The "F" Word
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
In my home, the biggest “F word” is “fat”. It’s always been this way for me. I don’t see the usefulness of the word. It sounds and feels ugly. More than that, when it’s used to negatively describe another, or even worse, spoken to someone directly, it’s hurtful.
As a society, we’ve become accustomed to this word and use it flippantly. What we’ve forgotten, is that somewhere in history, this word started to veer away from its factual definition and quickly became an insult. Hearing this word used to describe us leaves a lasting impact cruelly shaping the way we feel about ourselves and shutting down our confidence and self-esteem. When words like this are negatively hurled at us or even casually dropped in a tone of condescension, it takes away our light.
As we know, being thin has become the predominantly sought after body type in North America, if not across most of the world. In today’s digital age, our appearance means more than ever. That might be why there are more fad diets than I can count and why we are still subjected to questionable health and wellness practices. What’s truly damaging, is that often, these diet trends and “sage” words come from people who are not professionals. They’re celebrities (Goop, Kardashians etc) and influencers who are thin and beautiful, so they must know the health secrets behind looking this way, right? It couldn’t be because they have money and access to personal trainers, personal chefs, elite skincare products, and treatments.
Celebrities are not “just like us”. Angela Basset is renowned for her beauty and body, articles about her exclaim over her age-defying looks. Angela Basset also had a pile of broccoli with a candle stuck in it to celebrate her 61st birthday. A broccoli “cake” wouldn’t be my first choice, but in her industry, these are the choices she has to make to maintain a body that keeps her desirable as an actress. That shouldn’t be a relatable problem. We shouldn’t feel any guilt on our birthdays when we enjoy a slice of cake or two because our jobs don’t rely on us looking one particular way. But we put this pressure on ourselves. The number of times I have heard a variation of “I ate so much yesterday, I’m going to have to hit the treadmill hard today” is heartbreaking.
This culture of thinness is so pervasive, that many of us feel desperate to reach a goal weight in order to feel accepted. We embrace the newest fad diets and look for success stories to emulate those regimens in the hopes that we’ll see the same results. It doesn’t matter to us that the person advertising it isn’t a health professional. We only see them for what they look like. And if your friend’s sister-in-law’s aunt did it, then you can too!
This isn’t our fault, with the widespread use of social media (a curated version of the highlights of people’s lives), we compare ourselves to others and start to feel inadequate. With this constant self-pressure and the barrage of diet-related advertising that women especially face on a daily basis, it’s really no wonder that our weight and appearance are top of mind.
I know that this blog isn’t going to solve the problem, but talking about it helps. Contributing to the conversation helps. Movements like #iweigh, and the body positive movement are helping to push people of all sizes to the forefront, in positions where they’re seen and heard as individuals with worthwhile thoughts, who can love and be loved. As a result of these efforts, we are seeing big brands like ASOS and H&M expand their lines to include a broader range of sizes. We’re seeing a broader range of body shapes on TV and in movies. We’re seeing people like Lizzo being given an opportunity to make an entrance and proceed to dominate the charts. These are all steps in the right direction.
I’m an advocate for Health At Every Size (HAES). HAES speaks to the idea that good health can be achieved at any size and acknowledges that obesity is a complex and multifactorial condition. In our society, when we see someone we deem overweight, there are certain negative associations we make. We think they’re lazy, not motivated, and unhealthy to name a few. The shadow these connotations cast on a person is significant and can sometimes act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It can impact job prospects, dating opportunities, and more. So, I implore you to think about the words you use from now on. Let’s work to be kinder to ourselves and to others. To be conscious of the language we use and its potential impact on someone.
Please know that your ideas, your creativity, your personality, and your experiences are what make you interesting. I won’t say that we’re in a place in society yet where our appearance doesn’t contribute to how we’re perceived. But ultimately, we are in charge of how we’re defined. It takes work and courage to face your fears and put yourself out there if you’re not comfortable in your own skin. But aren’t the best things in life always scary at first?
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