I wish that fat talk free week were year-round. In fact, as I was reading Harry Potter (number 7) for the 3rd time last night I thought about how cool it would be if we could put a taboo on fat talk like the taboo on the name “Voldemort”. And while I’ve clearly just let my nerd flag fly, I honestly believe that this taboo could be used for good, not evil.
Fat talk is everywhere. Just today I was sitting in a campus café, studying for Social Psychology, when I overheard a somewhat distressing conversation beside me. The girls were talking, and one of them said that she’d gone to the gym for 2 hours the previous day. Now, this alone could be an issue unless she was doing some serious training (and, I hope, fueling) but when the other girl joked that she’d never seen the inside of the campus gym, the first responded “Yeah well you’re skinny anyway, what do you eat?”
Sadly this conversation is typical among girls my age. Even more sadly, this conversation is typical among girls of any age, it seems. I’ve heard girls of 9 or 10 being told by their mothers that a dress is slimming, so they should buy it. I’ve overheard snippets of conversation between older women that discuss diet secrets and gym routines. This overwhelming emphasis on being thin and working out, on abstaining from snacks and meals and purchasing products made of air and aspartame, makes me both sad and angry.
At times, I’m not impervious to the bombardment of fat talk droplets. They hit me like slaps in the face as I stroll through campus. While I’m now able to take the high road and keep on eating a balanced meal plan and exercising very lightly and in moderation, it still stings my soul to know how these girls, these women, are thinking about themselves. The social comparison mechanism seems almost automatic in our society- it’s as though we’re not at peace unless we know all the juicy details of everyone else’s diets and exercise routines, their dress sizes, their bra sizes, their hairdressers, their waxers… it’s a strange obsession that has been cultivated.
Why the focus on the exterior? It’s a disservice to the great women who walk this earth to compare waist circumfrances. More than anything, it’s a waste of time. If I’ve learned one thing over the past year, it’s that what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. What celebrities do has nothing to do with what I should do, and what other people look like hasn’t the slightest impact on how I look, and so shouldn’t impact how I feel. When I say I feel fat (and I try not to do this), I know that I am really saying something else. The subtext is infinitely more important for one simple reason: it’s the subtext that I can actually address. “Fixing” my percieved bodily inadequacies won’t make me feel better, in the end. Skipping a meal or even a snack won’t make me feel better. Coming to the realization that working on being true to myself and to what makes me tick is what counts has been a monumental step in my own personal fat-talk-free movement.
Not every woman has an eating disorder. Not every woman berates her body and falls prey to messages that I’d argue reflect strange societal values. But every woman can take a stand against fat talk. It’s not just one week a year that makes a trend- it’s a constant, continual fight against some deeply ingrained issues that we’re facing.
In short, I ask you to recognize your own uniqueness and celebrate yourself. Maybe that’s asking too much, but it works for me. Maybe you’ll feel silly telling yourself you’re beautiful and enough just as you are as you savour a pumpkin tart in the brisk autumn air, but maybe on some level the message will hit home. I hope it does.