I got an e-mail today about the blogher Fat Talk survey results. I would first like to say that I wish they would say “negative body talk” instead of fat talk so as to avoid piling more stigma onto people who are fat. But that’s another blog. For now, I’m just going to refer to it as negative body talk.
I wish I were more surprised by the results. Seventy-four percent of women, across all age groups, engage in negative body talk. When asked why women engage in fat talk, answers included:
Because most women are not happy with their bodies.
In some ways, it’s bonding over a common interest. We all have things we don’t like about our bodies.
It’s the social norm. Sadly, it’s just part of life.
That reminded me of the blogger who is supposedly a health and beauty expert who, discussing her feelings toward her body said “And I’m female so I’m never happy!”
While a case could be made that negative body talk is currently a part of life, let me suggest something:
It doesn’t have to be a part of life. We do not have to talk badly about our bodies. Ever. We can simply stop. Maybe we’re not in a place where we love our bodies yet, maybe we aren’t interested in the concept of loving our bodies. But our bodies push air in and out of our lungs, blink our eyes, beat our hearts, and we do not have to talk badly about them as part of some horrible social norm. Many of the functions of our body are autonomic, but the way we talk about them is not.
We are each absolutely allowed to speak poorly of our bodies if we choose. But when we buy into the belief that negative body talk is some sort of unavoidable part of life, we are buying into a lie that has been foisted upon us and perpetuated by those who profit from it, whether it’s monetarily, socially, or emotionally. They are asking us to hate ourselves for their benefit. We do not have to oblige.
Of course this is easier said than done. We have been and continue to be absolutely indoctrinated with the idea that engaging in negative body talk is natural and normal, and that sucks and it’s not fair. But we are each the only person who can decide how we talk about our bodies. Women have everything that we need to end negative body talk- we can simply refuse to do it. We can refuse to talk badly about our own bodies, and we can refuse to talk badly about other people’s bodies. Nobody is obligated to do this, but it is an option that is available to all of us.
Of course it may take some, perhaps a lot, of work to kick the negative body talk habit- especially if its become ingrained. But I submit that it may be well worth the effort. I understand that for some people positive body talk feels like bragging so I’m not even suggesting that – that’s a blog for another day.
All I’m suggesting is we simply stop talking badly about our bodies. I’m suggesting that we can become conscious of our thoughts and words about our bodies and interrupt and redirect them. In the beginner version you just stop yourself and start thinking or talking about something else. In the intermediate version you might replace them with a simple thank you to your body. In the advanced version you state your intentions and then do either the beginner or intermediate version.
Here are sample scripts to get you started:
Ugh, I just feel so ugl….how about that local and/or college sporting team?
Tell me about it Pam, my stomach..Hey I meant to ask, did you see Michelle Chamuel on The Voice last night?
God I totally hate my… hey look, bundt cake! (Points for the knowing the movie reference)
Ugh, I just feel so ugl… hey body, thanks for breathing, you are kicking ass at breathing and I really appreciate it!
Tell me about it Pam, my stomach… Wait, have you ever thought about how much our bodies do for us? I think they deserve some love.
God I totally hate my…actually, I really appreciate my butt because if I didn’t have a butt where my butt is supposed to be, that would be very inconvenient. So thanks body, for having a butt where my butt’s supposed to be, rock on.
Ugh, I just feel so ugl… No, I’m not doing this anymore. How about that local and/or college sporting team?
Tell me about it Pam, my stomach…actually, I’m going to interrupt myself because I’ve decided that I don’t want to talk badly about my body anymore – it deserves some love.
God I totally hate my…fuck this body hating bullshit, rock on body.
Seriously, you could make the decision, right now – right this second – that you are done with negative body talk. And then you can make it happen.
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