Without Measure (WOM) 365

November 17, 2006

Decoding the Language of Fat

Filed under: self esteem,size acceptance — directisaa @ 9:08 pm

Excerpt reprinted by permission from Jessica Weiner, the author of Do I Look Fat In This? How I Filled Up On Life…And How You Can Too!

Decoding the Language of Fat


Who would have ever thought that three little letters could cause such fear, anxiety, and pain in someone’s life?

I don’t know one person who is not affected by those three letters. I don’t know one woman who has never had a thought about how much she weighs or whether she is, or is getting fat. Unless you grew up on a faraway planet called Self-Love, you grew up here in a world where women are still valued, honored, rewarded, validated, and appreciated based on the size and shape of their bodies.

You can have the best parents, the most prestigious education, the most loving partners, the greatest friends, and you, my love, will still be susceptible to equating your worth as a woman to your dress size. And this isn’t a new realization. We have always loved and hated women based on their beauty and their physical stature, and we have always loved and hated ourselves based on how easily (or not) we have lived up to these standards of womanhood.

Waiting to be skinny

I recently met a brilliant young woman at an Ivy League conference on women’s issues. She had just graduated magna cum laude from her school, but she confided that she couldn’t remember a damn day of her college experience. “Why?” I asked, utterly shocked at this statement. “Because,” she said, “I have been waiting till I was skinny to enjoymy life. And it hasn’t happened yet, so while I just finished my education at one of the country’s most prestigious schools, I can’t remember anything about it because I was too busy dieting, hating my body, and waiting to be skinny.”

Are you waiting to be skinnier, thinner, more toned, more tanned, better dressed, more lovable, sexier, nicer, smarter, funnier, or wealthier before you really begin your life? Millions of us are. And it’s a complete waste of time. Body obsession and the quest for perfection are destroying our lives, and we are willing partners in this destruction.

??? Take This Quiz ???

  • How many times today have you thought about what you ate or want to eat?
  • How many times have you used the word “fat” in a sentence?
  • How many times have you thought about the word “fat,” whether about yourself or someone else?
  • How many times today have you dreamed of a life that would happen five pounds from now? (When you finally get thin. Or when you get a new husband or boyfriend. Or when you have the perfect job. Perfect friends. Perfect family.)
  • How many times today did you let the Language of Fat seep into your experience?

Odds are that if you were able to answer any of the questions above, you are speaking the Language of Fat and may not even know it.

Thou Shalt Not Be a Fat Woman…Ever!How old were you when you first heard the world “fat”? When did it become the very thing you designed your life around not becoming?

We are socialized early on to understand that girls should want to be slim and pretty, not fat and ugly. Seems logical, right? Who in their right mind wants to be fat and ugly? But what is missing in these descriptions are the millions of other things we can be in our lives.

Let’s get smart about this. The Language of Fat is not just really about the word “fat.” It starts with this word, the most emotionally recognizable word for women in this country, and it spreads into other words, into a deeper and sometimes more subtle language that can keep us from ever knowing we are speaking it.

The girls who torment other girls probably don’t even realize they’ve been fed a steady diet of body-loathing terms in their young years on this Earth. Before we understand the meaning of a word, the energy associated with the response it brings has an impact on us. The girls know that the word “fat” is just something no girl wants to be.

They’ve probably heard their mothers speak it, perhaps when getting dressed or preparing dinner. Maybe they’ve heard their mothers ask their fathers or stepfathers, “Honey, do I look fat in this?”

No matter how, they learned it. They mimicked it. They use it and they watch it get them a result. They may continue to speak the Language of Fat everyday and may spend their lives poking, prodding, and praying never ever to become fat themselves.

Remember, the fear of being fat isn’t only relegated to women with preexisting weight problems. The notion of not becoming fat occupies a lot of time and space for women of all shapes and sizes.

Becoming fat is a realistic fear for women, one that controls entire lives and millions of daily activities. This is not uncommon; all women have some sort of fear about this issue. It’s almost like its one of the Ten Commandments, or a federal law.

The good news is, we have power over the Language of Fat. We can dissect it, understand it, and then choose to change it so it no longer takes over our lives. The first step, though, is to recognize that you speak it. The next step is to be willing to do something about it.

You can challenge the language by looking beyond the words and actions and into the intentions. Sometimes it is so easy to stick with the status quo and not rock the boat by asking, “Is this language really the best use of our time?” The feeling of being left out of the group is overwhelming. But we don’t have to speak in surface dialogue about food, fat, or weight. There is so much more to talk about and to bond over.

You don’t have to speak the Language of Fat just because it is the predominant language.

Keep listening.

Language habits won’t change overnight, but you can begin to change yours immediately just by being aware.


YOU can change the world…

Filed under: self esteem,size acceptance — lyndafinn @ 1:22 am

Most of us understand that bigotry and discrimination are Bad Things. In the living memory of most adults, the world has changed substantially on this issue.

My parents’ generation thought nothing of using, even in polite company, words and names which discriminated in the worst way against a whole range of persons who were not like them.

They would not have burned crosses on front lawns but neither would they have marched to prevent bigots doing so.

But thanks to a diverse range of courageous activists, times are changing for the better.

Access to public buildings, services and social life has been made better for the disabled. Same sex marriages are, at last, being recognised and most reasonable and intelligent people strive to prevent others being punished (discrimination is unjust punishment) for their skin colour, racial origins, sexual orientation and religious beliefs.

As most fat people know, things in our sector of society are changing too, but for the worse – thanks to a well-funded, well-orchestrated campaign to convince the world that obesity is due to moral weakness and greed.

Thin people can chomp through boxes of chocs, keep the fast-food outlets going and eat buckets of Haagen Das without adverse comment.

An unscientific study done in Auckland recently involved a sight-survey of customers using 4 of the main fast food outlets. (McD, Burger King, Pizza Hut and KFC) over a period of 3 days.

Well over 89% were regarded as “average or below average build”. And it’s not rocket science to see that if these businesses relied upon 11% custom from “over average build” to keep profits up, they’d all close.

Maybe you’re thinking New Zealand doesn’t have so many fat people and that’s the reason why so few were seen making the panicked dash to grease-laden, sugar-saturated foods the media would have you believe we crave.

An advert on radio and TV here currently states that “60% of Kiwis are overweight or obese” (it is, of course, an advert for a diet plan).

We do have big people, of all races, but one of the reasons why this figure of 60% is questionable is because we now measure overweight in a diferent way.

A few years ago, women of size 14-18 would not have dreamed of calling themselves big, not even plump! We were “well-made” and “well-built” – phrases which reflected the idea that good health and attractiveness came from a beautifully proportioned body.

No one in their right mind believed a woman in a size 14 dress was X-Large, or that size 18 was Supersize (I said “right mind” not “gullible and easily fooled”) but the fashion and related industries changed the sizing downwards so rich women could fool themselves that they were actually thinner than they were – and popular sizing followed suit.

Like the Emperor’s New Clothes, we all knew it was ridiculous but no one dare say so.

And if we did who listened?

Then came the BMI (never designed to apply to individuals as it is totally inaccurate when used in isolation). Applied by insurance companies and government departments, the latter at least should have known better, the former were in it for the money – it made millions of thin people “overweight”, overnight.

So when you read that a high proportion of the population are overweight, you have to ask how real these figures are and, more importantly, who gains when we think it’s true?

I’ll tell you. Diet companies, pharmaceutical firms, fashion, food, drink and cosmetic industry, music and film conglomorates, banking and insurance – is it any wonder they want to keep us fooled?

They’d lose multi-trillions if we suddenly regarded hip size as irrelevant.

The diet industry alone is worth $100 billion just in the USA, every single year – compare that to the cost of the Iraq war or NASA space shots, and you have some idea of the obscene annual profits made by just that one sector of the body-image-dependent corporates.

Who loses? To begin with, the millions of young girls changing from child to woman and whose burgeoning figures are seen as “fat” when they go above size 8.

They often end up with mental illnesses called anorexia nervosa, (which kills more kids than heroin and has the largest non-recovery and fatality rate of any mental illness) and bulimia nervosa (which was born with the diet industry and has increased in direct proportion to its power).

Then the the kids who are bullied – sometimes to death – because they are not rake thin.

See …. http://www.seafattle.org/APATT/apatt.htm

So if you subscribe to the idea that we should all be thin for healths sake, or that only thin people are attractive and acceptable, take a look at what or who twisted your thinking.

It was exactly this sort of propaganda which once convinced society that ethnic minorities and the disabled and those with a homosexual orientation were deserving of blame and therefore deserving of punishment.

Times are changing, we know better now, common sense and humanity is prevailing.

Isn’t it time fat-phobia was examined, seen for the unmitigated bigotry it represents, and the money-making potential that drives it?

It just takes a handful of decent, fair-minded people to stop, look at the facts, not the propaganda and say ‘Enough’…then be determined to spread the truth, rather than lies.

Maybe you’ll be one of those people who will lead the world in changing things for better for people who may have gotten fat through illness, medication, dieting, genetics or indeed any number of normal, ordinary ways – which deserve no blame.

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