Girl on Girl: Why It’s Time to Remove the Word FAT From Your Vocabulary
Originally published on CUIndependent.com on September 1, 2016
To say the least, the reflection of my body in a full length mirror has got me feeling some type of way.
Nothing feels worse than wishing you could escape the skin you’re in, and society has no trouble reminding us of our body’s imperfections every day. In our media-driven society we see body ideals at every turn. On television and drive-by billboards, digital ads are plastered across daily social media from models to sorority sisters and distant friends.
Looking at other women prompts an undeniable look at oneself. What does she have that I don’t? How does she look like that? And the devil of a question- why aren’t I that skinny?
Getting dressed in the morning should be the easiest part of your day. For many, it is the toughest pill to swallow. Standing before your floor length mirror, the first places your eyes go are to the spots you cannot help but hate. Our eyes tend to fall on how apparent our love handles are, how closely our thighs touch and the number of chins that seem to have developed overnight.
Society has given a name for it, and it’s grown above a feeling and beyond a descriptor, and that’s fat.
It’s inspired by the skewed representation of what is beautiful and the addicting battle of shame. It’s the ultimate abused adjective. It terrorizes the relationship between your mind and body, and it reminds us every day of our imperfections.
Fat-shaming is an extremely serious and delicate issue to tackle. Body image is a very personal battle, but one conclusion I have come to is about the word itself– when one is “fat,” suddenly the word becomes thrown around like yesterday’s news. Your day can be going perfectly well and with one sudden turn, everything is wrong and is eventually redirected into the vicious cycle of feeling fat. It’s toxic. It’s addictive. The pile of shame stacks up as self esteem drops dramatically lower and lower. Its effects are detrimental.
Here’s the breakdown: According to the social justice organization, Do Something, 91 percent of American women use dieting plans to work toward obtaining their goal weights. A large sector of this issue is taking place on college campuses, where 58 percent of women struggle with body image and self worth. Of the overwhelming 95 percent of people who battle eating disorders between ages 12 to 25, only 10 percent seek help. Why? Because the embarrassment of this awful feeling continues to outweigh self-care, self-betterment and a very sensitive self-confrontation.
There is nothing worse than feeling trapped in the skin you’re in, but throwing around the word “fat” can become addicting as well as infectious.
In a room full of a women where one expresses her frustration toward her legs, every other woman looks down at themselves and thinks, “Well, your thighs are smaller than mine- what does that mean I look like?” or “You may hate your legs, but I would take that over having that the outline of my stomach showing through my shirt.”
These comments seem mild, and we are all guilty of saying, feeling and throwing them around. But consider how they can also be jumping off points for serious self-doubt. “I’m never wearing this outfit again” can quickly become “I’m never eating again.” In a lot of cases, that’s exactly the case.
This topic is so challenging and so awkward. No one likes asking, “Does this make me look fat,” and no one likes answering that question– or really knows how to. It’s easy to use responses such as, “You shouldn’t care” and “You don’t need to watch what you eat.” But these comments also avoid the root of the issue and can increase psychological damage in fat shaming, where no respect is given for a very personal and sensitive experience.
So what are the solutions? This issue will not change overnight, but the body positive movement has to begin with losing your reliance on fat — the addictive adjective in your vocabulary.
Fat has become synonymous with shame, guilt and ugliness. Removing fat doesn’t mean seeking out its replacements; words such as “curvy” or “fluffy” are just euphemisms to express the same thing. We cannot replace this word, but we can work to replace its burden. Fat cannot be the bottomless basket for all your troubles. It instead can become the first step on the personal journey of self love, self work, evaluation and acceptance.
We are very quick to criticize and resent the world’s wide array of forms and figures, rather than celebrating the many incredible ways our bodies are built and cared for by practicing a healthy lifestyle.
Women have the responsibility to look after each other and protect their sisters’ bodies as a point of pride. We owe it to each other to listen and share with open hearts the personal journeys and struggles we face every day. When we share with each other we validate another’s experience. Being heard can be the first step to feeling understood. We mustn’t allow careless attitudes. “I’m already fat so I shouldn’t go out tonight” cannot be validated. None of that. We have to be each other’s friends in a battle so serious and so challenging. We cannot be against each other in this.
Be it exercise, the food you choose to put in your body, the outfit you choose to wear or the attitude you choose to have toward your self-image, women cannot let women suffer under the shame of feeling fat.
Imagine how different we might feel about ourselves if our mirrors didn’t first reflect our insecurities. What if we woke up in the morning and first noticed something beautiful?
Body image is not the only way to visualize your worth. Fat cannot amount to, nor can it deteriorate, how much else you have to offer the world. We all have such beautiful gifts that have nothing to do with our physical appearances.
Body positivity for the self starts with spreading it to others. Encourage healthy lifestyle habits amongst women by celebrating all bodies. Challenge yourself to count your fabulous attributes rather than your calories. Dare yourself to radiate all your light, to feel completely sexy and bold with every part of – not just body – your entire self.