Think about it. How often do you hear someone you know say “I’m fat” as part of regular conversation? How often do you say it yourself? No matter what the answer is, the number is too high. For the last year, I have heard some variation of “I’m fat” get said on a daily basis, often by the people who are closest to me. As a high school gymnast, weight was not really something I ever thought about – for me, working out five hours a day, six days a week, meant that I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted. But now, as an ex-athlete and college student, my weight is something I do think about. I would guess that 90% of the girls I know are currently trying to “manage” their weight. And while managing your weight, and thinking about it on a regular basis in terms of exercise and nutrition is perfectly fine, when is the last time you heard people say such self-harming things about managing their finances, or managing their stress? My guess is never.
Saying that you’re fat doesn’t only affect you – it also affects the people who you say it to. First off, you’re drawing attention to your own body, which seems like the last thing you would want to do if you’re self-conscious about it. Second, you make everyone else consider their own bodies, their own weight. Chances are at least one of the people you say this to is also not happy with their body, so shaming your own body also forces them to think whatever harmful things they already think about their own body. Third, you sound like you’re fishing for a compliment – whether you are or not, the right thing for a friend to do after an “I’m fat” statement is made is to negate it, tell you that you aren’t fat, and compliment you on your body. These compliments feel forced, because they are, and they don’t make you or your friend any happier.
The following is a list of body-shaming expressions we really need to stop using:
“I’m fat.” The best Facebook status I’ve read recently said the following: “You are not fat. You have fat. You also have fingernails. You are not fingernails. Love yourself however you look today cause its sunny and EVERYONE deserves ice cream!” (status credit: Julia Rogers). This status covers just about everything I am trying to cover in this article in five sentences and is beautiful and critical at the same time. Who you are and what your body looks like are not one in the same.
“I hate my body.” This is a complicated statement, because while it may be true, it isn’t something you need to share with the world. No matter how you feel about your body, you should try to be confident in who you are – confidence goes a lot further than physical appearance. And if you’re not confident, pretend you are; chances are you’ll fool the people around you, and who knows, you might even end up fooling yourself.
“I look so fat in this.” This is something I hear a lot right before a night out, but this is much more an issue of fashion than an issue of weight. Girls are notorious for trying on outfit after outfit before deciding on what to wear (and usually ending up in the very first outfit anyways), but this should not be an effort to find what you look “skinniest” in, but instead an effort to find what you look BEST in. I fully believe that if you have the confidence, you can pull off any outfit. Next time you go out, try to find an outfit that matches who you ARE, not what the scale says.
“I need to stop eating so much.” Maybe you do need to stop eating so much, maybe you don’t, but you don’t need to advertise your eating habits to the world. Either do it or don’t do it. Talking about it more and more will not do anything, you need to take action, and other people can’t listening isn’t going to help you do that. This goes hand in hand with the statement, “I should really go to the gym.” I am a firm believer that the gym is good for everyone – and if you can find the time and motivation to go, that’s awesome. If you can’t, talking about it isn’t going to change that.
“I’m not eating dinner, I need to save my calories for drinking.” Beside the fact that this is ridiculously unhealthy, it is also one of the stupidest things to say. I would chance a guess that after drinking on an empty stomach (assuming you haven’t blacked out), you’ll get the drunchies, and be drunk enough to lose your resolve and end up eating far too much greasy, fatty food. So, instead of ending up with the calories from a healthy dinner and the subsequent calories from drinks, you instead end up with the calories from alcohol and then the calories from crappy, gross, drunk food.
“I’m not drinking, I’m trying to lose weight.” This is a somewhat fair thing to do, but only if you are also maintaining a healthy diet and exercising – not drinking alone is not enough to make you lose weight. Additionally, not drinking is a totally valid thing to do, if your reasoning is something related to drinking (think things the long the lines of drinking too much, not liking who you are when you’re drunk, or wanting to focus more on academics).
“I’m eating less food and I feel so much healthier.” There is a huge difference between losing weight and becoming healthy. The healthiest people I know are not necessarily the skinniest people I know. Being thin does not mean you are fit. Cutting back on your food intake so that you drop pounds does not make you healthier, necessarily. If you’re still eating fried food and ice cream as your main food sources, just eating less of them, it does not make you any healthier.
“Maybe I should become anorexic or something.” Eating disorders are not something to joke about or take lightly. They are very serious, and they are not really about weight – they are psychological disorders that have to deal with control. Turning eating disorders into just another inappropriate comment can be harmful to those around you; you never know if someone you’re talking to has or has had an eating disorder, and trivializing them does not help anyone.
Saying these statements is not only harmful to your own self-esteem and self-image, it is often hurtful for other people to hear. We, as women (who are usually the ones who say these things, but it applies to men as well), need to stop apologizing for our “faults.” We are our own worst enemies. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? No matter who you are, what you look like, you deserve to be treated with respect; other people won’t respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Most people will not think about your weight until you bring it up, so why bring it up at all?! If you’re truly unhappy about your body, make a change, don’t just talk about it. If you stand up and show the world that you deserve the best, others won’t question it. Most importantly, be confident in who you are – I guarantee you’re more special than you think.