Weight loss hygiene part I: Fat talking

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.

(drops mic)

I’m out.

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9 thoughts on “Weight loss hygiene part I: Fat talking

  1. Antonia :) says:

    This has absolutely nothing to do with your article but I just wanted to point out, outputs and hygiene issues mean something completely different in my line of work. 😉 Today was what we refer to as a “Code Brown” day! Anyways, loved it, of course. I’ve never been able to stand “fat talk”. At least, not that I remember. You know me better than I know myself so you would know. I think though, talking to friends and coworkers, that the culture is shifting to view things more from a health perspective than an image perspective. I can’t say it’s our age either because a lot of my coworkers are still in their 20’s and it’s the same thing. ‘Course I work in healthcare but, historically, nurses have not been known to put their own health at the forefront. I think that’s changing though. Love you. Keep up the inspiration.

    • Ann says:

      yes – you have always inspired me to see the beauty in myself and the people around me first and foremost, and your intolerance of nastiness directed at oneself or others has always been one of the reasons i love you (that, and how you snort when you laugh). and yeah, most of the medical professionals i know don’t look after themselves as well as they should, usually for lack of time and energy, and maybe as a means of self-medicating as well, since the job can be quite traumatic at times. but i totally agree that society is shifting toward health before image, and i think that’s evident in some of the women celebrities who are being held up as beautiful these days. here’s hoping. much love.

  2. suncitymom says:

    OK–so just got back from our 1.3 mile around the block since couldn’t do it this a.m. due to working at detention center…..and I am reminded of how many times today that I felt FAT and looked down at my belly that’s competing with my boobs—-sometimes it’s just a bit difficult not to think those thoughts———but I will try.

    • Ann says:

      and so this is the shape we’re given, and some people in power decide what is “desireable” and “beautiful”, and they put that image in galleries or magazines and we’re all supposed to feel awful because we don’t marry up to that ideal. no two dogs look the same. and if our eyes were better-atuned, we’d see that no two butterflies look the same, that no two ants look the same. you move, you eat well, and you are beautiful. nature has better things to do with her time than to make us all carbon copies of what’s in vogue at the moment, so we just have to learn to love our individual differences. and i love yours.

  3. Tiana says:

    What you talk about here is so true. However, I am working to challenge the notion that “fat” has to be a dirty word. In my work, I have dubbed myself the “Fat Health Coach” not only because it is true, but because I want to neutralize the term fat. I am fat. Yes. But I also live a full life that I love. I am fat. Yes. But I love and appreciate my amazing body. I am fat. Yes. But I am not ashamed of it. I think when we can stop thinking of fat in such a negative way, we no longer have to feel bad because of it. Being fat becomes a fact and no longer a punishment.

    • Ann says:

      yes – when you first popped over, i had a look at your site, and i found the whole message incredibly empowering. i can absolutely see where you’re coming from, and i have to say that i have known people who qualified as “fat” by society’s (and medicine’s) standards, and who also happened to be tremendously healthy, beautiful, radiant, and confident. i absolutely see this perspective, but i don’t think that speaking negatively about oneself – something you absolutely do not advocate – is healthy. when we do that about our weight, it’s been dubbed “fat talking,” and i still have my personal hang-ups with the word “fat” that frankly i’m not sure will ever go away. still, i really appreciate what you do with your coaching and your blogging…we might have different approaches, but i think we’re heading the same direction.

      • Tiana says:

        Thanks for checking my stuff out! I’m familiar with the terms that we’ve been given to help us shame and oppress ourselves. Such a tragedy! But, I agree, we are traveling along the same path!

  4. this may be a guy thing but I find I can use my negative feelings about fat, (being fat, feeling fat, looking fat) as motivation to make better choices about eating and exercising…sort of a tough love approach to better living. the trick is to know when to be tough and when to be kind and always remember the love part.

    • Ann says:

      yeah – i guess i don’t feel any love when i hear the word “fat,” but that may have lots to do with growing up overweight (kids are dicks. i love them, but it’s true.) you’re right, though, as long as love leads, things can only get better.

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