We can be so critical about the size of our bodies and about being (or feeling) overweight. We tell ourselves that our weight says something about us. The labels we attach to ourselves for not being slim, go something like this:
The fact that I’m fat (whatever that size that is for each one of us) means that I’m:
out of control
I could go on. There is much more, as you probably know if you identify with this blog post so far, much, much more.
So, is that really true? Are we all those things? Greedy, lazy, weak… Are overweight women really lazier than slim women? Are they greedier and more out of control? Less attractive and weaker?… Really? Or is it that today we live in a society which points the finger at overweight women (and men) and accuses them of all of the above?
Here’s what I think. All of those labels are judgmental and unhelpful. Not only do they have NOTHING whatsoever to do with the size of a woman’s body, they are critical and nasty ways of talking about ourselves whatever our size.
If at the end of a busy working day (whether that is paid work or being a mother or any other kind of work) I cannot summon the energy to go for a walk or to my yoga class, does that make me lazy? Or does it simply tell me that I am overloaded and that having spent a day pouring my energy into my roles and responsibilities there is very little left over? If I don’t enjoy exercise and would rather curl up with a book, does that make me lazy or does it just mean I’m not the kind of person who enjoys exercise? And is it because I’m fat or just because I’m human? Are there slim women out there who veg on the sofa in front of the TV instead of going to the gym?
If I like food, if I enjoy cake and chocolate and mashed potatoes (replace with your favourites) and lots of other great tasting food and sometimes I don’t hear or know how to listen to my body’s stop signal, does that make me greedy? If I spent so many years on diets, being good, counting points an syns and calories and then find myself, after years of deprivation, magnetically drawn to all the foods previously on my forbidden food list, if I overeat because it’s the only way I know to deal with my feelings and life in general does that mean I’m greedy? Maybe it just means that I enjoy food or cooking or baking the way some people enjoy the cinema or art galleries. Maybe I overeat because I wasn’t taught how to feel good about myself and manage my struggles any other way. Some people use Prozac, some people use their credit cards, some people wash their hands 100 times a day… some people eat and then throw it all up... only you wouldn’t know just from looking at them. We’re human. We like food and it’s often the only way we know to give ourselves a well deserved treat. We have struggles and some of us use food to manage. And everyone can see the effects because it usually means we put on weight. That doesn’t make us greedy.
Does being overweight mean that we’re out of control? Some women are overweight and they don’t overeat. How is that possible? Because these days it doesn’t take much to be overweight! Given that we are surrounded by images in magazines that portray impossibly thin models and that most women hold up a size 10 as the ideal, pretty much every woman who is over the age of 30 struggles to reach the ideal. Reaching our target weight so often means going hungry. Being our ‘normal’ weight, whatever that is for each one of us, the weight we would be if we had a relationship with food that felt healthy and balanced and satisfying… may well mean being bigger than we’re comfortable with because it doesn’t match our expectations. Can we have a healthy relationship with food and be thin? For many of us the answer in NO. We are not out of control. We are normal.
Are we unattractive because we fail to live up to this society’s view of beauty? Beauty is not about the size of our bodies or any other physical attribute. True beauty goes so much deeper and is so much more meaningful. There is nothing more beautiful than a woman who owns her body and lives her life fully.
I could go on but I think by now you get what I’m saying. It’s time we stopped attaching these unhelpful critical labels to ourselves just because we are not the size we’d like to be. It’s time we acknowledged to ourselves that a body size may well say that we are not perfect, that we have struggles, that we haven’t got it all worked out… and that is true of every human being I have ever met. Thin or fat we are all imperfect. Blaming our bodies or using our fat as a hook to hang our imperfections on keeps us stuck. We can spend years trying so hard to fix the wrong problem, trying desperately to lose weight and yet our goal of happiness and the perfect body remain forever elusive, because even when we do lose the weight nothing much will change. We’ll be able to buy clothes more easily (and it’s more fun when you’re a size 10 since that’s who the shops cater for). We may feel a greater ease of movement. And other people will think we are sorted, which may give us a boost. It's a bit like earning money. We always think we need just a bit more. Our bodies are never quite right.
And ultimately if we rely on a body size for our confidence and self worth we are building our houses on sand. Our bodies change all the time and if the only way we can feel good about ourselves is to be a particular weight or size, we will have to be forever vigilant and we will be dissatisfied and left wanting for the rest of our lives.
Own your body, starting right NOW. Treat it with kindness and respect. Buy clothes that fit. Move in a way that feels good. Look after it. And if you can’t say anything nice about it (as my mother used to say) don’t say anything at all. And if you catch yourself attaching critical and unhelpful labels to yourself - remember that it has absolutely nothing to do with the size of your body. Being overweight says nothing about you other than the fact that like every other woman on the planet, you’re human.