You’ve probably noticed – we live in a fattist society. Fat or larger bodies are viewed as bad, especially for women. Being fat isn’t that great for men either, BUTT…
Dave Barry described the differences larger men and women face and I’m paraphrasing. “You’d never see a woman in a grocery store with a jeans label across her butt announcing a size 44. In other words – My butt is as big as a barn.”
However, men do it all the time. That’s all we need to say about how fat is viewed from a gender perspective. It’s more ok for men than women to be large!
Large women want and hope to be seen as beautiful and for who they are, not judged only for their size. One of my clients, I’ll call Nancy, went on a trip to Africa. She was walking down the street with two men behind her talking, whispering and laughing.
She thought they were judging her, as she was so used to in the United States. Nancy turned to confront the men – something she’d never have done at home. They were shocked to see her upset. The men said, “No, we were admiring your plush body, the swing of your hips. We love your size.” The look on Nancy’s face as she told this story said it all. She felt accepted and in that moment it was easier to love her own body. Then she came back to the States and to all our fat hatred. (And, horrible food choices).
History Lesson: In the 1800’s and before, a plush, “fat” body was seen as beautiful and was the accepted and desirable body type. Why? Because food was scarce and to be larger meant you had enough money to have plenty of food. A round body was equated with being rich!
Those attitudes changed around the turn of the century and by the 1920’s – the age of the flapper - as food became more available for the masses, rich women started valuing thin bodies. And, here we are 100 years later.
I have counseled women with weight concerns for over 20 years. I’ve seen and felt the pain, confusion, anger and sometimes hopelessness women experience as they struggle with their food and body concerns in the midst of our fat judging society.
The women in my groups judged themselves, as society has, as FAT and therefore “bad, lazy, worthless”. They dieted restrictively, lost weight, put it back on – over and over and over again. They felt defeated. Hopeless. Nothing worked to make the weight stay off or the pain stop.
NO WIN for Large Women?
We are moving very slowly to greater body acceptance (not yet health) as a nation. Melissa McCarthy’s show Mike & Molly and This is Us’s star Chrissy Metz show an actor who is comfortable with her weight (Molly) and not (Chrissy). And, this is the NO WIN for body acceptance - apparently now that Melissa has been losing weight, her show has been cancelled.
There is a Fat Acceptance Movement in America
Dieting is a NO WIN for most people. From Weight Watchers to Jenny Craig all have about the same results according to The New York Times Magazine article “Life in the Post-Diet Age” (great article – but not hopeful about long term weight loss).
What Are the Solutions?
If dieting doesn’t offer long-term hope, then what are women to do? The happiest larger women I’ve worked with, and know, are those that focus on health and body acceptance. They eat healthy most of the time and exercise.
What are the steps to feeling and being healthier?
- Body Acceptance
Most of us have a body type we are born with. Many women are NEVER going to be skinny. If you are a large woman and so is every other woman in your family…. Forget skinny. This doesn’t mean large women can’t be happy and healthy. The Body Love Movement promotes acceptance for all body types.
It can be strange for larger women to know that as a thin woman I’ve had people “worry” I’m too thin, ask me if I have cancer or make otherwise inappropriate comments.
One gal at a store I frequented kept asking me if I had lost weight and worried that I was too thin. I finally said to her: “It’s never appropriate to comment on someone’s weight.”
If you want to lose weight, go for it. But, don’t let society push you into TRYING to create a body type that isn’t healthy for you. Even women who have weight loss surgery have trouble keeping their weight off.
- Focus on Health
Yes, it is possible to be larger and to be healthy. If your weight is stable and your lab reports show no problems with cholesterol, etc. then you are probably healthy enough. But, you also want to able to move comfortably, not have knee or hip problems or diabetes.
If Your Goal is To Lose Weight:
Set a reasonable expectation around weight loss that you can live with and maintain. Yo-yo dieting is proven to be hard on your physiology and gives confusing messages to your body.
Make sure your behaviors – eating healthy enough and exercise support your focus on health.
- Pick a weight loss plan that is gentle and focused on the long term. The most successful women I’ve seen over 25 years and the only “diet” I recommend is Weight Watchers.
Why? Because it includes:
Emotional support (education) & groups of women who are in the same place you are
Reasonable food options with some cheat potential. I used to encourage my clients to remember the 80/20 rule. Eat healthy 80% of the week and give yourself permission 10-20% of the time to have some fun food. If we overly restrict we have to BREAK OUT OF JAIL and that often means a binge.
Set reasonable weight loss goals: It’s reasonable to have a goal of losing 10% of your total body weight – if you’re 200 pounds – that’s 20 pounds. Once you’ve maintained that weight for a year then tackle the next 20. But keeping that 20 pounds off is more important!
Are You Eating Your Emotions?
- Learn your emotional eating triggers. Stress, anxiety? If you’re not hungry when you eat, what are you going for? A little girl I know says she gets bored and eats. Some eat to be soothed, comforted, because it TASTES so good and they feel emotionally BETTER when full. (Thin women feel just the opposite – feeling too full is uncomfortable emotionally.)
- Ask yourself: How am I feeling? What do I need? From Laura Mellin’s The Solution Weight Loss Program. Paying attention with no judgment to how you are feeling and what you need is a key to acceptance and healthy weight loss.
- Prepare for Success: If you’re going for weight loss, what happens when you reach your GOAL WEIGHT? I saw this happen too often with my clients - they would reach their goal weight and they felt and looked amazing, AND it was terrifying. They got attention from men they didn’t know how to handle or felt they were only being accepted because now they were thinner.
Change Ain’t Easy, but It’s Worth It!
Remember, changing behaviors and life style is a process. If you’ve always hated your body and want to build acceptance or to lose weight to feel better or be healthier it’s going to take time, kindness, focus and WORK to make the changes you want.
If you decide body acceptance, rather than weight loss is your path, that will take time, kindness, focus and WORK to build a loving relationship with yourself.
There is so much support available. For weight loss: If you’re a Kaiser Permanente member, check out their weight loss support groups. Again, Weight Watchers and if you don’t like going to the groups they have online support. For food addiction there’s Overeaters Anonymous both groups and online help.
For specific stress and anxiety management strategies see my book: Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom
Please feel free to email or text me 209 505-2675. I’ll point you in direction of help or if you’re in my area perhaps be able to see you myself.
I offer a complimentary 15 minute consult to point you to new solutions. (209) 505-2675 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Feel free to use all or part of this blog as long as you list my name, website and contact information.