Recently, I wrapped up my leadership for the Book Club attached to The Desire Map. It has been a book club with a purpose, which was to discover our desires and move towards creating goals and intentions for the year. The discussions were mostly held within an intimate group of women which were pouring out their souls and emptying their minds, surrendering to the process. It came up in our last meeting that, as women, we often get stuck in the concept of “being fat” or wanting to lose weight as a goal. “It’s epidemic,” says one participant, this concept of feeling or thinking you are fat as a woman.
As a teen and young adult, I kept journals. Journals helped me survive my adolescence and were key in my survivorship after a traumatic event in my childhood (which I have discussed here). Part of the reason I also kept journals was because they were my best friend. I was severely teased and had extremely poor self esteem when I was a teen and young adult. My weight would come up in front of an entire classroom, in passed notes, in heated discussion or arguments, and it seeped deeply in my soul. I couldn’t argue with them at the time – perhaps I was overweight and larger boned. In fact, in looking at pictures from my early childhood, I can see that I am much larger built than my German cousin whose family came to visit Iowa from Germany for a large family reunion. I also knew that I was not often able to fit in the same smaller sizes of jeans as many of my friends. I couldn’t shop in the same way for both financial reasons and structure reasons and pretty quickly hated wearing jeans, which never fit me properly. Another culprit to being overweight was that I ate poorly. My siblings and I were raised by my father and we ate a lot of processed foods. In fact, I don’t remember ever having fresh fruits or vegetables from when I was ten years old to nineteen years old. I went to fast food places during lunch in high school. After I graduated from high school, I worked for Taco John’s, and some other fast food places, and consumed even more literal junk to my trunk.
At 19 – 22, I seemed to lose some and gain some weight. Perhaps it was because I was struggling to find consistent places to live, consistent times to eat, and was probably beginning to use experimental drugs and frequenting the bar that I lived above for a time. I needed a change. I moved to New York to become a nanny and found a completely new lifestyle of health and foods and was introduced to “Fit for Life.” After leaving New York, and returning to Iowa, I started to attend school for Social Work and tried skateboarding and also rode my bike to and from class (movement and exercise does help). I was also loved by a boyfriend for the first time in my life and felt extremely comfortable with him. Fat was no longer a part of my vocabulary.
I wasn’t as thin as my counterparts but I didn’t struggle with my weight as life felt full. This is telling.
Fat is a concept that often comes from the outside in. Most children do not call others fat unless they hear it from their parents in a judgmental manner. I have never said “I am fat” in front of my daughter and have never used the word #fat when I talk to her about her body. I am very conscious how I speak to my daughter about her body. And, here is why. I recently was doing some research for health coaching and used #fat in my search on Instagram. I was immediately bombarded with images of young girls and boys who had their weights and other measurements listed as well as photos of skeletal bodies, some of which had razor marks on their arms and many of which were discussing feeling suicidal. I felt intense grief, and some knowledge of what that felt like. While I never felt suicidal, and was probably diagnosed at some point as a “resilient child,” I certainly took risks with my health and my lifestyle that were reckless and sometimes even death-defying. I chose to either eat in excess (comfort or emotional eating) or used substances to bury my grief and post-traumatic stress rather than starve. Either way, the inner child within me recognizes these young people who are starving for something and struggle with the fat concept.
Many organizations are working towards redefining the meaning of a healthy body and weight. We are inundated with the multi-media messages about what defines a “hot” body, a great “booty” and a “hot” Mom which may also be deemed “MILF” (even mothers are pressured in this cultural trend), a “hot” wife and young girls learning about the “thigh gap.” When I was a young woman in graduate school for Social Work, I saw a live presentation about body image in the media. It made an excellent impression on me. Jean Kilbourne’s short expert video will possibly enlighten you. We are also starting to see persons blog and post pictures, artistic photos, to represent a real body and being comfortable in it. The internet is finally embracing a woman’s ability to cast off body-shaming.
While there are strong efforts to resist the shaming from others, there is still a lot of work to do. As a Coach in the Holistic Health industry, I find it hard to locate a larger woman or man assisting others in their health goals. We are also pressured in our industry to look sexy, want our clients to look and feel sexy, and promote sexy-ness to attract clients. This is also telling.
Being healthy and feeling healthy are important goals. Being sexy and feeling sexy, not as important, but within the right context, are valuable for persons who have not always had that word attributed to them. Most importantly, is feeling self-love and attempting to take fat out of one’s vocabulary, unless we are talking about food, and we insert the word healthy before it. It burdens me to inform my colleagues reading this that most of you have SEXY written all over your blogs and websites. I almost started in this direction too, but then realized, I don’t feel like that word contains the right message for a holistic lifestyle, just as fat, skinny or hot might not when describing a person and their body. We have to be careful with our language as Coaches and healers, parents and friends.
Who worries about being fat? Half of the normal weight girls in America.