Bias. Stereotyping. Prejudice. Discrimination. Bullying.
These ugly words describe a serious problem spotlighted by Weight Stigma Awareness Week. 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. Hello? Anybody home?
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!
By internalizing this cultural bias, we condemn ourselves to living within its limitations. We allow the bully to move into our brains.
MAKING THE INVISIBLE, VISIBLE
If you know anything about me, you know that I am on this journey too, and that is why I am passionate about making the invisible, visible. You can only change what you are aware of.
With eating, I help people see how their deeply embedded beliefs, thoughts, and feelings are keeping them stuck in old patterns that will never change as long as they keep playing their old tapes. Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshop teach you a revolutionary new way to think, feel, and act, resulting in a life-altering transformation. (Learn more: http://amihungry.com/)
Over the last twelve years I’ve learned that some people are so blinded by their invisible beliefs that they cannot allow themselves to see that there is another way. “Eat what I love? Love what I eat? That’s not possible!” They are trapped in a belief they can't change because they don't recognize the root causes—and most of the people around them are trapped too. They repeat old, even painful, patterns simply because they are familiar. They create their own reality.
What does that have to do with weight stigma? Everything.
WHAT IS THE REALITY THAT YOU ARE CREATING?
I'm not letting the bullies off the hook, but if you believe them, you become them. 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 going to the beach but I hate putting on a bathing suit.
(Add your own here.)
MAKING THE IMPOSSIBLE, POSSIBLE
What if? What if, instead of waiting on the world to change, you booted the bully from your brain? Ask yourself, "How could my life be different if I didn't buy into those limitations?"
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’m going to the beach.
(Add your own here.)
BOOT THE BULLY FROM THE BLOCK
Take your power back. Boot the bully from your brain - then join us in booting the bully from the block!
Eat Mindfully, Live Vibrantly!
Michelle May, M.D.
P.S. You can only change what you are aware of. Any curiosity, discomfort, or outrage this article triggered was intentional. If you felt it, please learn more about weight stigma: http://www.bedaonline.com/2011WSAW/index.html