by Michelle May, MD
Bias. Stereotyping. Prejudice. Discrimination. Bullying.
These ugly words describe a serious problem weight stigma. Our culture is entrenched in the belief that fat is bad, people with fat are bad, people who exceed a BMI of 25 are unhealthy, and that only a narrow range of body sizes are beautiful. Billions of dollars are spent trying to attain the cultural ideal, but the more we diet, the further we move from it.
Whether subtle or blatant, weight stigma is broadcast into our living rooms and shows up in our classrooms, break rooms, and exam rooms. For many of us, weight stigma hits even closer to home: right between our ears!
Making the invisible, visible
What beliefs about weight have you internalized? Are those beliefs helping you or harming you?
By internalizing this cultural bias, we condemn ourselves to living within its limitations. We allow the bully to move into our brains.
I’m not letting the bullies off the hook, but if you believe them, you become them.
What is the reality you are creating for yourself?
You can only change what you are aware of. Without awareness, you may repeat old, even painful, patterns simply because they are familiar. In other words, you create your own reality.
For example, you may have old tapes that sound something like this:
- I’m too embarrassed to be seen exercising.
- I can’t go to the gym until I’ve lost some weight.
- I’m trying to eat healthy but I’m not losing weight—it doesn’t matter what I eat.
- I’ll get diabetes because I can’t lose weight, so why change the way I eat?
- I can’t eat what I love in public, so I’ll binge later in private.
- I’ll never look like I did in high school, so why bother with healthy eating and exercise?
- I don’t deserve someone who loves me because I’m too fat.
- I don’t feel sexy because of my weight.
- I don’t see how my partner can think I’m sexy so I thwart his/her attempts.
- I don’t believe my husband when he tells me I’m beautiful.
- I don’t want to go to the doctor because I regained the weight I lost.
- I don’t take my blood pressure medicine because I know I should lose weight instead.
- I won’t buy new clothes until I reach my goal weight.
- If I was thinner, I would ask for that promotion.
- I’d love to travel but I want to lose weight first.
- I love to dance but I’m too embarrassed.
Making the impossible, possible
What if? What if you booted the bully from your brain? Ask yourself, “How could my life be different if I didn’t buy into those limitations?” See how the bullying thoughts above would change if you dropped the stigma.
- I’m exercising.
- I go to the gym.
- I’m trying to eat healthy.
- I’m at risk for diabetes so I’m changing the way I eat.
- I’ll never look like I did in high school. I’m eating healthier and exercising.
- I eat what I love.
- I deserve someone who loves me.
- I feel sexy.
- My partner thinks I’m sexy.
- My husband tells me I’m beautiful.
- I go to the doctor.
- I take my blood pressure medicine.
- I buy new clothes.
- I’m going to ask for that promotion.
- I love to travel.
- I love to dance so I do.
Boot the Bully from the Block
Take your power back. Boot the bully from your brain and embrace the Health at Every Size® paradigm! Then help us boot the bully from the block! To learn more: visit ASDAH’s website.