Talking about the fatness of our bodies is a common thing for women to do. Today Rosie discusses how fat chat becomes almost a process of group bonding. We are asked to resist from joining in, and if a friend starts, that we try to celebrate what we love about them and tell her.
I read Intuitive Eating about 18 months ago. That book talks about 'diet talk' in conjunction with this. I see them as being entangled in each other. I had decided not to engage in fat chat when I read IE. I am in fact very open with women that come to my house that they aren't welcome to speak like that in front of my kids either. I have a friend who loves to rant about her body and I smile and talk about other things, or how funny she is or that her garden is beautiful. I have had to ask her to not do it in front of my kids. They have never heard me do it and they never will. It is SO damaging.
BUT. Fat chat was an enormous part of one of my (now ended) closest friendships. We would regularly discuss our distain and misery at the various parts of our bodies. I think it can be a very strong bonding experience for women. I know that my stopping fat chat, along with stopping dieting was a big part of our friendship ending. There is something about fat chat that creates a closeness and also a camaraderie. It's seen as 'show off' or 'arrogant' to discuss actually liking parts of your body. Of course fat chat is also critical to working up the strength to go on another diet, or to push through another boring gym workout.
Fat chat also leads to people losing the ability to see what their bodies actually look like and can make people self conscious about things they weren't before. They see a slim flat stomached woman complain bitterly about her 'HUGE guts!' and then they think 'well, if she thinks HER stomach is bad, what the heck is mine?!'. I remember I once had an issue with my ears, because I'd heard another woman complain she hated hers, I thought, well, mine must be strange too!
Women wonder why their beautiful perfect daughters hate their bodies, FAT CHAT! A child hears her mother discuss hatred for her body, she doesn't think, 'ugh, Mum is crazy' or 'yeah, glad I don't have a butt like yours!'. No, children want to be on their Mum's side. They want be together and the same, they want to support their mother, so they must also hate their bodies. They must also join in on the assessment, judgement and hatred of their body. I have discussed this with SO many Mothers and they are stunned at this logic. They recognise it instantly as true, we know how our kids blame themselves, want to please, want to 'do what Mum does.'.
My Mother has never engaged in fat chat. She knows her body shape, she carries more weight around her waist than bum, and has great boobs (still at 65!) and great legs. But she was never self conscious about her body when I was a child, she was quite the hippy so there was a fair bit of nudity flying around until I was a teen. I am SO grateful for that. Because that time, where I could look at her body and the lines and folds and strange bumps, allowed me to see how I would look. I can think back now and know that's how my body looks now, and that's ok because that's what Mum's body did too. Sure, my body is larger than hers, but the principle is the same. I am trying to do the same with my girls. I must say, I feel most 'myself' and most connected to her when i have the strength to not care about what I'm wearing when I go to the shops or whatever. What a wonderful role model. I want to get to a point where I can do that and feel like that more often than not. (love you Mum!!!)
Fat chat is big in social media. All weight discussion is. I have several accounts on twitter, my old account had SO much of it, people tweeting their weight, their guilt about what they ate, their inability to fit into their 'skinny' jeans and so on. Calling people out on this behaviour was part of got me attacked brutally earlier in the week. (yay to new twitter account fat chat free!)
I also think fat chat contributes to people feeling ok about being abusive and vile about other people's bodies, especially fat bodies. There is a sense of being allowed, because they hate their (possibly) slimmer bodies, then they see it as OK to be abusive about other people's even fatter bodies. It opens a door of judgement that then leads to the monitoring of fashion (ie. that leggings are not pants BS.) and concern trolling (ie. I'm only worried about your health).
I would like to make the whole world a 'Fat Chat Free Zone'. What a lovely place that would be. We can get close, each woman that stops and talks about stopping with her girlfriends, it will influence others.
What about you, did your Mother engage in fat chat? How did it affect your feelings about your body? Have you had friendships that were big on fat talk? Have you ever talked about things you liked about your body with a group of women? What happened?
To join me in this journalling adventure towards greater self acceptance, be sure to get Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance by the magnificent Rosie Molinary.