In management jargon, as I’m sure lots of you know, there are outputs (i.e., you make money, or don’t; you get the contract signed, or don’t) and then there are hygiene issues. Hygiene issues are essentially things that don’t directly affect your outputs, but it’s a really good idea to pay attention to them nevertheless. An example of a hygiene issue is salary. I’m pretty sure everybody alive wants a job they enjoy that pays well. It turns out that pay, however, becomes a “hygiene issue” when job satisfaction is in place. That is, if you enjoy your job, you prefer to be well-paid, but if you aren’t, it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker for you. Just because something’s a hygiene issue doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect your bottom line: start paying good people bunk wages and see how fast they fly out the door.
And so we have the evil that is fat talking. I’m gonna get a little confessional on your asses. I went through my fair share of bullying as a too-tall, overweight and extremely awkward kid in a Catholic school. Even that three-letter word makes me cringe a little. Absolutely sucked to be a teenager in the 90s when people started spelling it with a ph and using it as a synonym for awesome. Still, I can’t think of a better term for the terrible habit about which I speak than fat-talking, because it renders all the nasty, ugly associations I have when I hear the word “fat”. Incidentally, the ugliness of which I speak is the hurtful bullying children (and even sometimes adults, albeit in covert ways) are capable of unloading on one one another.
I’m not one for sticking my head in the sand. At the risk of sounding redundundant (see what I did there?), I was raised Catholic, and so I’m adept at looking at myself with the shame and disdain that behooves a human being, born of sin, etc. and so on. I’m over that, but what is known as Catholic guilt, as all recovering Catholics know, persists, a bit like herpies. Thus, with catechism comes a constant state of self-scrutinizing and judgement.
But this isn’t all bad!
It also means that I’m constantly trying to be a better person than I was yesterday. It also means that I’m (now) absolutely comfortable with the notion that I’ll always be imperfect and there will always be room for improvement. And thank god(dess?) for that, because wouldn’t life be so boring otherwise?
I digress. (One of) the point(s) is this: it is absolutely important to know whether you are at a healthy weight. I’m going to step out on a limb here and say most of us do, even if that doesn’t correspond to BMI – we know our bodies and what feels right, and while that’s not the same from any one person to the next, nobody knows exactly what that right weight is other than the person standing on the scale. Nobody is helped by a well-intentioned friend or family member telling them that they need to lose weight. If they do need to lose weight, they know they do, and hearing it from loved ones only makes them feel worse about themselves, and feeling bad about oneself when one is prone to emotional eating…you see where this is going.
So that leads me to the next and more crucial point: let’s turn the golden rule on its head, shall we?
How about for one freaking second we do unto ourselves as we would have done unto others?
(Sidenote: You have no idea how confusing that sentence was to produce. Does not roll off the keyboard.)
I know I can only speak for myself, but for me, fat is an ugly word. It doesn’t just mean a person carries too much weight. It means they’re not as (fill in the blank with something good) as everyone else. It means they’re too (fill in the blank with something bad). Fat means should-be-lonely and not-good-enough. And it defines neither me, nor anyone I have ever known who would have felt better a few pounds lighter.
You know, when we’re trying to lose weight, we’re constantly being told to count calories, but we don’t count the negativity we pile on ourselves incessantly. And I need to insert a disclaimer here: I do this. Waaaay too much. I fat talk.
“I feel fat.” “I look fat in this.” “I look like a sausage.” “My arms are huge.” “I have bingo arms.” “My ass is saggy.” etc. and so on ad infinitum.
Ask me if those sentences motivate me to get moving and make healthy decisions. The answer is negatory. (Military speak makes it sound way more serious, right? I AM SERIOUS, SOLDIER.)
Talking badly about our bodies – particularly if we’re women – is part of a right of passage into adulthood. But it’s a bad right of passage, and we need to unlearn it, particularly so we can stop this terrible tradition from continuing generation after generation. But also because it doesn’t solve the problem. Assuming the problem is that we need to lose weight, willfully badmouthing ourselves is not addressing that – and in fact it’s probably having the opposite effect!
At the risk of sounding seriously American Cheese Balls Central, I’m going to break this down the way I see it:
We are freaking beautiful creatures. Our bodies, with all their imperfections (what’s perfect?) and differences and similarities are extraordinary. Feeling well (not to be confused with feeling good – and there is a difference – but that’s for another post) is one of the very most important things we can do in our everyday lives, because feeling well makes everything else exponentially more possible. There is absolutely a direct link between our emotional and physical well being, and we reinforce our good or bad health with they way we talk to ourselves, and about ourselves to others.