My intern Tina and I were recently discussing the word FAT. She couldn’t imagine herself saying the word, believing it to be filled with shame, stereotypes and disgust. For me, it is merely a description, such as tall, brown hair, or big feet. (It wasn’t always this way for me and Tina is now changing her view too.)
I believe it is our society that made this particular descriptive word feel bad. We learned that being fat is bad and something to avoid like the plague. The Council on Size and Weight Discrimination (www.cswd.org) reports these alarming statistics:
- Over half of the females studied between ages eighteen and twenty-five would prefer to be run over by a truck than to be fat, and two-thirds would choose to be mean or stupid rather than fat. Gaesser, Glenn A., PhD. Big Fat Lies: The truth about your weight and your health. Gurze Books, 2001.
- A survey of college students found that they would prefer to marry an embezzler, drug user, shoplifter, or blind person than someone who is fat. Gaesser, Glenn A., PhD. Big Fat Lies: The truth about your weight and your health. Gurze Books, 2001.
- Americans spend fifty billion dollars annually on diet products. Garner, David W., PhD, and Wooley, Susan C., PhD. “Confronting the Failure of Behavioral and Dietary Treatments for Obesity,” Clinical Psychological Review 11 (1991), pp. 729-780. (Fifty billion dollars is more than the GNP (Gross National Product) of more than half of all the nations in the world, including the entire country of Ireland.)
The recently socially acceptable description of “overweight” is often used for this perceived shameful thing of being fat. But, I argue, this is also loaded with judgment. After all, what does that mean anyway – over whose weight? This is just a new label that keeps shame in the word fat. There is still a societal perception that it is good to be “normal” weight or even underweight but bad to be overweight. Not long ago, being underweight or normal weight meant you were underclass, poor and much less desirable than someone of a more rubenesque physique. This use of overweight is clearly still a judgment, not a descriptor.
Imagine that you truly believe that being fat is not bad and not unhealthy. Then, saying one is fat would carry the same weight as saying one has big feet.
I have big feet. I do. I wear a size 10 and I’m only 5’4″. But, having big feet is not a bad thing in our society. In fact, some would argue that it gives me greater balance. (I’m not so sure it does). So, should I say that I am overfeet? Of course not. Having big feet is not a bad thing so no one compares my feet to someone else’s foot size. Or, perhaps I am just underheight and that is why my feet are too big.
Saying Fat empowers you. Try it. “That cat is fat.” “That is a fat book.” “That pillow looks fat and soft.” See, not so bad. Now, step it up a bit. “I am fat.” “My friend is fat.” “That woman looks fat and soft.” Keep practicing. Learn to embrace it as a descriptor; work on letting go of the negative connotations of it being bad. This is only what you have been told, it is not true.
There is a lot of information and studies available that tell us that being fat is not unhealthy or bad, (actually more than tell us it is). You just simply need to look for it because rarely will someone tell you it is there.
But, I will! For more information, buy Linda Bacon’s book, Health at Every Size http://www.lindabacon.org/HAESbook and check out this blog, http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com. Both have great information and more resources to find even more information. There is tons of it out there! The ones I mention, I do so only because they are my favorites. Do a little research and you will find your own favorites.
Change your beliefs about fat. I dare you. It takes courage but brings big rewards. Embracing it will pave the way to feeling positive, rather than negative about others and yourself, whether you are fat or thin or somewhere in between.
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