At one of my recent boot camps, a participant described the way she looked in a picture from before her weight loss as ‘gross.’ I empathized. I remember feeling unhappy and out of control because of the shape of my body. I still struggle with that. My client’s self-description reminded me of a conversation I’d recently had with two of my four daughters. They agree with 67% of school aged girls, who’d prefer to be called mean or stupid rather than fat (Gaesser, G. 1996). Why?
Many of us have experience what’s termed ‘Weight Discrimination.’ Too many of us have experienced not only hurtful words and acts by others, but frequently have been hurtful to ourselves because of weight. We put ourselves down. We compare ourselves to others and come up short. At best, we hate being fat. At worst, we hate ourselves for being fat.
If outward appearance is a reflection of inward strengths or weaknesses, we may feel being fat equates to failure. Strength and fitness are appealing to the evolutionary mind and instinctually we are attracted to such qualities. With such a mindset, it’s easy to see how it has become socially common to look down upon being overweight.
Whitney Thore (Fat Girl Dancing video series creator) counsels: society must “recognize body shame as a complex, multi-faceted issue that is best dealt with by first unapologetically loving yourself as you are, without being shamed out of a gym or off a dance floor.” I agree! We must never let shame or fear or anything stand in the way of doing what’s in our best interest. That’s the first item of business.
Now what? Even though I’m not a size 24 anymore, I still look at my reflection and find fault, (things I perceive as ‘gross’). Although I’ve created healthy habits that have led my body to become stronger and leaner, I haven’t yet mastered what the ‘Fat Lady Dancing’ has said I must: unapologetically love myself as I am. And that’s the key. Do it because of love, not hate. Love yourself into doing what’s right for you.
If you haven’t yet found the strength to lose weight or become healthy, that’s OK! It doesn’t mean you’re weak or a failure! It means you have yet to form some good habits. I don’t have the strength to lose weight or to become healthy either, but what I do have is a HABIT of exercising most days of the week. You can form a habit of regular exercise, one small step at a time. When all is said and done, we fall back into our habits, good or bad. Form good habits. Do it because it’s right for you. Do it because you love you. No one else can do it for you. Just like no one can make you kind or educated; no one can make you healthy...only you.
Do it for love. One who is full of love is beautiful, no matter the shape of his body.
Sally Windham is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor in Blanco, TX. Please send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org