Living in a weight obsessed society is no picnic. You don’t need to have an eating disorder to feel the effects of it. It is very difficult to escape talk about dieting and weight, even if you don’t participate. It is familiar and common to talk about “my big butt” or to hear others chat about what diet they are currently torturing themselves with… all to get to the perfect size and weight.
Without wanting it, others may comment about your body or the foods you eat. Or, perhaps a lack of compliments might leave you thinking “they must think I’m fat”. You may long for positive affirmations from others that you “look thinner” and yet, when you hear it, you are sent on an emotional rollercoaster, triggered by your issues with food and your body
A simple comment on your body has the potential to take you from feeling good about the changes you have made around food and body image issues, straight to a diet, binge, and major obsessing!
Below are the types of comments that might contribute to a person’s eating disorder or trigger obsessing to surface for you, again:
• Encouraging someone to pursue slenderness, to diet, to deprive themselves of “fattening” food
• Teasing someone about their eating habits
• Criticizing someone else’s eating habits or choices
• Admiring weight loss diets or weight loss dieting
• Admiring rigidly controlled eating
• Criticizing your own eating habits or choices
• Making negative comments about your own or somebody else’s fatness
• Supporting the assumption that no one should be fat
• Disapproval of fatness in general
• Saying or assuming someone is doing well because of weight loss
• Saying something that presumes that a fat person wants to lose weight
• Saying something that presumes that fat people should lose weight
• Saying something that presumes that fat people eat too much
• Referring to “good” and “bad” food
• Talking about “being good” and “being bad” in reference to eating behavior
• Admiring appearances
• Admiring slenderness
• Making weight important
• Encouraging perfectionism
• Admiring excessive exercise
– list by Betsy Reynolds, M.S., R.D
If this happens to you, what can you do?
First, recognize that it has nothing to do with you!
You are trying not to give into a society that obsesses about these things or believes that thin is the only way to be happy or healthy.
That doesn’t mean the commenter does. Recognize that they may have their own issues with food and their body and so their comment is about them. Try to put it back on that person, not necessary verbally, but in your mind. Feel compassion and empathy for him or her, after all, he or she may be so unhappy with their body that they can’t help but comment on yours.
In other words, don’t take it on! Return to what you know and what is true for you.
Second, recognize and acknowledge what got triggered in you. This is an opportunity to deal with feelings that you still have about your body and the underlying issues. Try to remember and keep in mind that it is not about food or your body, it is about something deeper. If you don’t know what it is, talk to someone who can help you identify it.
Although living in a weight obsessed society is no picnic, you can throw your own party. Invite those who understand you and what you are going through. Educate them on why it doesn’t help when they comment on your weight or what you eat. Tell them what is okay and what is not okay to say. If that feels too difficult to do, write a letter or show them the above list and start a conversation about it.
Most people who care about you think they are helping by making those comments. Heck, perhaps at one point you thought it would help you too but now you know it doesn’t. It may be time to tell them too. My guess is that you will be glad you did.