All around the world, things are changing. Over generations, people of all different colours, races, and religions are learning how to coexist together. Gay people and straight people and everyone in between are growing an understanding of our shared humanity. So why not spread the love a touch further and accept size diversity?
Fat, thin, muscly, skinny, super-muscly, too skinny, big, small….our bodies have as many variations there are grains in the sand. But inside our outer embodiment, we’re all just people, aren’t we? We all have dreams, values, fears, emotions and opinions…
Unfortunately, an opinion we all tend to share is that fat* people are somehow inferior to their thinner counterparts. The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity is a very cool non-profit research and public policy organization devoted to improving the world’s diet, preventing obesity, and reducing weight stigma. Using a test developed at Harvard**, measuring our unconscious assumptions (how we really feel, rather than what we say we feel) found that on average, we are likely to think of fat people as being more “bad”, “lazy”, and “stupid” than thin people. I sometimes run this test in my workshops for clients and professionals and find we all tend to have these implicit assumptions to varying degrees. In fact, I was surprised at an advanced Health at Every Size workshop held by none other than size acceptance queen Linda Bacon, we ALL had the same associations ourselves… even Non-Dieting Pioneer Rick Kausman (although noteably, his biases were the smallest in the room!)… WOW! How we have been conditioned to detest fat people (and if we are fat, ourselves).
Here’s a quick test – Read these three statements:
“Black people are stupid.”
“Gay people are bad people.”
“Fat people are lazy.”
Be honest, which sounds the least ridiculous…
If it was the last one, it is because fat discrimination is one of the remaining socially acceptable stigmas and, just like with any other unfairly treated groups, we all have to advocate, fight, and work for social change.
So how do we do this? Well Mahatma Ghandi told us “You must be the change you want to see in the world”. Body-acceptance starts with you.
Your sitting at the front of the bus is stepping outside for a walk, so go and take yourself outside today – the walkway doesn’t have a weight limit and you deserve to be there as much as everyone else. Your coming out of the closet is going to the beach, your Mardi Gras dancing on the dance floor, your over-the-top flamboyance eating that piece of cake in front of everyone – anyone who calls you a “beached whale”, “big girl dancing” or “fat pig” is as stupid as someone who uses the word “fag”, “poof” or “homo”, and it is their attitude that needs to make room for your existence, not the other way around.
So why push for acceptance, and, dare I say it, even LOVE for out bodies. Because love works. I don’t sit in my office and say “listen fatty, you are really lazy, you just need to put the fork down and get on the treadmill”, as, quite simply, that. doesn’t. work. The more we hate our bodies, the less we take care of them, which actually makes sense when you think about it (and if you don’t agree, take a moment to think, how well has loathing your body gone for you, so far?). So please, let’s seek to end our hateful weight bias and replace it with love! And how do we love? The Dalai Lama when asked “how do you love people” responded “just accept them”, and as any psychologist will tell you, one of the paradoxes of psychology is that acceptance supports change. Hopefully, my clients feel accepted, supported, and even loved in my sessions, and that creates the right environment for change, and it is the same for your own internal environment. When you accept the diversity of bodies, including your own, you can work to take care of yourself from a place of love… doesn’t that sound like a nice thought for ourselves, others, and the world?
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* I use the word “fat” borrowing from the fat acceptance, size diversity, and fat liberation movements, who officially to prefer the use of the word fat, in order to embrace the label and remove any value judgments from it’s meaning. This is similar to the Deaf community in Australia choosing to own the word “Deaf” rather than hearing impaired, as they feel a pride in their uniqueness and their sense of community. Of course, these sentiments are not universal, or universally embraced by every member of the community.
** The Implicit Associations Test or IAT http://www.uconnruddcenter.org/weight-bias-stigma-tools-for-researchers