How do you feel about the "F" word?
How do you feel about the “F” word? Does it make you uncomfortable? Do you wish people wouldn’t use it or draw attention to it? Would you like it if we could get rid of it all together and pretend it doesn’t exist? How do you feel about people who use the “F” word? Are they rude?
What “F” word were you thinking about? Oh, you have such a dirty mind! I was talking about the word FAT!
So, let me ask again, how do you feel about the word fat? What comes to mind? We have all been socialized to believe that FAT is the worst thing. Fat people are lazy, out of control and gross. They are unhealthy and have no willpower. The last thing any of us wants to be called is the “F” word because it brings up feelings of shame about how we look, who we are and what we eat.
So many people spend so much time thinking about getting rid of fat. They obsess about what they SHOULD eat, what they ACTUALLY ate and how BAD they are. They compare themselves to others and to how they looked ten years ago. They beat themselves up for not going to the gym five days a week like they said they would.
There are days of the week, month and year that bring up efforts to get rid of fat. Monday, the most popular day to start a diet. How many people begin on Monday and by Wednesday feel bad about how they already failed? Think about New Year’s Day. This will be the year to get the body you always wanted. To become the person you always wanted to be (on the outside). To free that thin woman living in a fat body. By February, when the thin woman is still imprisoned inside, the shame and feelings of failure creep up.
It’s interesting because the idea of being fat and the word itself is so subjective to each individual. Some cultures value large, strong, voluptuous bodies so the threshold of what fat looks like is much higher. Here in the States the dominant culture tells us that there is a very small threshold for acceptable fat and also that fat should only occur on certain places in the body. Large breasts, hourglass shapes and round butts are good, but anything more than a flat belly is bad.
The explosion of “wellness” and “health” in recent years has vilified fat from a medical perspective. Being fat went from being healthy and attractive in the early 20th century to being the cause of almost all health concerns. This so much so that people of a certain size cannot go to the doctor for a cold, broken bone or headache without being told to lose weight. There are cases of fat people who have died of cancer or other life threatening conditions because doctors did not take their complaints seriously. As a result, fear and hatred of fat has morphed into being “concerned” about fat people, instead of disgusted by their appearance.
What are the consequences of our collective fear of the “F” word? For one thing, eating disorders are affecting people, mainly young women, at an alarming rate. They are taught by parents, doctors and media to diet and maintain a certain appearance. They are taught that they cannot trust their body to take care it’s own nutritional needs or accept the natural size of their bodies. They learn to hate the “F” word. Their dieting turns to anorexia (starving), bulimia (binge and purge), binge eating and/or orthorexia (pathological pursuit of health). When young girls become vegans or stop eating gluten, sugar, fat, soy, dairy because of popular fad diets, they are depriving their bodies of the essential nutrients that they need to grow into strong, healthy adults. The admiration and accolades they receive for restricting what they eat and losing weight is enough to push them to continue their disordered behavior.
Did you know that eating disorders are the most LETHAL of all mental illnesses? More than depression, schizophrenia or Bipolar disorder. More people die of restrictive and disordered eating than any other illness and yet we still as a society are encouraging this behavior.
Question: If your child was “overweight” what would be more important to you…. Putting them on a diet and encouraging food restriction so that they could lose weight, an act that very often triggers eating disorders? Or teaching them to honor their body’s hunger and fullness cues and accepting themselves for who they are? If you had to choose between having a fat child or a child with an eating disorder, what would you prefer?
What if we were all able to accept the “F” word as a neutral descriptor, instead of an insult? If we saw the diversity in body size as normal as the diversity in hair color or height?
This change starts with individuals who are willing to go against the belief that larger bodies are bad. This is an act of rebellion in many ways! It requires bravery to refuse to be weighed at the doctor’s office or to challenge a doctor who is blaming the flu on weight. It takes a massive amount of self confidence to wear revealing clothing or sexy bathing suits in a larger body. It is a total middle finger to dominant culture to be attracted to and in a relationship with a person in a big body.
So I am going to challenge anyone out there who is not comfortable with the “F” word to start considering where that discomfort comes from. And when you realize that you were taught to hate and fear fat as a young child, you get to grow up and come up with your own feelings about the “F” word. I personally love and accept the “F” word. I describe myself as fat without judgement. I also love the other “F” word. Fuck. It’s a very versatile word. For instance, FUCK FATPHOBIA!