Saturday, June 1, 2013

'Fat Talk,' or Lack Thereof

Something my therapist has brought up several times is why I've always had bad body image. Had there been comments from my parents? My brother? My friends? Boyfriends? No, no, no, and no. In fact, no one has ever made a negative comment about my weight—except to express concern when I've gotten too skinny. I suppose that could be a result of me never having been overweight, but I think also because I've been really lucky to have amazing family and friends. Intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate people with the good sense not to make weight or appearance much of an issue.

Which is why it sometimes seems baffling to me that I've always been so gosh darn obsessed with my weight. It just seems so shallow and out of character for me, you know? Anyway, maybe that's why articles like this have never really resonated with me: 'Fat Talk' Compels, but Carries a Cost. When I sit down and think about it, I can count on one hand (well, maybe two hands) the number of conversations I can remember having with friends about feeling fat, wanting to lose weight, or any other general body dissatisfaction. Is this weird? Maybe I'm just lucky. Maybe I've just gotten good at steering conversations away from that stuff that I don't even realize it anymore. Maybe I'm so wrapped up in my own internal 'fat talk' that I'm totally oblivious to all the outside 'fat talk' happening around me.

Anyway, I've been thinking about this because I can honestly say that my body image is better right now that it has been in, like, years. No, I don't love my body, but I'm okay with it. Actually, I'm better than okay with it: I it?

Is it a coincidence that I am also at my highest weight in over five years? Is it the universe's greatest irony that I've spent most of that time killing myself to lose weight in pursuit of that elusive perfect, skinny body when in fact, the best cure to my body image woes was to gain weight? Someone pinch me.

I was walking down a busy street in College City yesterday afternoon in shorts and a t-shirt, watching myself in the passing storefront windows—because I still lack the ability to pass any reflective surface without scrutinizing my body—and realized, with a jolt, that I wasn't actually disgusted by the sight of myself. I realized that I wasn't fat, wasn't super disgusting, and wasn't a blobby freak of nature. I'm not super skinny anymore; I'm not even skinny, just normal. And that's fine.

The biggest body image woes I have right now are more related to feeling lazy and untoned, since I don't really exercise at all. The pain still makes it kind of tough, but I'm making an effort to get out and at least walk, if nothing else. Anyone ever used My Yoga Online? I'm thinking of trying some videos there.

Anyway, my point is: I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin than I have in a long long time, and am pretty much perfectly okay with the way I look. (Well, almost!) 'Fat talk' takes on a whole new meaning when you've got anorexia, and I'm proud to say that there is very little 'fat talk' happening in my brain right now. I can't say I've noticed any more or less of it among other women around me, but I can say that the internal obsessing has lessened tremendously.


  1. Its so lovely to read this post!

    Mainly because I've only ever heard of body acceptance of therapists and in the back of my mind I've always been in denial that it was possible to actually LIKE your body when it wasnt anorexicly tiny.
    You've persevered through recovery, gone through the hardest times and now you have the reward. You deserve it totally and completely.
    Well done

  2. Thanks a ton for the reminder that your perceptions of your body DO adjust to weight restoration, so happy to hear that you've made it far enough to realize that healthy really is the best way to be. During periods of weight gain I've definitely noticed that after a "grace period" of a few weeks I ended up actually liking my body at higher weights.

    I had a similar experience with lack of "fat talk". No one EVER called me fat (like you said, probably because I was never overweight), but I still developed a huge hang-up about not getting to be fat. Go figure. Type-A people that like to achieve sort of have a drive to max out every ideal that society seems to value, and weight loss/exercise can be a seductive channel for the nervous energy those types of people seem to have...but I'm sure there's way more to it than than, of course. Really interesting issue that you bring up here.

    Again, it makes my day to hear that you're experiencing rewards (body acceptance at a healthy weight) after all the years of hard work you've put in. You deserve nothing less than the best.

  3. Kaylee, I relate to this so much. My body hatred/discomfort/dysmorphia comes from within; it has nothing to do with outside criticism and never has, and is also very different from the "fat talk" described in articles like the one you mention. I can see why that kind of talk is problematic, but mostly I just find it puzzling. The other day, my 15-year-old sister (who is athletic and healthy and normal-weight) was complaining about having cellulite on her legs as - to my bemusement - she stood in the kitchen eating chocolate chips out of the bag. Then she changed the subject and went off happily to do something else, having forgotten what she was upset about a minute before. I'm jealous that she can have those thoughts and move on (not to mention that she can casually eat chocolate chips out of the bag). My own body-related fixations are private and paralyzing; they make me miserable and incapable of thinking about anything else or doing anything productive, sometimes for hours or days. I can recognize this as ridiculous and shallow and "out of character" for me (I value things like kindness and integrity much more highly than I value appearance, and I would never judge other people the way I judge myself), but the body-image obsession feels completely out of my control.

    Okay, I didn't mean to make this comment all about me - sorry! But I have to say I laughed at your description of feeling compelled to look at your reflection in every store window, because I do the exact same thing. (Part of the reason I know my body issues are irrational is that I can see myself as decent-looking when I'm surprised by my reflection in a window or unfamiliar mirror, but only as ugly and gross when I scrutinize my body - several times a day, when I'm really struggling - in my bedroom mirror.)

    Anyway, I'm really glad you're feeling good in your skin. That is great to hear, and you deserve to enjoy all the health- and recovery-related progress you've made.