I’ve spent quite a lot of time looking for the perfect explanation--the definitive answer as to just what exactly fat-talk is. But I can’t find one, I can only reference Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who famously said about porn, I know it when I see it.
Well, so can be said of fat-talk, I know it when I hear it.
And I hear it all. the. time.
I look fat today. I feel fat. I want to lose weight. That woman should really go to the gym. Ugh, I just ate a cupcake, time to hit the treadmill. That’s fat person’s food. Can’t eat that, I’m trying to be good. Keep up with those crunches, think how fantastic your abs will look! Squat for skinny jeans. You look great. Have you lost weight? How can you eat that and stay so thin?! And made famous by Protein World last week, Are you beach body ready?
As though there’s some super secret trick to getting my butt to the beach, and as though it has anything to do with what I look like?!
I know what it is to wage war against my body. To lose weight and gain weight. And do it again. And again. To want nothing more than to overcome the very real, very human need to eat.
And this is what I want to say: it’s a fine line between hating your thighs and hating yourself.
Except that hating our thighs is a socially sanctioned thing.
Approximately 0% of people in the world look like that woman in the Protein World ad (the model included). And that’s intentional. Because if 0% look like her, then everyone is a possible consumer. You want a beach-body-ready-body *as we define it*? Then use our powders, suck down our pills, buy our products.
Dissatisfaction and disillusionment are mainstream media ploys. And effective ones, at that. They lead to higher sales. Because you may never be perfect, but if you buy this product, you may just shift your life ever closer to the ideal. Inch by inch. And dollar by dollar.
I understand what the media is doing. I may not agree with it, but I get it. Where it gets really tricky is that we’ve internalized that dissatisfaction and disillusionment to such an extent that we now spew it ourselves. And what is easier to be dissatisfied with than our bodies? I mean never mind that we’ve got two working legs and eyelashes that exist to catch sweat and oh yeah we can grow babies INSIDE OF US and then birth them OUT OF OUR VAGINAS (which we all know is no small feat).
Maybe that’ll be my new response when a woman says, I need to lose ten pounds. I’ll just turn right around and say, but YOU CAN GROW A HUMAN BEING--totally your choice not to, and I respect that, but that is what the average female’s body is capable of. I mean, come on!
So when some advertiser asks me, Are you beach body ready? I want to look them square in the eye and say, yeah, I got lungs and arms and legs that’ll kick, so how dare you try to tell me that my golden-ticket to the beach is how good I look in a bikini. My body--how it looks--is not not for you... So kindly BACK. OFF.
Back in the days when my weight was a constantly fluctuating thing I learned (slowly, always slowly) that to celebrate any amount of weight loss--to give that value, meant that weight gain had to have an equal value in the opposite direction. And that just wasn’t going to work for me.
At a certain point I came to understand that if I was going to reclaim my health, then I would have to create a new value system--one in which fat and thin had no associative judgements.
The real problem with fat-talk is that it feeds into a value system that pits thin against fat. One is good. The other is not. One is to be lauded, the other reviled.
But at what point did fat move from a descriptor of a person’s body to an assassination of their character? The word isn’t the insult, it’s now all of the things we’ve emptied into it. We say fat when we mean lazy, unkind, ridiculous, bad-tempered, and a whole host of other misplaced judgments.
We absolutely need to have a conversation about health in this country. But I’m going to ask a question and I want everyone to really think about it before they answer. Why do we call it an obesity epidemic? Why isn’t it a high blood pressure epidemic or a diabetes epidemic? Or a we’re-eating-so-many-preservatives-that-our-bodies-are-taking-longer-to-decompose-epidemic?
Fat isn’t the problem. It’s a symptom of the problem, for sure. But why are we trying fix a symptom and not the actual thing?
Well, my guess is because the body is tangible in a way that HDL levels are not. But also because I am told, at every turn, by the language and actions of both advertisers and friends, that my worth as a human being (particularly as a woman) is tied to the size of my waist.
And well, I’m calling bullshit on that. And I imagine most women reading this would agree. And yet each time you say, I was so bad today, I ate a bag of m&m’s and a hamburger and three helpings of mac & cheese...what are you really saying? Why were you bad? Words are important. And semantics do matter. I was so bad today is not the same as I ate poorly today. And chances are the notion of bad is tied to weight, not heart health.
Language is an abstraction of experience. Which means it is both informed byexperience, and in turn, informs experience.
So to eliminate fat-talk is to actually change the way in which we experience our bodies in the world...yup, that slow-moving-realization, that’s the rumblings of a revolution, my friends.
It’s important to move our bodies. It’s important to do really difficult things. It improves brain elasticity and builds bone density. But to go to to a circuit class and lift heavy weights and crunch until I’m barely breathing all while the instructors tells me to keep going because on the other side of the pain is a pair of skinny jeans, one size smaller...well that is too flimsy a reason.
And frankly, insulting.
My body is doing really difficult things and you’re going to berate it for not being smaller?
Fat-talk is language mired in fear. Because what that instructor is really saying when she says three months until summer is not that different from asking if I am beach body ready. And the unspoken is, if you are not thin, you are not worthy of fully living your life,eyelashes and birthing abilities and working legs aside. And that is...well, I think we all know what that is.
So I’m saying enough. No more. Let’s start a little revolution, shall we? Lets take our bodies back and let’s start by changing the way we speak about them.