Stop the fat talk

It seemed like a simple enough task and a nobel notion when I stumbled across “Fat Talk Free Week.” The challenge is to eliminate “fat talk” from conversations with family, friends and, most importantly, yourself for one week. The pledge on the Facebook site is short and sweet:

Starting now, I will strive for a healthy ideal, which I know looks different for every woman, and focuses on health, not weight or size.

I will celebrate the things about myself and the women in my life that have nothing to do with how we look.

Now, try to put it into practice.

Yeah, if you’re an American-born woman, this may be more difficult than you think.

My story is not unique. I have struggled with body image since puberty, when my body started to fill out and not look like the other girls in my class. I put on weight in college. I went on yo-yo diets. My self worth was measured in numbers — the number on the scale and the number on the tag sewn into my clothes.

If only I could lose weight, everything would be better. Or so the popular thought goes.

For some women, weight is about control.

For me, it was about being good enough, about personal validity. I wasn’t worthy of (insert good thing in life here) because I was overweight. Or I thought I was overweight.

Heck, there are still times when I’m disappointed with the numbers I see associated with my body. Am I defined by them? Intellectually, I know I’m not. But years and years of fat talk — with girlfriends and with myself — have given the negativity an aura of truth. Tell yourself the same story again and again and you’ll start to believe it.

Because in a sense, truth is whatever we say it is.

The stories we tell ourselves are powerful. It goes deeper than positive thinking, which is akin to the white-knuckle approach. To change our attitude, our feelings and emotions, we have to change our thoughts. We have to start telling ourselves new stories and we have to do it in a way which causes us to believe ourselves. When we do, deep and powerful change can come.

Yesterday was my first day of Fat Talk Free Week. I started the morning with intention, thinking about how much I loved my body as it is and how strong I am.

Then out for lunch with Mark, I had french fries with my sandwich. The initial internal dialogue went something like this:

“You shouldn’t have french fries.

You’re too fat to have french fries.

French fries are bad for you.

Wait a minute, french fries themselves don’t make me fat. I’ve had a healthy breakfast, packed a healthy dinner and have a healthy sandwich to go with these french fries. So shut up, pass the ketchup and enjoy. Don’t obsess.

Yes, I had to eliminate fat talk over my own lunch.

Frankly, I was amazed at how much “fat talk” there was in my day. As I began to monitor it, I became aware of the damage I was doing myself, reinforcing false ideas, making myself feel bad and unworthy and far from my joy. I thought of a photo of me at age 4, clad in a bikini in my parents’ backyard. I love that photo. In it I am clearly oblivious to judgment, happy in my own skin, unaware of external judgements or requirements or standards.

Years of buying into the fat talk culture rewired that girls internal dialogue. I’m here to try and and hit the factory reset button.

It starts by countering those fat thoughts with different statements — that I’m healthy, vibrant, joyful and athletic.

Because if I tell that story to myself long enough, I will see that as the truth and the culture of “fat talk” will fade from my vernacular.

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