It’s a crazy world that teaches girls to fear fat as much as they worry about their mom or dad dying. That’s the world we’re raising our girls in.
And now, with the media and health industry frenzy about rising rates of child obesity, the fat stigma messages girls get are weighing more and more heavily on both their physical and psychological health.
What’s a caring parent, grandparent, teacher, coach or scout leader to do? First, let’s define Fat Stigma. I like this definition from Kendra of Voice in Recovery:
Well, weight stigma is bullying, teasing, negative body language, harsh comments, discrimination, or prejudice based upon a person’s body size.
It doesn’t apply only to prejudice against fatness, but that’s by far the most powerful weight stigma in the U.S. and other westernized cultures. The negative power of that stigma falls more on females than on males because females are still judged by society much more on our appearance than on our accomplishments, actions or personal qualities.
To feel the stigma’s power, what’s your immediate response to this photo? My knee-jerk response is “Yuck, fat.” All my life I’ve been taught by our culture that fat, whether in food or human beings, is unhealthy, unpleasant and ugly. I’ve been taught that the word fat is an insult, no matter what I use it to describe. I’ve been taught to feel shame and like I’m a failure when I hear or think the word fat.
I want to change my knee-jerk reaction. To fight the stigma I need to be aware of my bias. I need to choose to be open-minded and counter my blind prejudice by remembering that our bodies need fat to be healthy. That fat is an essential part of all animals and plants. Fat in and of itself is NOT evil or insulting!
These are the counter-messages I want to embed in my mind. I say the word over and over in my head: fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fat! It’s just a word. What counter-messages do you need to embed?
Stay tuned for more thoughts on this topic in the next couple months as a lead up to Weight Stigma Awareness Week September 26-30, 2011 – lots of excellent resources will be launched that week by the Binge Eating Disorder Association.
Check out other great perspectives on how to fight the harm of weight stigma at the Weight Stigma Blog Carnival.