Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 208: Tips for Celebrating "Fat Talk Free Week"

Woohooo!!! This week (Oct. 16-22) is
National Fat Talk Free Week!  

What is "fat talk"?  Fat talk, according to the folks over at Fat Talk Free Week is this:
Fat Talk describes all of the statements made in everyday conversation that reinforce the thin-ideal standard of female beauty and contribute to women's dissatisfaction with their bodies. Examples of fat talk may include: "I'm so fat," "Do I look fat in this?" "I need to lose 10 pounds" and "She's too fat to be wearing that swimsuit." Statements that are considered fat talk don't necessarily have to be negative; they can seem positive yet also reinforce the need to be thin - "You look great! Have you lost weight?"
Why should you care about fat talk?  Well, for one thing, we all do it, and it's not good for us. Fat talk reinforces the idea that thinness is the same as goodness, or that thinner people are better people than fatter people.  We may think we're just complaining about our thighs, or even bonding with a friend over a shared angst.  These things may be true, but - ultimately - when we engage in fat talk we're also buying into hierarchies about body size and shape that ultimately harm all women, even naturally thin women who are often treated with disdain by women who struggle to be thin.  Learn more about the movement and ways to support it here: @ http://endfattalk.org.  

Michael and I pledged to not say mean things about our bodies this week (yes, even we activist types sometimes indulge in negative body talk). I urge you to do the same.  Even better, use this week as practice for the rest of your life!  Think of how much positivity we can all spread by resisting this type of harmful discourse!
I saw this and loved it. Then hated it.
Then loved it again.
My body is perfect, my mind is a work in progress.

I'm feeling inspired.  I'm feeling brave.  I'm feeling bold.  I'm posting a picture I took yesterday, of my stomach and legs.  As I lounged at the pool with warm sun on my skin, I looked down and (gasp!) really loved what I saw, and how I felt.  I saw a rounded belly, strong legs, and soft skin with a bit of blonde fuzz (I left my razor in CA. oops!). I wanted to capture the moment for myself, so I took this photo.  Then I looked at the photo and hated it.  "Ugh.  My iPhone didn't capture it right at all!" I thought, "I just look lumpy and out of proportion." But then I thought some more, and decided that I needed to embrace this picture, especially during this week of no fat talk.  So here it is.  I still feel a little iffy about the proportions, and I know a lot of people might find it totally unflattering, but I'm feeling proud of myself for sharing anyway.  This view is all I get to see these days, so I've decided I better darn well appreciate it!  My new mantra for inspiration: My body is perfect, my mind is a work in progress.  

Here's one suggestion from me: make a bargain with your friends that any time anyone engages in negative body talk, the guilty person has to list 5 things they LIKE about their bodies for any 1 thing they complained about.  

This is a version of an activity I do in my classroom: my students and I use colored pencils to draw pictures of ourselves, and we list 1 thing about our looks that we're self-conscious about along with an INFINITE list of things we are proud of.  The stunning beauty of this exercise happens when everybody shares their pictures and lists with the rest of the class.  Imagine hearing 20+ diverse young women describe dozens of different things they love about their bodies!

"I love my straight hair!"  
"I love my curly hair!"  
"The gap between my teeth makes me stand out in perfect-teeth-land-L.A.!"
"I love my small boobs!"  
"I love my big boobs!"  
"My body is kind of soft... perfect for hugging my kids!"
"I like being petite!"  
"I like being tall!"  
"My eyes remind me of my grandma."
"The blonde fuzz on my legs sparkles in the sun like those beautiful vampires from the Twilight series!"  

Yeah, we all get to share one hang-up, which is kind of fat-talk-ish, but I think it's actually pretty important for the exercise: for one thing,  the last thing I want is for my students to feel guilty for not having perfect body image.  Also, starting off with one hang-up seems to help my students feel less self-conscious (vain?) about sharing all the things they like about their bodies.  Isn't it so backwards-but-true that we feel uncomfortable - even unlikeable - when we speak proudly about our looks?  Anyway, by the end of the class we're all glowing from the positive stuff, and feeling downright bonded.  It knocks my socks off every time.

So, what's on your list??  

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21 comments:

  1. Great post! It's amazing how often we allow ourselves to fat talk, without even thinking about it. Constantly, almost. I'm just getting to a place where i can look at my body and appreciate, even love, what I see. I'm going to take your challenge and try like hell not to engage in any fat talk - or fat thinking!

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  2. I love to look at my cute toes, and my ears are my best feature! Heading toward my 60s, I love all that my body has accomplished: giving birth and nursing babies; planting and tending trees, vegetables, and flowers; supporting me through years of challenging and satisfying work and play. Some days I wish my cheeks (both sets) weren't sagging quite so much, but it would be freaky if I still looked like a 25-yr-old, right? Yeah, I love living in my body!

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  3. This is a great exercise! I've found that as I get older its easier to love things about myself instead of focusing on the things I'd like to change. I love my little toes and my cute nose. I have pretty brown wavy hair that I used to want to die and changed all the time. I'm learning to stop and hear the compliments tht people give me and try to see myself in their loving eyes and close my own judgemental eyes. It is a wonderful thing to be able to see the beauty in yourself!

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  4. I love your picture. It looks like me. And confidence always looks good on anyone. That's something that I've noticed particularly with my friends. None of us has "perfect" bodies (who does), some of us are curvier than others (raising my hand), but when I see my girls at the beach or heading out for the night and they are feeling confident it makes them look great no matter their shape or size. I spoke to my hairdresser the other day about it and she said that's the main reason people always get so many compliments after they leave her salon. It's not the haircuts (even though they are amazing stylists), it's the new confidence that the customer is wearing when they leave. Oh and as for me, I look great in purple, my butt looks amazing in these pants, I have killer cleavage, and I love my eyes and peachfuzz.

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  6. I really enjoyed this post and I am going to pledge not to say mean things about my body. It's interesting this post seems to relate to so many things I have been thinking and talking about lately. For one thing, my best friend and I have been talking about body image and her friend who has posted a beautiful and honest picture of herself on her blog. We both thought it was beautiful and empowering and I feel the same about your photo. Partly because I know how hard it is to reprogram some of that negative self talk. Also and I hope this doesn't come out wrong, both you're photo and the other I talked about,are stunningly beautiful and empowering for their perfect imperfection. They might not be considered perfect by mainstream media but they are real, unapoligetically so, and because of that I consider them perfect. And posting your picture has made me feel more confident in my own body because it is mine and I love my soft skin too. My friend and I were also talking about how wonderful it is when you love someone dearly and learn of their imperfections and then love them even more because they make them who they are (to some extent) and that love is somehow deeper and more real, it feels stronger. And suddenly I clicked, and this might be blatently obvious, I want to learn to love my body, actually my whole self, imperfections and all. Which brings me on to one more thing, I was talking to my mum and we were both feeling a bit crappy about ourselves because we hadn't done everything we had hoped to that day and so we made a pact "no self flagulation today" and as soon as I made that pact I felt lighter and more confident, I felt like I could do anythinhg and I guess it's kind of like loving myself for what I had acomplished that day and also for what I hadn't. And I think the same goes for the no fat tallk thing, I already feel more confident about my body. Oh and one last thing, youre photo and youre blog and others like it, not only helps me to love my perfectly imperfect body, but also my whole self. So thank you and I'm sorry for this far too long comment and also sorry if it makes no sense.

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  7. Thanks for this post! This week, I'm only focusing on the positive and ignoring the negative parts of my body!

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  8. You're body looks like my body & my body looks like many other women's bodies! thank you for your bravery! for your committment to evolution & for your posts!

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  9. I have struggled a lot with this my whole life and the irony is I'm feeling better about my body now that I'm over 40. Maybe because the bar has lowered with age :) I started doing what you're doing a couple years ago - focusing on my beauty now my ill-perceived flaws. Also, looking at myself like my husband or mother or best friend does and seeing the beauty they see. And I'm really feeling results. I started looking at myself honestly and saying, "I love myself-cellulite and all!" and there are many times now when I pass a mirror and think, "I'm such a cute middle-aged babe!"

    Great photo! You look like you have a beautiful and real body which is so much more attractive than a surgically enhanced air brushed body! I wish that I could take this feeling out of myself and give it to the teenage girls in my life so they could start young feeling loved and comfortable in their own skin.

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  10. While I understand the motivation behind "Fat Talk Free Week," I think it's also important to examine the way it situates "fat" as something terrible and unspeakable. I will be celebrating "Fat Talk Free Week" by talking candidly about fatness--my own and all of the ways in which our society and culture in general are so terrified of it that we don't even want to say the word. I want to be able to talk freely about my fat body, and the fat bodies of others, without those conversations carrying negative judgment, stigma, and shame.

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  11. Carla, I think this is an awesome and important issue to bring up, and I'm sad I didn't think to say something about this more pointedly in my post. I know that the founders of "Fat Talk Free Week" criticize the thin ideal, but they also somewhat demonize the word "fat". Embracing fat (both the word and our own fat, literally!) is probably the second step after we learn to stop using the word it as a derogatory term. So here's a new message for readers who get this far down: FAT TALK FREE WEEK ISN'T ABOUT DEMONIZING THE WORD "FAT" - IT'S ABOUT CELEBRATING OUR BODIES AS THEY ARE!

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  12. As a P.S.--I love the picture you posted! So awesome!

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  13. love the post! so true, and I love the exercise you do with your students.

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  14. Your post always seen to make my day better. Today I looked at my toes ( not a fan of feet) and said" ya know in the right light they are kinda cute." Now I plan to find one postivie about every part of my body. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!:)

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  15. What a great idea. I actually did something similar for my student teaching...i had 4th graders pick their best "feature" and take a black and white photo of that part of their body and write about themselves. Here's to positive self imagery!

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  16. Reading the comments makes me realize that it is important in our society to realize what "fat" is. Medical-wise, fat is adipose tissue and everyone has it and everyone needs it. Being overweight (ie: fat) is a health issue, not a looks issue. And most people I meet who complain about being "fat" are not actually "fat". The person in the photo on this post is not "fat". Fat is when you can't walk up the stairs without getting winded and you have so much extra weight on your body that it strains your joints and heart. When that happens it is not about looks, it is about getting healthy so you can feel better and be around longer for your loved ones. Too many people think they are "fat" because they aren't ematiated and that needs to stop. You can't embrace being fat if you aren't fat and it's important to realize that if you are healthy and feel good in your body and can do the things you want to do without weight issues (like too winded to walk far, too fatigued to move much) then you aren't fat and you don't need to call yourself that! I am 5'5"and 145 lbs and according to the modeling industry I am fat, but I think I'm great the way I am and I know I'm not fat. Embrace yourself as you are and let the word fat go back to being a medical term for either adipose tissue or a weight that hurts your health and should be addressed purely as that - a health issue, not a self-worth issue!

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  17. Hey, I love this blog! I just discovered it today, and I find it really inspiring. I noticed tomorrow is when your challenge ends. I can't wait to read your last posts! Anyway, I'm a guy, but guys of course have just as many body issues as girls I think, but it seems it's really taboo to talk about it. I guess it's a stereotype, a really pervasive one, that guys don't care about their own appearance as much as girls do. On the surface this appears to be true, but all of the men I'm closest to have confided in me about body insecurities, and I know I have done the same to my friends about my body. There is a lot about my body that I find hard to accept. I never cared about being fit or thin, but I have a really serious skin condition that makes me really self-conscious, some really deep surgical scars, and some other pretty embarrassing faults. I tend to dwell on these problems, and when my skin gets really bad I don't even want to leave the house, and I barely recognize myself in the mirror. I remember when I was around 12 or 13 in school we did this same sort of body-image exercise. I remember telling the teacher I couldn't think of anything positive. I had a feeling that if I said anything, my class-mates would just tell me I was kidding myself. Today, I think I'm a little more confident than that, so I'll try to list a few things. The one feature I've always really loved is the colour of my eyes. I was just really lucky to be born with eyes that are my very favourite colour, the colour of the ocean, a really dark blue-green. I've been told by a lot of girls before that I have a nice butt. I always thought it stuck out, but now I think that I really do like my butt compared with having a really flat non-existent butt. I used to think I had a goofy smile, but I have to admit my teeth are really quite nice and straight naturally. Even though my hair is really fine and hard to manage, I'm really proud that I discovered a style that really suits my face and works with my hair. I really like my feet and hands, they're very attractive I think. I like my chubby cheeks cuz they make me look cute. And I like being tall, but with a short, narrow torso. This way I can get away with wearing kids' shirts, which often have cooler designs, but I also get to have long legs which make me look much thinner than I am.

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  18. I practice the law of attraction. Just like the list you've made, I also write down the things I love about myself. And it truly makes wonders because it comes from within.

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  19. I agree that beauty is relative. Some guys are attracted to chubby ladies. One must embrace her own beauty first before she attracts others.

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  20. I also consider myself as fat, but I always make sure not lose my confidence. Self-confidence is what we need to show them what we've got. If I only had a lot of money, I would consider having a tummy tuck or body sculpture. That will surely make my self confidence increase even more.

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