Have you ever looked at someone and thought “that skinny bitch…” in a very real sense or even in joking? When you see someone slim, what words come to mind? How different are they from the words you think of when you see someone fat? We have been brought up in a culture that tells us that skinny is synonymous for healthy and fat indicates a lazy lifestyle. But you really can’t tell a person’s health by their size, and you can’t know their body confidence from their weight. It’s time to make a commitment to the right kind of body positive world.
One night, back when I was in university, I remember going over to a friend’s place before we went out to the bar. As we were deciding what to wear, she pulled out a shirt she had won a week earlier at a giveaway. She slipped the shirt over her head, and yanked it tightly down her middle. She looked in the mirror and saw all too clearly that it was much too small. She wiggled out of it and offered it to me. I tried it on. It fit. As she looked me up and down, the only word to leave her mouth was “bitch.” She said it half-jokingly, but the comment came with a sting. She didn’t say ‘you look great’ because she was jealous of my size. That one hurtful word wasn’t forgotten, for the next few years I wouldn’t wear that style of shirt, and if I did, it was covered up (by my favorite pair of overalls). She thought that because I was smaller than she, that negative words wouldn’t hurt me; but they did.
We all have our own shirt story. We are brought up to desire the perfect body, and envy those who have it. What we so often fail to consider are the feelings of those women who we believe to be ‘perfect’. We assume that a person’s size dictates their body confidence, when instead, their body confidence has nothing at all to do with their appearance. It’s important to know that only 20% of women claim to feel good about their bodies. Which means that most of the women that you are looking at, especially the ones that you believe ‘look perfect’, ‘look great’ or ‘you would kill for that body’, are struggling just like you.
The body positive movement was created from the simple idea that “all bodies are good bodies”. In plain words, this message tells us that no matter what size you are, you are beautiful. But there’s a negative side to this community. The side where women who identify as being fat start to shame those who don’t. Phrases like “I wish I could eat whatever I wanted” or “she must be starving herself” paint another body in a negative light. Women like Ashley Graham or Amy Schumer are plus size, but not obese. They won’t fit into a sample size, but they do hold some extra weight. For those who are actually obese or even just a bit bigger, those two women are beautiful and small.
I’ve seen this happen time and time again, women are shamed by larger women who believe that they are not truly part of the body positive community. This divide between women within the community goes against all that a body positive mindset stands for. Skinny bodies, fat bodies, and all the bodies in between need to have the same rules applied. It wouldn’t be kind to mention that someone has gained weight, so why should you mention if they have lost it?
One of my clients had the best revelation. We were sitting in my office and she said, “What makes me think that my pain is greater simply because my hips are wider?” It’s profound. It’s important. Up until now, she had this idea that smaller women just didn’t get it. When she heard that someone smaller was trying to lose 10 pounds, she believed they were doing it for attention. As she connected with more and more women, some smaller and some larger, she finally understood; size has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t matter what the scale says, it’s your mental state that dictates your body image.
This means that it’s impossible to look at a person and know how they feel about themselves. We cannot assume and we cannot judge. They probably don’t see what you see when looking in the mirror. It is estimated that between 5 – 7.5 million people in the US alone have some level of Body Dysmorphia Disorder, which is characterized by extreme concern over perceived flaws in appearance. When we use hurtful words to describe another woman’s appearance, we all lose. That’s not body positive, and it’s definitely not fair or kind.
The next time that voice pops into your head, notice it, and remind yourself that you have no idea how that woman feels about her body. Especially if she doesn’t feel good about herself, then she deserves your empathy, and not your judgement. We are all here to work together to empower each other, not to break each other down. Let’s do this body positive thing with love. No matter what your body looks like there is always someone who is going to envy it and someone who will loath it. The only thing that you can change is your own mindset, and the only thing you can control are your own words. Speak kindly and encourage others.
Until next time,
Live Life. Love Food. Be Free.
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