Saturday, January 2, 2016

The January Body Positive Blues

[Content note: fatphobic/weight/food stuff.]

I talk about this nearly every year. January is the season to truly hate our bodies. We come out of the holidays with all of those INDULGE messages and then suddenly in January, we're supposed to set a resolution to work out, eat "better," lose weight--and generally feel shameful about our flabby, doughy, *DISGUSTING* bodies while torturing ourselves into thinness just in time for "bathing suit season."

It's enough to make even the most body positive bitch, like yours truly, get a case of the January blues.

One of the things that bugs me the most about this time of year is that it is NEVER a quiet, internal "I want to get back in shape" process that individuals embark upon on their own. Nope--it's VERY driven by the billion dollar weight loss industry, EVERYONE gets in on it, and it's continuously in your face.

Take advertisements this time of year. You don't even have to listen carefully to hear it, because it will be smashed upside your head. Every gym is running a special. Restaurants roll out their "light" menus (which are all buried by March.) Department stores like Kohls and Old Navy move their active wear to the front of the store and begin running special promotions. Special K is. every. where.


What bothers me most, above all, is how the messages reach the youngest ears, especially from the adults around them. Adult women (mothers, aunts, etc.) who have internalized this pressure have enormous impact on the body image formation of girls, and perpetuate it with them. In my line of work, I do frequent research on this topic for grants...and needless to say, the situation grows more grim all the time. According to a 2013 CDC study, only 4% of high school aged girls were not actively trying to lose weight (compared to 67% of boys.) A study of girls ages 3-6 in the Southern US showed that nearly 50% of them were already worried about their weight. (British Journal of Psychology, 2010.)

Ages 3-6!

I think about a mom at an event I was at recently. She couldn't stop talking about how terrible the holidays are for your weight and how she wasn't going to eat anything and get "fatter" this year. All while 20 or so 13-17 year olds were nearby. This woman was intending no ill will toward the girls (including her daughter). She only spoke of her own dissatisfaction with her own body. But it doesn't really work that way, does it? Talking shit about ourselves in front of kids isn't just about us. It's inherently teaching them how to view themselves too. "If she thinks she's fat, what does she think about me?" "If she's disgusting, maybe I'm disgusting."

This mentality sets off a domino effect. It is inextricably linked to never feeling good enough, undue emphasis placed on physical attributes, and complicated, toxic, unhealthy relationships with food and eating.

It's got to stop some place, right? Why not with us?

Listen, I can't avoid the January body positive blues all together. I can't stop the endlessly fatphobic messages of the media. It's going to be there as long as profit motives rule.

But I'm not entirely powerless either. I can stop my own perpetuation of these messages. I can refuse to talk like that mom. I can refuse to purchase products which pander to this mentality. I can start discussions about this with others. I can point out toxic message when I hear them. I can encourage critical media consumption. I can (try) to practice radical self-love and acceptance (which, really, is a huge middle finger to the whole system when you think about it.)

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1 comment:

  1. I'm feeling this post so badly. I grew up hearing a lot of negative self-talk where weight is concerned, and I've been determined to not let my girls hear me talk about myself the same way (Am I good at it? Well, better than my own mother was, but still not awesome).

    I've got one kid who is a healthy eater (and by healthy I mean, she eats, and doesn't give a shit about it... which I think is good), and one not so much, but I don't hear a lot of negative self-talk from either of them, which is a relief. But yeah, it is frustrating to make such an effort only to have it undone by well-meaning relatives, or even (as in the case you mentioned) relative strangers.


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