Often times we hear other woman (and men) make negative comments about their bodies, saying things like “I’m so fat”, “I have gained so much weight I look like a caw”, or “I know I look disgusting in this… I feel so fat.” These comments can make us very uncomfortable and at least I know I struggle on how to respond. Do I tell them they look just right?, Do I tell them they shouldn’t be saying that and be grateful they are healthy enough to wear a bathing suit and enjoy the beach?, Do they expect me to say something like “No, you look beautiful!”? I find those conversations very uncomfortable, unhealthy and unproductive, especially when my daughter is around. As much as I want to protect her from those types of conversations, I know her 13 year old friends talk about this, too. Fat chats are a reality we encounter in many social interactions and they are not really about “fat and weight”. They are about feeling disconnected and not feeling like they meet social expectations.
Because I work with individuals struggling with weight and their bodies as well as eating disorders, I know that the struggle is real. I also know from my experience as a woman that the pressure to look a certain way is also real, so I have become skilled at responding with a smile “I hear you feel uncomfortable wearing your swimsuit, let’s get into the pool and have some fun! That’s why we’re here, right?” or I say something like “It’s difficult sometimes to look a certain way” and change the subject just as I do when the conversation starts to become an argument about political views. Talking about weight and body seems to be as common as talking about the weather or latest results on a football or soccer game. It’s become an innate part of our culture and most people engage in such conversations.
How healthy are those body shaming remarks, diet talks and fat comments? They’re NOT and the more we are part of them the more we normalize such subjects. Although “Fat Chat” seems harmless to many, it’s actually harmful for people who are already struggling with food, body image and self-esteem. They are also harmful for young individuals who are dealing with their bodies changing and growing, wanting to fit in and meet social standards. Those comments are harmful to our society because they reinforce an unhealthy and negative perception of people’s bodies. Yes. Men and women struggle with this!
Our bodies go beyond physical appearance and it’s important to become aware of who is listening to those comments. We are more than legs, hips and lips, and self-rejection only moves us away from connecting to our true potential and purpose. Our strengths go beyond the societal construct of beauty, and fun is usually messy and relaxed, filled with laughter and joy.
This summer become aware of your feelings when you engage in the fat chats around you or listen to others criticizing their bodies, notice how it feels not to be a part of those conversations or responding with body affirming comments. Set the intention of connecting with your body at a deeper level, honoring your body as the vehicle to experience life, enjoyment and love. Consciously disengage from the fat chat and bring awareness to the real purpose of having a body and fully living in it!