.
• What magazines do you read? Studies show that women feel worse about themselves after looking at a fashion magazine.
• What shows do you watch?
• Do you have a Pinterest board for thinspiration or fitspiration?
• What is on your "health and wellness" board? Is it really about health or is it about cosmetic fitness? Are you using it to shop for a body?
• Are you saving a pair of jeans that don't fit? Do you try to squeeze into them every now and then?
• What other ways do you "check your body"? Do you scrutinize yourself in mirrors? Weigh yourself daily? Feel for bones or fatness?
Work to reduce "body checking" behaviors. Consider canceling your subscriptions, deleting your boards or certain images, and surround yourself with body positive messages.
When we challenge ourselves to not "fat talk," we give an incredible gift to our daughters, our family members and our friends. Casually engaging in fat talk with our friends actually reinforces painful body shame and the dieting mind, despite our best intentions. We have the option to show up as compassionately weight-neutral and affirmative of the vitality and beauty that is already present in the people we care about. In doing so we are making it safer and more likely for our loved ones to love themselves too.
As we said in our recent blog on The Huffington Post:
Now is the time for us to show each other what the body trust revolution really looks like. Respecting, trusting and loving our bodies is not glossy, nor is it just for the brave few. The revolution is simple. It looks like showing up for your self instead of orphaning the pieces and parts that don't fit the mold. It is understanding that you cannot settle for second best, whether you are choosing food, a job or your life. The revolution requires that we name beauty in places it has not been recognized as such. It means listening to your body, trusting that it is the one that cannot lie.