I wanted to tell you about something that happened to me a few days ago....
It was 90 degrees in NYC. I was wearing that outfit above (cute bralette top and high waisted pants) on my way to an outdoor movie event hosted by my husband, Rob. As I walked into the venue, a man yelled out a comment about my outfit and started laughing with his friends.
This comment came just a few days after an appointment with my psychiatrist, where I told her I’ve gained about 15lbs since switching up my medications. (Not ideal, but I feel pretty awesome).
Her eyes widened as if I had told her I had been admitted for some serious cardiac event. She rattled off all the potential health problems I would have if I did not lose this weight. It was like a real-time Web MD search frantically screaming, “YOU’RE DYING OF FAT HEART CANCER!”
Now, before you say “She’s a doctor. She should know if something is concerning…”, I have a clean bill of health. My blood work and pressure are normal. My resting heart rate is actually lower than most because of the cardio I do regularly. I avoid most processed foods and sugar. And even though I do go out to eat and drink alcohol, I have a fairly “balanced” diet.
Hell, I just got my teeth cleaned and still have no cavities!
Of course, it’s our job to make sure we pay attention to our health and any significant changes in it, including our weight. But where does the line of concern end and fatphobia begin??
I was reading Virgie Tovar's, You Have the Right to Remain Fat recently, where she brilliantly said,
“In our culture, fat people are used to scapegoat anxieties about excess, immorality, and uncontained relationship to desire and consumptions. Most people are raised to believe myriad bigoted beliefs about fat inferiority and see the fictional creation as natural truth. They don’t see these beliefs as political, cultural, or particularly problematic. They don’t even totally know they have these feelings. They just see fatphobia as part of life.”
When I asked my husband if he had heard the man’s comment, he replied, “Yeah. That’s why I asked if you were really going to wear that before we left the house.”
I will admit. His response really stung.
We’re not taught that some people don’t like fat people simply because they are bigots. We’re taught as a universal truth that it is somehow fat people’s responsibility to manage that bigotry. To accept it because we “deserve” it. Fatphobia is so deeply internalized that some cannot accept “fat and healthy” as being synonymous, but only binary polar opposites.
So, how can we cultivate body positivity when we live in a society of deeply ingrained systematic bigotry? Here’s a couple tips:
1). Work on your own beliefs about yourself instead of adopting others.
People’s negative responses to you, your body, the way you look, are ONLY symptoms of how their beliefs are working for them.
The guy who made the shitty comment has a certain belief about what women should wear.
My husband’s belief was other people like to make shitty comments to women about their clothes/bodies, therefore I shouldn’t “egg” them on by wearing revealing clothing.
My psychiatrist’s belief was more weight = bad health. These are not my models. I do not have to adopt them.
All I need to do is work on and choose MY beliefs about myself and my body.
2). Check yourself for beliefs that you aren’t aware of.
When we respond viscerally or negatively to other’s responses about us, it generally means somewhere subconsciously, we agree with them. If we didn’t, we would instead think, “What the hell is this guy talking about?” When our deepest insecurities are brought to the forefront by other’s actions, it means we have work to do.
I was hurt by the comments I received, which means the body positive beliefs I have about my own body were challenged. Any doubts I may have about my self-acceptance were triggered by other’s comments. This is a huge eye-opener! It means that I need to work on my belief that I am perfect as I am, however I decide to show up.
3.) Feel the feels
When we feel negative emotion, it’s a common first response to react negatively. Sometimes we get angry or sad. Sometimes we avoid our feelings and push them away. Distract with other things like food or substances. It’s important in these times of experiencing negative emotion that we stop and let them vibrate through our bodies, uninhibited.
It’s also important to understand that 50% of our lives, we’re SUPPOSE to feel negative emotions. It’s part of the human experience. Once we accept this, negative emotions become just another part of daily life. They start to dissipate much quicker. We can let them exist without restraint. We aren’t “afraid” to feel them. They become benign experiences.
My dear friends, we cannot control other people’s beliefs about themselves or others. But, what we CAN control, expand, and work on our OWN beliefs about ourselves. It is the only thing we can truly control.
When we accept SOLE responsibility to ourselves, our happiness, our well-being, we give ourselves the ultimate agency over our lives. No one can fuck with us.
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