The Fat Fear Factor

I’m okay, you’re okay.

I was talking to an acquaintance who doesn’t know what I do (this body acceptance/HAES stuff) for at least some of my time, which is why she said to me, “I’m looking for a 1500 calorie diet –  I saw pictures of myself at my nephew’s wedding and I didn’t like the way I looked. What diet should I do?”

Not being paid to treat her, I dispensed with any sort of motivational interviewing sensibility and pleaded, “Oh Harriet*! Please don’t even bother. Diets are horrible and in the end you just gain even more weight back.” She was interested in that, so we talked for a while about what all the science says and how food-and-calorie restriction just leads to crazy-eating and how in the end, almost no one loses weight forever.

But she kept coming back to one thing: I have to do something, because I’m just too big. Being a short, fat, older lady, she most likely receives confirmation, like all fat people, on a daily basis that she has the wrong body, if from nothing more than the near-total absence of fat bodies presented in every form of media that exists (but also probably from a lot more sources). I totally don’t blame her for getting stuck on this. I had talked about listening to our inner cues of hunger and satiety to regulate our eating, but that it probably wouldn’t make her thin. She concluded with, “I’ll try to listen to my hunger and fullness…but I also just need to have portion control,” which, sadly, is really just another way to say “diet.” And I totally get it, because the way she feels about her weight and needing to do something – yeah, I’ve been there.

So what I want to talk about today is not the massive failure of any sort of intentional weight loss effort, but rather the problem of body unhappiness. Because unless we at least explore the reasons for body dissatisfaction, it can be oh-so-hard to even contemplate achieving a peaceful relationship with food.

Why? Look at the above example. Harriet was interested in listening to her internal hunger and satiety cues (and she had a poignant story about childhood hunger that continues to fuel her need to overeat to this day) but she felt she needed to fix her body size first. She couldn’t get past it. She didn’t feel she had the right to exist happily in her body, no matter what her size. And we talked about the reasons for that too: the expectation of women that we always appear “attractive,” the lack of representation of fat bodies in the media, the weight loss industry who continues to perpetuate the idea that permanent weight loss is possible, the medical community who backs up this idea without acknowledging the overwhelming evidence that says that we don’t need to lose weight to be healthy, and society at large which says we need to lose weight to be happy. Everything that she’d ever heard told her that her fat body was wrong wrong wrong.

I think more than ever, thanks to this rampant fat-fear-mongering, so many of us have come to the conclusion that it’s NOT okay to 1. be in a fat body and 2. be happy with ourselves and our lives in that fat body. This is simply wrong.

So this is what I want you to know: you have the right to be happy in your body no matter what its size. You might be miles away from that, but you need to at least know that this is a possible outcome if you decide to choose it.

Permission is a powerful thing. We’re holding ourselves back from a fully-lived life when we feel we lack permission to be authentically ourselves. Your eating will suffer; your happiness will suffer; and your health will suffer.

Becoming happy in your fat body isn’t a quick trip. But you at the very least need the ticket – permission to be okay with your body – to get on board.

 *Totally not her real name

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8 thoughts on “The Fat Fear Factor

  1. dimplefacect March 7, 2016 / 4:51 pm

    Excellent piece, Glenys! I will be sharing it with clients and friends. My mantra today was, “I am enough, just as I am,” and when I shared it with my dieting bestie, she said, “I am more than enough so I need to lose a little.” She will be my first share.

    • GlenysO March 7, 2016 / 8:01 pm

      So glad you liked it! It’s funny your friend said that – it makes me think of the fantastic site!

  2. Natalie March 7, 2016 / 11:07 pm

    Brilliant article Glenys! One of the best I have come across on the topic of body hatred. Thanks. Hope you don’t mind if I share it around?

    • GlenysO March 8, 2016 / 11:45 am

      Thank you! Please feel free to share it far and wide!

  3. toonicefor2long April 24, 2016 / 1:55 pm

    We are so overly brainwashed to think that being curvey with meat on our bones women makes us unattractive and not sexy. It’s very sexy to be a woman with a mature body. We fight a huge fight that all of media and society promote. But really I have to tell you that the most together women I’ve noticed and have had as friends and with happy husbands weren’t pencil thin model types, but were about twenty -thirty pounds over the medical guidelines for what’s healthy. A couple women I’ve known weight wise were right on target but just ate the proper foods and were active. Men don’t see what we see when we look in the mirror.they love us and mature men know that we are human beings not airbrushed models.
    Diet is about eating the best foods to keep your body happy, working well, giving you energy when needed and an over all good sense of well being. It’s not about starving yourself and being hungry. When we starve ourselves our body goes into survival mode to conserve energy. We end up getting heavier, weak, and prone to illness. Our metabolism slows down. To lose weight you need to do the opposite of starving yourself. Just eating the right foods and taking care of ourselves by walking minimum of twenty minutes a day will increase your bodies metabolism by quite a bit . And even after that brisk walk hours later it’s still sped up faster from your walking earlier that morning. Eating an apple will fill you up. It’s so much better than sugar filled candy bars. I won’t say I don’t like my Reese’s fast break candy bars! But on occasion only. Just cutting that out as my daily treat got me to lose about 3 pounds. We make ourselves sick trying to be something we aren’t.
    If we focus less on this subject and more on finding the best foods that give us the most real energy and promote good health then you’d be surprised at what happens when we add in that twenty minute walk each day. Increasing by five minutes each month. I have a friend who lost 68 pounds by this method and she walks an hour each morning before working her desk job. She looks great. But my other friend who ill call Mindy also has a great attitude and she accepts herself at all stages and knows by looking at her family me members she is a big boned woman and her height being 6 ft tall she is just that. You can’t diet and walk that off. She dresses better though now which helps her use her being the most noticeable woman in the room and she represents all women who are built like she is. She says you can’t be a Yorkie when you were born a golden retriever. And she is right. And last year she got married to a guy 6’7″” who loves her look and attitude. They just found out she is 16 weeks pregnant. She said her sister who is built just like her didn’t look pregnant at all, not even in the 9th month. Her sister had 9 children and not one complication ( she was a surrogate mother four times) what a beautiful gift she makes possible because of her being of her body type and her good health. and you couldn’t do that with some fraile, under nourished 80 pound little girls body now could you?!!! So let’s stop thinking bad thoughts and embrace what’s awesome about us which is everything!!!!

  4. toonicefor2long April 24, 2016 / 2:13 pm

    PS) Wanted to say GREAT ARTICLE. And I’ll be sharing with my friends on FB & Google. And WordPress!

  5. rosalen101 April 26, 2016 / 10:13 am

    The pic is so cute! LOL!🙂🙂

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