We have grown a twisted relationship with body image & self-worth. Follow these useful steps to change the way we use the word “fat” because it’s time to change the conversation for a healthy future.
My dear loved ones, I need to ask you for a favour. One that is difficult for me to find the words so I can express myself the right way. It’s difficult because this favour is tangled in my own complicated relationship with my body, and pulling out the proper threads might take a surgeon’s hand I’m not sure I possess. However, this is important enough that I need to try.
STEP 1: Stop using fat as a synonym for shame and disgust.
I am not here to police anyone’s feelings, or to make declarations about the way you need to experience the world. I’m only asking that we all consider changing the conversation, so that “fat” as an adjective is no longer synonymous with “repulsive” when it leaves our mouths.
I am fat. I say this as a fact. As a statement about my appearance. The way I can also describe myself as having brown hair and green eyes. I am working hard to treat that word as just another adjective and not equate it with some sort of value of my person. I hope you can see why I am asking you to do the same.
I am fatter than you, dear loved one. So when I hear you lament about your body fat/size/shape and how you feel about it, I can’t help but assign myself a lesser value in your eyes. My body is a part of me, so please consider that the disgust you express for your own body is directly transferred and amplified when looking at my own. This happens when I compare my fuller shape to the one you are criticizing, if I think back to the time that borrowed jacket wouldn’t zip closed around my hips, or how I end up giving a pass on dessert when you can’t stop talking about how much fat is in it. How can I believe you aren’t looking at me through the same negative lens?
STEP 2: Think About the Young People
My relationship with my body is complicated, I own this. I imagine your relationship is complicated as well. When I examine the twisted feelings I have for my figure, I know this for sure:
I do not want my niece or nephew, or any child for that matter, to inherit the complicated body image issues grown and twisted into the struggles of self worth so many of us struggle with today.
The way you have learned to judge your appearance isn’t your fault. You have been bombarded and manipulated by the same kind of marketing that devalues my body.
I think about my niece, especially, and worry that one day she’ll look at her cute little belly and feel shame, that she’ll start to count every calorie of every morsel that passes her lips. When will she start thinking she needs to go on a diet? That she needs to take on a smaller shape to be worthy of loving? Perhaps, she may stop taking pictures with her loved ones, as do I. Will she risk their hurt feelings to avoid being photographed because, secretly, she can’t face the self-loathing she feels when she sees her image preserved in time? Will she have to find the resolution to stop herself from stepping on the scale several times a day to obsess over the numbers; in order to quantify whether she needs to skip a meal or a snack? I do not wish these warped values upon her.
STEP 3: Envision the Future, focus on strength, health, & being good to yourself.
Words are important, dear loved one, so let’s reframe. Let’s make the discussion about being strong, about making healthy choices, about being good to ourselves with the food we eat but also the love we allow ourselves. We are worthy of it, dear loved ones, in all our shapes. Let us aim to make that the conversation we pass forward, to share, grow, and nurture in our future generations. Fat should be a causal description of composition, not a derogatory value or feeling.
Nude sculpture, & Measuring Waist, released under Creative Commons CC0.
Pig, by Myranda Bolstad