I just learned that the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the Academy of Eating Disorders (AED) and other organizations joined with the Greek sorority, Tri Delta, to raise public awareness about body image issues among American women by sponsoring a “Fat Talk Free Week.” Although the week just ended, the example remains.
Over 10 million women suffer from eating disorders–four times the number of women with breast cancer. And in case you think the comparison is inappropriate, women can and do die from eating disorders!
Supposedly women suffer from depression more than men do. I wonder how much of their depression stems from the hopelessness they feel about their bodies not measuring up to the ideal. I know when I go to my psychiatrist, I get frustrated at the short shrift he gives my concerns about my weight. But then again, I always think that I’ll be happier if I weighed less, yet whenever I have weighed less, I’ve never been happy with myself and my body. Never. Not even when I weighed 110 pounds.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is closely related to eating disorders. It is a real psychological condition where the sufferer obsesses about what he or she sees as unattractive parts of his or her body to the point where he or she cannot function socially or occupationally. The suicide rate for people with BDD is double that of the general population. While it only affects approximately 1% of the population (and males and females equally), it makes sense to me that even milder forms of the disorder can also lead to psychological distress.
Banning “fat talk” for a week might be a small thing to do to battle the psychological damage caused by it. But if a light bulb goes off for one person–“I don’t have to think about being fat all the time!”–then it will be worth it. Resolve to treat yourself the way you would someone you love. Would you constantly berate a close friend or family member about how fat he or she looks? Of course not. (At least I hope not.) Then stop berating yourself for not looking abnormal (the people we idealize for the way they look are actually the abnormal ones; they make up an incredibly small percentage of the population).
Even though “Fat Talk Free Week” just ended, try banning fat talk from your vocabulary for one week of your choosing. Heck, try it for just one day! You might like the way it makes you feel enough to keep it up forever. Here’s hoping.
Go to endfattalk.org to see a video about doing just that.