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2.07.2011

FAT TALK


i love cjane's blog.

i have for quite sometime.

mostly because she's a genius writer. and even more so because, well, she's a genius writer.

so when she blogged the first in her new series of healing the body image i wanted to reach across the blogosphere and kiss the woman on the mouth. yes, the mouth--that's how ardently gratitude arose within me.

here was a woman with a huge platform publishing an article that actually said all the right things.

i lapped up each and every word.

and then i started to look through the comments.

and it was about this time that my blood began to boil.

most of the comments were supportive and lovely, but it was the ones that seemed to miss the point entirely that had me taking deep and long breaths (so as to remain calm). and between the inhales and exhales i reminded myself that janna's tenants for a healthy lifestyle are things that have taken me years to learn--things that tom (my personal version of janna {an eating and weight disorders specialist here in new york}) must have said a hundred different ways on a hundred different occasions before i ever even heard them.

the articles set off an avalanche of sorts in my mind that i'm still having a difficult time sorting through.

but let's start with fat talk. because janna mentions it on more than one occasion but never really goes into it in great detail.

i have this theory: fat talk is like second-hand smoke. far more dangerous to the person having to take in someone else's spew.

and fat-talk is everywhere.

after posting the video about it on friday afternoon i went out to dinner on friday night. and there it was, fat-talk--amongst people that i think the world of. saturday night found me at work and lo and behold:  fat talk. then again this morning, taking zoobie to nursery school: an open-faced sandwich was half as many carbs, as opposed to half as much bread--maybe it's just semantics, but words are important. we use fat talk to put others down. we use it to put ourselves down. we use it to complement another girl. another guy. we confuse our dislike of someone with the shape of their body. and we mistake it as humor.

i remember attending a party at my aunt and uncles's house just over a year ago and watching as two middle-aged-men, salt-of-the-earth guys went in to share a hug after not seeing one another for nearly a year. one remarked, well, i guess it's more of a stomach bump than a hug at this point. i heard that statement and thought, it really is everywhere isn't it? it's cultural at this point. and there is no group of people, no economic class unaffected by it's influence.

the guy i dated around this time last year would make fun of my eating issues. all the time. and i loved that about him. because in laughing about it i felt slightly more normal. but then this summer i made a joke about my arms (something silly about how tennis would work off the ice cream i was currently lapping up) and a guy i hardly knew--half the age of the man i had dated--said, nope you don't get to do that. i'm not gonna let you make that joke. this is me, looking out for you. and a part of me fell in love with him right then and there. because he showed me a new way. showed me that eliminating fat talk is far sexier than twisting it towards self-deprecation. and in that moment he illuminated a bit of what it is to be a man. a real man. and holy moly was it sexy.


i suppose the reason the (i'm going to choose to call them "unhelpful") comments regarding janna's posts so go to me is that in some ways they are a form of fat-talk. and therefore, far more damaging, far more influential than the good things people had to say. while not technically fat-talk i call them that because they were in many ways misinformed or short-sighted.

diets don't work. there are no two ways about it. they simply don't. and to combat that statement by saying they do is a flimsy comeback. perhaps they worked for one person. or another. perhaps they worked for a family member but it is the tenuousness of that "victory" that leads people to defend diets so fiercely. i want to know if in five--ten years all the weight lost remains as such-gone.

do me a favor. ask yourself something: if they did work (diets, that is) would our country really be struggling with a snowballing obesity crisis? if it really is so easy( as most programs suggest) than why do so many of us have such a difficult time?

money has to be spent to consume the extra calories that put the weight on in the first place. and then money is spent on a program or a book to lose the weight. and yes, maybe some weight is lost. but then it comes back. and then we spend more money to lose it all over again, or to try--at least to try. the diet industry is not one of charity and good-will--it is a not a non-for-profit. its ultimate goal: to make as much money as possible.

to say diets don't work is not a setback to the obesity epidemic--it is, in fact, the silver-bullet to overcoming it.

these things that janna speaks to: eliminating fat-talk, honoring the body's natural impulses--these will be the things that will end obesity. i was so impressed by jaime oliver's food revolution when it aired last spring. he never once used the word diet, never once spoke of calories. he encouraged people to learn to cook and to eat real (meaning not overly processed) foods. when i told tom about it he said those two things--cooking and consumption of real food could cut this country's obesity epidemic in half. in half!

look, i as much as anyone else understand the appeal of diet program. the built-in control and stability. but i know there's not a good one out there (despite the promise of a re-vamped weight watchers). i get it. i do. jennifer hudson looks amazing. believe you me, i understand. but of course they've changed their program!--change and the new is just as much a part of a marketing-pitch as anything else. and perhaps it really is better. but nonetheless. it doesn't allow for the fact that one month a person may need to eat more than another month. or two months, or three. our body has needs that we aren't always acutely aware of. any time we try to so strictly regulate the process it's like putting a kink in the water hose: and the water sure won't flow. because the body will sort it out on its own, if we let it. and even if we don't let it, the body still tries. and as with too many cooks in the kitchen something is sure to get burned (and it may not be those extra calories).

i recently worked on a project with a woman who had lost nearly forty pounds on weight watchers. and she looked great. but i recognized within her a terror--an absolute fear of regaining all she had lost. it was in the way she looked at food. in how she talked about it (fat talk, oh my!) and in how would quickly brush her teeth after eating--not, for the sake of dental hygiene, but to send a signal to her stomach that the time for eating was over. and she went on and on about how weight watchers is the healthiest thing out there. but here was a woman nearly three times my age living in total fear of food. and i thought, if weight-watchers is the healthiest of diets and yet it perverts the mind to this extent... no thanks. i'll pass.

there is so much work to be done in fighting obesity. and it is time we step up and take responsibility. cost of food and convenience are no longer acceptable excuses for dining out at mcdonalds. we have to make time and we have to set aside funds. we have to educate ourselves, our children, and our lawmakers. we need to create new food markets by shifting our demands to local, healthy produce. it is incumbent upon us to find new avenues. and yes, these things, all these things might be terrifying--they might be like jumping off a cliff. but at this point we just gotta try. we're failing as it is. worst thing that can happen is we fail in a new direction--but at least in more failure we gain more information.

35 comments:

Chelsea said...

Ever since you posted that video about "fat talk" I've caught myself on more than one occasion about to fat talk and stopped myself and instead said loving things about my body and reflected on what I love about it instead of the negative.

Thanks girl for speaking out on these body image issues we all deal with in some form or another.

Kirsten said...

ABSO-FLIPPIN-LUTELY! Agree agree agree!

emily said...

my sisters and i are all guilty of fat talk. and i have really tried to catch myself and stop stop stop. we all (my sisters and i) know and love janna, so for me, it took reading something she wrote for it to really register for me.
also. i am working on my master's thesis right now and it's all about food (well and women farmers). and partially how the u.s. in particular has convoluted so much food into non-food and actual food is a total commodity.

thank you for being so honest and open. it helps change my perspective on things.

Georgie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shorty said...

you know, i think fat-talk can be found in so many other aspects too that affect a person's self esteem. whether it's a weight issue or an insecurity about one's abilities to do a good job at something or lack of knowledge on a certain subject... one of my pet peeves (that i'm constantly trying to explain to people who just don't get it) is when a serious matter becomes a joke. even if it's meant to be funny, sometimes it's more like second-hand smoke, as you said... not funny, but harmful. it's hard to eliminate these things from your life completely, but i think being aware that it's "out there" can make a huge difference.

great post! thanks for your honesty and uplifting thoughts. :)

Brittan said...

i so agree. for me, how well my body functions and feels has become far more important than what i like or dislike about its appearance. that has not only been a liberating shift in consciousness, it's also helped me get to know my body better. how does my heart feel after i drink too much caffeine/eat processed foods/don't get enough sleep? how do my hip joints feel when i haven't done any exercising for a few days? that sort of thing. when you're thinking about that and not how your jeans fit, you tend to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits naturally as you learn what foods and behaviors make your body function and feel its best.

it's so great that you're talking about these issues. (and i love cjane too!)

Anonymous said...

Meg,
In one year, I will be a Jana/Tom. Your blog warms my heart, and gives me the energy and passion I need to keep going with this whole education thing... to help women and girls get to know their bodies. To love them. To have a connection with food. In a real way. We have a severe mental health crisis in our children (I live in Canada, it's here too!!!) and I truly believe that it is in large part the garbage we call food at the root of it all.
It is so lovely to read these posts not from someone with a PhD but a real, beautiful, genuine and determined woman named Meg.

kate harding said...

It's so inspiring to read your posts, it makes me so sad when I think of how pretty much every aspect of our lives revolve around diet and body image, and like you say it's such a deep rooted problem that takes years of re-programming our brains to being to see our selves as more then a dress size or number on the scale. Our self worth should have nothing to do with how much we weigh or what we look like.

Julia said...

thank you so much for this post. it is not only perfectly written but also honest and true. thank you!

Bridget said...

amen. you are so right and i agree thoroughly about wanting to kiss cjane on the mouth.

christine said...

Hi Meg!

I will be thinking about this post for a good while. I've been working on changing how I feel about my body and food for a while now, and it truly has been a battle.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and in so doing helping me cement my own.

Christine

emilia. said...

i agree with you 100 percent, and i want to hug that man who said, "this is me looking out for you."

i'm going to copy him. i hope he doesn't mind.

Katie said...

Great thoughts. We SHOULD eliminate fat talk.

Ashley said...

I am reading "In Defense of Food" and, after reading this post, I think you would LOVE it. I'm about 1/3 through it and it has detailed the advent of nutritionism in our society. Essentially, nutritionism is an ideology about food where we are concerned with "nutriets" rather than FOOD, ie with fat, protein, beta-carotenes etc, rather than fruits, vegetables and breads. I think it's fascinating...a definite recommendation for your book club!

Jenni Austria Germany said...

i love what you said about fear of food! so, so true.

Victoria Elizabeth Windsor said...

Um so...I have been reading your blog for a long time. I think it is pretty great and I am definitely in agreement with many things. And then I read this, and was like, hang on a minute. Janna Dean used to be my therapist. And then I jumped to CJane's blog and was like, yep, that is my therapist. Janna is pretty much amazing and what a crazy coincidence! Which reminds me...I had better schedule another appointment with her...

Victoria Elizabeth Windsor said...

PS The comments make my blood boil too. Thankfully over a year of Janna's words makes me able to fight them. But I want to yell, YOU'RE WRONG! YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG! YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!

The Many Colours of Happiness said...

This is an amazing post. As someone who used to suffer from an e.d. I also feel really strongly about this issue. Once you get sick you realise just how many negative messages there are out there about food and size, and how often people put themselves down about their weight and what they eat. Our culture has become one of guilt that is fostered by diet companies, tv programs and magazines. When the message that needs to get across is to simply accept yourself and listen to your body. I'm glad you're spreading the word, I believe it's a really important one :)

Anonymous said...

Great post. Your point about fear of food is really poignant.

Amber said...

Thank you for this post. I am one of those people who has had a lot of success with a weight-watchers style system, but there is a definite price that comes with embracing that lifestyle. There is that fear of food, and obsession with the numbers that is not healthy. While this may not be true for everyone, this post definitely spoke to me, so thanks.

Julia said...

I'm thin, but I am constantly watching my weight and what I eat. A little of this, not too much of that, definitely not THAT, etc. I am guilty of the fat talk. It's so hard to be happy with your body when you see people who appear to be tanner, taller, more fit, and with curves in all the right places. I have to get rid of this fat talk. Thanks for opening my eyes.

Brittany said...

gosh, this is so good. i have these thoughts rolling around in my head sometimes and wish i knew how to say it as succinctly and eloquently as you. i wish everyone could read this.

Jenni Austria Germany said...

i just read the comments you mentioned....and yes, my blood started to boil as well....especially reading things like ''maybe more of our children SHOULD be dieting''. ....deep breaths.

lizzy said...

thank you thank you.

also,
read this, please.
http://www.boyghost.com/post/2194945727

taylor elaine said...

Thank you so much for these thoughts. I never realized how much I participated in fat talk until now. It's something I need and want to change. More than anything I just want to love my body and love the person I am regardless of my body.

http://taylorswrinkle.blogspot.com

kara lynn said...

i absolutely love this. meg you are so right. something i have been working on this last year. the relationship, the pure, meant to be pure relationship between the body and food. and it IS the only way to do it.

thank you for writing this because i sure am thinking about this a lot lately especially when i see my little sister starting to struggle with this fat talk, dieting, and weight worry. so i subtly send her to yours and cjanes blogs

D&D said...

BRAVO YOU! there is a brilliant new show on A&E called HEAVY that follows obese people for six months as they begin to exercise and eat healthy. no competition. no diet. just a change in life and in praising their body. there isnt a money prize in the end. they just want to save their lives. its at once moving and haunting to see how much processed foods go into our diets.

not everyone is meant to be a skinny minnie. the culture we live in is about profanity and vanity when it comes to our diets - not health and stealth. very sad!

Kyle said...

This.Is.Why.I.Keep.Reading.

bravo Meg Fee.

bravo.

Jennifer M. said...

Amen! Preach it, sister! This is the longest post by anyone that I didn't get bored and stop reading. Everything you said is so true!!

I was raised in a house that didn't actually have food/weight issues, which i know i am so blessed for, but now that I'm older and have seen more of the world, i do find myself slipping into that habit of fat talk. It's so easy to do, especially when we're with other women. We're just so hard on ourselves sometimes!

I want to marry that guy that stood up for your body image. He is to be commended, for sure. He truly is a good man and whoever gets him is a luck woman.

You know, ever since watching Jamie Oliver last season, ive been trying to be more conscious about making food instead of eating out. It's hard to get into that habit, especially when working full-time, but it's sooo important! This reminds me that i need to work harder to eat real food. That really is where it's at. It's not about starving yourself or hating your body, it's about loving your body and feeding it properly without all the crap that comes in processed foods.

Jessica said...

Thank you for bringing attention to this social issue - I myself am definitely guilty of fat talk, and I really appreciate your calling society out on this one. I am definitely going to do my best to be better in my speaking on this issue. Thank you!

Katie Anderson said...

You know, for a good few months I was counting calories constantly. I had an app on my iPhone - and every time I ate something I would type it in and watch the numbers subtracted from my 'daily target'.

Not only was it tedious, (not to mention very annoying, especially for my boyfriend) but I didn't actually lose any weight. I also found that I was putting calories above my well being. Feel faint but have no calories for an afternoon snack? Deal with it.

You'll be pleased to know that I've deleted the calorie counting app and am focusing instead on adding loads of vegetables and fruit into my diet, along with removing processed foods. It would be fair to say that I feel a lot better!

Carly said...

Hey! I think you're right. I have this weird form of arthritis, and I have to visit a doctor every few months to monitor it. So far, it hasn't really affected me physically but for the occasional pain. But one day, I thought to myself: It's not about being thin. It's about being FIT, and HEALTHY. Back in the "olden days", (haha), people used to visit the store and getting a soda was a huge treat. It should be a treat. Now, it's the norm. I thought about that for awhile. And I think that loving yourself for who you are is the most important thing, but not letting the over-indulgent society we live in overtake us is so hard. I just figure, right now, I'm okay... but what about in ten years? Will I be in more pain than ever unless I start thinking about what I put in my mouth? Life is about living to the fullest. As long as you are healthy and happy, you're doing good. A little ice cream now and then won't hurt anything, but I think America needs to quit making it a lifestyle to have these things daily or on whims. This post was really encouraging and full of good points!

CCH said...

oh girl i totally agree!!!

Eva said...

Just want to say...this post REALLY inspired me. i've pretty much changed my whole view of "diet".
Suffices to say, this post has been on my mind a lot. So thank you.

Steve and Jess said...

I love this! You put it so beautifully. I completely agree.