Why you should stop fat shaming

Whenever there’s an article on the web or a status on Facebook trying to promote healthy body image or stop fat shaming, there’s always that person who thinks its a good time to point out that being fat is unhealthy. I’d like to point out that being judgmental is also not healthy.  These people love insisting that if the fat person would just exercise the same sort of will power as they do, they could be healthier, fitter, sexier people.  More worthy of positive assessments perhaps. Anyway, whatever it is, I’m here to explain why they are just clueless.

Losing is harder than maintaining

Eating 1800 calories a day to maintain a slender figure is not the same as eating 1800 calories a day when you’re slightly over weight and maintenance is 2300. We are not simple balloons who can be filled up or emptied at any whim. If you’ve never had a need to lose 20 pounds or more then you may not know this. You certainly can’t appreciate it, unless maybe you’ve tried to gain 20 pounds and had a hard time doing that. Our bodies fight to maintain our weight. We have hormones like insulin, leptin, and ghrelin that work hard giving us cravings, rationalisations and making us ravenously hungry. Losing weight, being in a caloric deficit, doesn’t feel the same as maintaining or eating maintenance calories even when the number of calories is the same between those two different sized people. It hurts physically, mentally and emotionally. And it’s only when all our ducks are in a perfect row that we can actually manage to consistently lose significant amounts of weight over time.

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Cortisol.

Stress makes it harder. If you have a crap job, a crap relationship, small children, or any constant low level stress that you have to endure, losing weight is going to be harder, if not  impossible. At the same time while we can exercise our willpower we also have finite amountsso if just living your life day to day spends all your patience and will power, adding weight loss is not going to be practical. This reduces the number of over weight people who will lose weight this year significantly on its own. Maybe if our society was a bit more civil and equitable it would be easier.

 The media and body image.

We all know that the media is at fault for giving us all unrealistic body image issues. Because of this overweight people will be fighting themselves and their self image. Hating themselves, in part because of people who fat shame. In many cases it’s not until we can actually truly accept ourselves for who we are, the size we are and everything before we can even get to all the other steps necessary to lose any weight. I only read half the book Overcoming Overeating but completely agree with the narrative which tells about how sometimes you cannot get anywhere until you stop trying so hard. Also, you can look at my post How I came to accept my body for what it is. (Note: I’m now a lower weight than ever since I started trying to lose it.)

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Fast food market, crap food market, food scientists

Multi-billion dollar companies spend millions if not billions on food scientists who research how to make us all addicted to their crap products that make us fat. An ex food scientist in this Guardian article says, “These products are designed to keep you coming back to eat more and more and more.” The WHO acknowledges that it’s largely the fast food market making us fat, and it’s known how much money goes into making those products hard to resist. I can’t emphasise enough how good they have gotten at making the physical product hard to resist and the marketing of that product has become so much more sophisticated. They are using a lot of research to manipulate us into getting fatter and unhappier. None of this is our fault. The only fault lies in continuing to allow them to do it.

Lack of knowledge,

If you don’t know what to eat, what to avoid or how to cook, it’s going to be really hard to manage weight loss in the long term. The diet market sells lies all over the place. Do we eat 1200 calories a day or 2000? Do we walk, run or lift weights? Do we eat calorie controlled ready meals or our own cooked meals? Is all of this wrong? The diet industry tells us there are pills and shakes and diet plans that will magically make us thin. Even shoes and leggings can do it! The fact is, even though there’s always that person saying that it’s obvious what you should and shouldn’t eat, it’s not true. I have lost weight eating burgers, tacos, and take out because I know how to make those kinds of decisions. If you eat plain porridge for breakfast, a salad for lunch and plain chicken with broccoli for dinner, you are going to be so under nourished you’ll gorge on some biscuits before the end of the week for sure. And all those people trying to sell you diet plans aren’t helping you learn either. It takes time, effort, trial and error to learn what works for you and what doesn’t.

The fact is it’s not simply a matter of making the decision to lose weight and following through. Maybe technically it is, but if you think human behaviour is that simple you belong in a different century! Losing weight is possible if you’re committed, but not obsessed. If you’re prepared and ready, you have support, the chance to pamper yourself and the resilience to get back up when you fall. I don’t want anyone to feel like you can’t do it. You can! It just takes a lot of preparation and commitment. Much more than someone who judges you could even dream of.  So if you’ve been victim to fat shaming idiots who think they know better, take heart. They are charmed, clueless and not particularly attractive themselves!

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How I came to accept my body for what it is

A bit of “Love Yourself” motivation today. I set out to find these inspiring quotes because I know a lot of people who feel almost desperate to look more like the media messages tell us to. I remember this feeling, sometimes it creeps in a bit even now, but I do make an effort to look for the inspiring messages, which tell you that you are good enough, instead of the disparaging ones, which tell you that you are not, but you could be if only you lost a bit of weight or straightened your hair or used this foundation or that mascara.

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Getting pregnant with my first daughter in 2010 was the best thing that happened to me body image-wise. You see in 2006, still with my first husband, my marriage was falling apart, we had just sold a business that wasn’t working and were losing our house. I became quite anxious and just couldn’t eat most of the time. There were points I didn’t eat anything at all until 8:00 at night and then ate a bit of pasta and went to bed. Unsurprisingly I dropped about 30 pounds in a few months. It was not healthy, however I was now the “hottest” I’d ever looked in my life, I was model thin – you could see the ribs in my chest and everything. Well I obviously loved it and vowed to stay that way, which ushered in my disordered eating phase, where I would try to eat only 1000 calories a day. It didn’t always work and I didn’t know what I was doing so I was probably eating closer to 1500 a day but still, I did a lot of starving myself.

That was until I started to date my current husband; we went out to dinner a lot, I was happy a lot and I didn’t do as much walking. Obviously I gained some weight back. Then I moved here and stayed happy and added baking to my list of favorite hobbies. That did nothing good for my waistline at all let me tell you. I’m not one of those bakers who can eat one and give the rest away, I’m a bit lot greedier than that. All this time though I was trying to lose weight again. I would try crash diets (750 calories a day only protein for five weeks!) and more reasoned diets (lost 4 pounds in 6 weeks, WTF!), I ran and I lifted weights. I never got anywhere. I mean I would lose 10 or 15 pounds and then just as quickly it would come right back again. I remember feeling like I was actually going nuts because while I was trying to eat sensibly I had 4 or 5 insanely fattening and intricately delicious dinner ideas going on in my head. I was about to eat chicken breast and cottage cheese but I was imagining in great detail sausage lasagna and lobster pies! I’d created a feeling in my head and my body of complete deprivation even though I was unable to actually lose any weight (and keep it off). I remember lying there sobbing to my husband that it was just impossible for me to do and I would never be attractive again.

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Then, I got pregnant and had to just eat and not worry about how my body looked, because that was not important anymore. Eating wasn’t about me anymore, it was about my baby. Not only that, I was so sick I didn’t care and had to eat in order to feel a little less sick. It was lovely to eat again guilt free. I tried not to go overboard but also tried not to worry about it. It may have sometimes looked like me going overboard but I did the best I could.

Then I had my daughter and a lot of time and effort went into getting used to this new life we had. It took some time to even get to the point where I could notice but I recognised some time after I’d had my daughter that I didn’t feel deprived anymore. The insatiable, ravenous feeling was just gone. Even when I ate less, actually dieted to lose some baby weight, I didn’t feel it. To this day I get extremely creative when I’m on a diet, I texted my husband the other day to tell him I wanted mac & cheese burgers someday, but it’s not the same as the absolute hysteria I felt back then.

I just needed to eat.

No, I wasn’t managing weight loss but I was managing to make my body feel as though it was in a time of real stress and deprivation and like at any point the food would disappear and I’d just starve to death. I’m sure that’s how it would work in the jungle and my body doesn’t know it doesn’t live there.

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These days I don’t feel so desperate. I’d like to lose those 20 pounds but equally, it’s not worth my mental health or any extra stress on the family. If I can’t manage it right now, maybe later. If not later, that’s ok; I’m busy with some other things anyway. Health is important, but we are already healthy. I want to teach my kids to value intelligence and compassion more than beauty and vanity, so I try hard not to let them hear us talk much about calories and weight loss.

I would like for you to know that if you’ve been trying to lose weight for a long time and you’re feeling desperate and hopeless, maybe the most important thing that you could do for your long term happiness is to take a break from it all. Find the book Overcome Overeating and read it and then take a break. Skinniness is not worth your happiness, your sanity or even very much of your time.

But hey, some more high profile people have something to say as well:

‘I have a crumble baby belly, boobs are worse for wear after two kids…I’m doing all right. I’m 33. I don’t look in the mirror and go, “Oh, I look fantastic!” Of course I don’t. Nobody is perfect. I just don’t believe in perfection. But I do believe in saying, “This is who I am and look at me not being perfect!”. I’m proud of that.’ Kate Winslet katewinslet2

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“How much time have I wasted on diets and what I look like? Take your time and your talent and figure out what you have to contribute to this world. And get over what the hell your butt looks like in those jeans!” America Ferreira americaferr

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‘I’m never going to starve myself for a part. I don’t want little girls to be like, “Oh, I want to look like Katniss” (her character in The Hunger Games), so I’m going to skip dinner. That’s something I was really conscious of during training, when you’re trying to get your body to look exactly right. I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong, not thin and underfed.’ Jennifer Lawrence jenlaw

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‘As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, “I love my body”. Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, “I am so proud of my body.” So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter], because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.’ Kate Winslet katewinslet

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“I am allowed to look sexy, feel sexy, and be in love. I am worthy of all of those things, and so are you. Own your good and bad, and all the scary parts that you’ve been covering up because it is yours and no amount of judgement can tell you how to love your body.  You are magic.” Mary Lambert mary-lambert-630-80

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You are magic, and don’t ever let anyone make you feel less than that. Least of all media and marketing people.

xox

Body Image and Me

I have battled with body image and my weight for over five years now. Twenty pounds is about all I ever wanted to lose. When I met my husband I was in a bad place mentally but I had a skinny model thin body. Once we started dating I started eating more normally and probably had a few too many restaurant meals. Since I’ve been in the UK I have researched weight loss and learned more than anyone ever needs to know. I’ve dieted and starved myself, I’ve run and I’ve lifted weights. The fact is my body is used to being the weight it is now and going lower is painfully hard work. Every time I try, I have a reasonably successful time until I get to the same point on the scale and then something happens to make me stop. I get stressed and snap or binge or whatever.

I had gained like 5 pounds here and felt sooo huge.

2008. I had gained like 5 pounds here and felt sooo huge.

In the last post I talked about the affect of the women you look at on your own body image. I discussed a new study showing that looking at different sized models affects what we consider attractive that very moment and I must tell you, I have experienced this in my own every day life. The office I work in is full of young, thin beautiful women, while I tend to float around the high end of normal and into the low end of overweight. Seeing all these skinny girls used to make me feel like a large, seriously unattractive amazon woman. I don’t think it’s just me either; it’s not uncommon for a new starter who is average size to lose a noticeable amount of weight within the first year. However when I was on maternity leave and not exposed to them every day I began to feel quite good about my body. I began to feel average and adequate as opposed to unusually large. (That might not sound good but average and adequate are much better than the stuff going on in my head previous to that!)

2008. Getting married in Las Vegas!

Losing weight is stressful on the body and you have to try to pamper yourself in every way possible including and especially sleep if you want to lose fat. I have never been in a non stressful place in my life here in the UK. First it was my job and now it’s my kids. I love them but they are hard work! Also I don’t have time for much sleep these days. So I’m not trying very hard right now to do anything other than not gain more…

Scratch that. I’ve been on a serious eating rampage for the past month or two and I need to cut it out. I always start out so well. I had my youngest daughter in March and started my post pregnancy diet in May. By October I had lost a good amount of weight, certainly all I had gained in pregnancy. Then I hit the ubiquitous magic number, had a stressful moment and freaked out. I intended to continue on my diet plan and just eat a bit more but that didn’t work out. I am either on the diet or OFF the diet. I didn’t really go overboard all that time though, until around the middle of January. I went back to work part time then so maybe that’s why I’ve obviously (to me) put on a few pounds.

2014. I can’t find any recent full body pics of me.

In any case, I am going on a “healthy eating” diet. I am not going to count calories (yet) I am just going to focus on mostly healthy foods. No sugary desserts, no takeout and no fried foods. I must eat some vegetables sometimes! I’m sure that will take care of 4 – 5 pounds. We’ll see what happens from there.

What I learned about body image is crazy

If you’re going to talk about fashion, I think it’s only right to talk about body image as well. When I started a bit of research about body image for this post, I didn’t know that I’d find such amazing information not only about body size and health but what can be done about all the unreasonable expectations.

I wish everyone was on board to replace women’s unhealthy expectations and social norms. Sadly, not everyone is yet. There is a lot of support out there and it’s growing every day, but its just not enough. Personally just by being fans of Upworthy and Toward the Stars on Facebook I’ve noticed my own internal dialog becoming a bit healthier, sometimes. Or is that because I have two small kids and no time to obsess about my abs anymore? I don’t know, a little of both I guess. (But it’s probably not true that I never obsess about my abs. Shhhh.)

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There are 1.1 million young people with eating disorders in the UK and two thirds of girls 13-14 are apparently unhappy with their bodies. The incidence of obesity is growing, but also perfectly normal sized and shaped young women are devastatingly unhappy with their bodies. I was, and sometimes – sometimes often – still am one of them. I have done all sorts of reading about weight loss and body image and even though I know intellectually it doesn’t matter, that doesn’t change how I feel. Which is why we need to change things!

Did you know that studies have shown people are healthier in the overweight bmi category than the normal or underweight ones? Seriously! This is not intended to shame anyone who is underweight, we all do the best we can, but this is how skewed our perceptions, values and self-worth are. Most women would rather be underweight than over weight even though it is far more unhealthy. And it’s not about just knowing the truth, though that can help in the long run. It’s about the whispers in our heads.

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Everyone knows this is the medias fault, and that “the media” just says they are just showing us what we want to see! It’s an awful self propelling feedback loop and it will take some serious conscious effort to push ourselves out of it. But it can be done. I’ll tell you how in a minute.

This Psychology today article, Media exposure and the perfect body talks about how in the 1950’s a psychologist theorized that we “rely on external models to form our self perceptions,” so it’s not exactly new. We decide what we like based on what everyone else likes. Beauty is cultural. We’ve all heard of the places where they prefer abnormally long necks or foot binding or any number of different kinds of fashion adornments. 

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I say, we can decide to like something different.

Interestingly, this new study agrees because it shows that our perception of beauty is fluid. Researchers showed very skinny models to one group and bigger models to a second group and in a second part of the test, as you would guess the group who saw the smaller models judged a smaller bmi as beautiful while those who looked at slightly larger models judged a slightly higher bmi as more attractive. Sadly everyone still chose underweight bodies to represent beauty but the fact remains just being exposed to different models for one minute affected their judgement. So if we can convince more and more companies to show us more diverse body types we can affect the cultural perception of beauty.

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 If we can stay aware of the messages we are receiving and try to choose the messages we buy from carefully then slowly we can change the cultural messages toward and about women. Clothing companies that show different sized and shaped models are the first thing to look for. Then look for magazines supporting the cause. Hollywood will follow suit, eventually. And over time, we can change things.

If you care to.

*Further reading: Ourbodiesourselves.org has a list of websites and organisations trying to create positive change for women (and men) and body image. Have a look.