I know it’s been a few weeks since I’ve written on the pages of A Choice for Health. With this new project, The 5 Dollar Day, I just haven’t had the time. The project is going great, but cooking, eating and writing daily about a $35 per week budget is more time consuming than I thought. I’m loving it. But it doesn’t allow as much time as I would like to write about my first blogging passion. Women, health and body image.
But this week, I couldn’t stay silent. Who saw the story on Shawn Johnson, Olympic gold medalist who lost weight after receiving cruel media criticism that she had “gotten too large?”
This young woman was on top of the world four years ago. Winning medals while at top physical performance. God forbid she put on a few pounds while on break from Olympic style training. And as she is now in the limelight, the media and tabloids have targeted her. Simply google Shawn Johnson and Fat, and you’ll be close to tears at what you see. This poor young girl, who achieved what most people only dream of, lost weight as a result of fat talk.
Lucky for her, and for us, she has gained valuable insight on the topic of body image. She is quoted as saying, “We’re taught at such a young age that you can always be better and that you’re never perfect and that you’re never good enough,” she said. “You find your worth in someone else and what they say just from having looked at you. It’s hard. I was at the Olympic Games winning medals and I still doubted my image. I doubted what I looked like. That’s sad. Girls should be taught different than that. I think everyone should be taught different than that.”
Lets put aside the fat that this woman has never been fat. Not now, not then. My question is why there is such a market for this stuff? Why do people buy the magazines, and gossip around the office about someone’s, whom they don’t personally know, size and beauty. Why do we do that? Does it make people feel better to think these stars who have it “all” are gaining weight. That maybe their lives aren’t as perfect as they seem? Newsflash, no one’s life is perfect.
Ending Fat Talk – a Real Life Example
If we’re going to put a stop to fat talk, we’re going to have to start with ourselves and our everyday lives. I almost never comment on people’s appearance. It’s my own way of protesting the fact that our society places too much stock on looks and beauty. Now, I do like to tell people they look good. But it has nothing to do with weight or clothes or makeup. I pull out the compliment when I see a woman looking radiant with confidence. You know what I’m talking about, right? People glow with beauty when they are confident and healthy. And that’s what I like to focus on. You will never hear me bring up someone’s weight loss. I hate when people fixate on it. As if that is the only achievement this person has ever had. As a yo-yo dieter, I have been on the receiving end of such “compliments,” and in truth, they actually make me feel kind of crummy. When I do lose weight, it seems as though no one has noticed me until I was smaller. As if taking up less space means I should receive more attention. I don’t like that thought process.
And sure, I can be great at not engaging the conversation. When I hear people use “fat talk,” whether it’s discussing their own, or someone else’s, weight loss or gain, I usually just remain silent. I certainly don’t want to contribute, but I’m usually too shy to speak up either. I know, me…shy? Hard to believe from the stuff I talk about on this blog. But it’s true. In the day-to-day, it’s really hard to confront people on this topic. Fat talk is such an ingrained part of the female culture. Which is unfortunate.
But I was faced with a situation this week where I found my voice. I came across a woman who literally told me she had a disgusting fat a$$. You’re probably wondering how this kind of situation comes up in my everyday life, but I assure you, this is not the first time. And aside from the fact that it is really uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of this kind of comment, I decided to find the courage to speak up and let her know how I felt about her comment.
“Do not say that about yourself. You are beautiful now, and you were beautiful then. Losing 80 pounds only means that you are healthier now. You seem happier. But do not call yourself disgusting. Especially not in front of me. Because I won’t hear it. You are beautiful. All women are beautiful.”
Did I just say that? Guess so, because she looked at me like a deer in headlights. And finally said, “Thank You,” with a smile across her face. I’m hoping this is not the first time she has heard something like this.
As I’ve been saying from the beginning, we have to change the conversation. As long as there is a market for fat talk, we will see it day in and day out. From the tabloids, to the office kitchen, to our bathroom mirrors. If we continue to talk badly about ourselves, and only see the “fat,” we are missing out on the true beauty that we each bring to this world.
So please, I beg of you, stop the fat talk already! Don’t allow it of yourself, and don’t allow it for those around you.