I’m sure most of you saw the New York Times blog about the Fat Stigma Study. I am absolutely thrilled that researchers are starting to look into the way society actually contributes to disordered relationships with food. We have a huge section of society that believes in the idea of “shaming people thin.” When, really, what they are doing is encouraging more unhealthy habits. When I am shamed, I generally have a greater desire to eat my feelings because I am experiencing an increase in negative emotions (and cortisol according to the study.) In the past, I’ll admit the shame has temporarily motivated me to do start some sort of exercise routine or diet. But, rarely were any of them healthy. Never did any of the stick.
Here’s is what I thought this study, and article, was missing: We can’t control what other people say or do. But, the biggest battle we can actually wage is the shame and guilt we bring on ourselves.
I’m no biochemist, but I’m pretty sure I experience the same sort of cortisol increase when I’m body shaming myself in the mirror. I know I get the same, if not stronger, triggered feeling after bullying myself about my body and my weight. Really, the journey to body positivity for me has very little to do with changing how the world around me reacts to my body shape. (I’m very grateful there are so many amazing warriors fighting the fight, though.) My challenge is changing how I see myself. My goal has been about erasing the negative self-talk tape in my head. Becoming body positive is learning to love myself, unconditionally, however I’m presenting to the world in that moment.
I can’t spend my energy focusing on what other people are saying. I have no doubt I would burn out overnight if I fought, and argued, and screamed every time someone said something that was decidedly anti-body positive.
But, this is what I can do. I can only say (and think) nice things about myself when I’m looking in the mirror. More importantly, I can spend some time naked in front of the mirror reminding myself there are very GOOD things about my body. I can embrace the many body positive bloggers, posters, instagramers, tumblrs, ect. I can ensure that my life is filled with an amazing amount of body positive examples. I can surround myself with friends and influences that are aware of how they speak of their bodies, as well as the body of others.
I don’t discount the study about Fat Stigma. I experience everyday how society is swimming in messages about what a woman’s body (and men’s) should and should not be. Every day I am reminded that a large sect of society believes I should be activity trying to lose weight. The thing is, I know that I’m not able to change society. I will never get the Don Drapers of the world to stop using women’s insecurities to sell EVERY PRODUCT EVER. I know what I can do, and that’s be the change I want to see in the world. I can speak kindly of myself. I can speak kindly to others. I can continue to work on erasing my own negative self-talk tape, and replace it with confidence-boosting speeches. I can surround myself with body positive influences, both in my media and in my friend circles.
I can accept and love myself, as I am, today. I can chase my dreams and goals from a place of self-love. I can exercise accurate self-care as a way of combating those nasty elevations in cortisol.
I am so glad to see a study come out that shows shaming, blaming, and stigmatizing Fat people has a negative impact. What I need to remember, and what I hope others on this journey remember, is we are sometimes are our worst bullies. The voice in our head, which is admittedly fueled by society’s bullshit, can also contribute to this negative impact.
Change your inner voice. Change your world.