Posts Tagged ‘body hatred’

We all think we’re really, really smart.

And we are.  Evolution has turned us into some of the smartest, highly adaptable creatures on the face of the planet so far.  Evolution has done this through creating systems of shortcuts in our brains and bodies to ensure most time can be spent on thriving rather than simple survival.

Evidence of these systems is all around us, and depending on the discipline, the words may vary but the concepts do not.  In psychology we talk about heuristics (categories so we know how to deal with things), in neuroscience it’s brain categorization and cortex organization, in social science and justice movements we talk about stereotypes and prejudice. 

In each idea we see remnants of our incredible adaptation; we have these categories in our brains because if we had to think about daily minutia, we wouldn’t have (any) time left over for the business of thinking and living.  Invisibila just did a podcast on categories, talking about a person without the ability to create simple heuristics who was often baffled by different shaped couches (what is this?  is it a bomb?  I better stay away).

Categories are a part of our brains and our world, but if we’re not aware of these unconscious processes bad things happen.  This is why you’re more likely to associate negative words with a black face, even if you don’t think you’re racist.  This is why you promote a man after he mentors someone, while looking at the same task as part of a woman’s role in the workplace.  It’s why you assume someone who reads her daily horoscopes and drinks herbal tea is a holistic healer rather than a school teacher, even though it’s much more likely she is a teacher.

It’s the same reason we look at fat people and assume we know all sorts of things.

The thing that sucks?  It’s not entirely our fault.

We are deluged on a daily basis with news stories and talk shows and commercials, all telling us about how important it is to be thin(ner), how it’s a health issue, how we should be totally focused on our bodies.  This triggers what’s called the availability heuristic; when something’s always around and it’s on the top of our brain, we’re much more likely to overestimate the occurrence of this thing.  It’s the same principle behind why people are afraid of plane crashes, when it’s WAY more likely they’ll be in a car crash.

Bodies do not always reflect our behavior.  We’re taught that fat people get fat because they’re lazy, because they eat junk food, because their eating is out of control.  We’re taught that you can be thin if only…

If only you try harder, eat less, exercise more, TRY HARDER, TRY HARDER, TRY HARDER.

No.  No, no, no.

It’s been pointed out that if diets were a drug, no self-respecting doctor in the world would prescribe them.  It’s been said that the billion dollar diet industry is built that way because no diet has been shown to work for long term, sustainable, healthy weight loss.  EVER.

Just as we don’t accept total character judgments based on skin color or hair color or gender, it’s time to acknowledge we have enormous prejudice against fat bodies.  And just as skin color is ultimately a ridiculous way to determine anything about a person’s character, so body size does not determine character.

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Recovery is a tricky thing.  Not just because there’s triggers everywhere you look, but because it’s a personal journey, and often a bit different for everyone.  How much should you say to a stranger?  How do you explain why you’re drinking club soda, or why you don’t keep candy in the house, or why you had to move out of your childhood neighborhood?

this is how we cut ourselves down so other women will feel comfortable around us.

This is a question I’ve been struggling with (so bear with me, this article may have fewer references than usual).  One of my big triggers is having people discuss weight loss efforts, so you can imagine my day to day life is triggers galore.  I read an article about body hatred as a bonding technique for women , but we can all testify to the truth of it without even reading the supporting literature. The literature that’s even in Glamour  – it’s so SHOCKING that women have poor body image, isn’t it?! It’s ubiquitous for women to share their hated body parts (“god, my ass is so big!”), weight gain (“I swear I gained 5 pounds just looking at that cake!”), weight loss efforts (“I shouldn’t eat that cookie”), sage family advice (“once on your lips, forever on your hips”) and so on.  This talk is everywhere in every kind of situation, and can serve as filler for silences or in new, uncomfortable situations.

While this discussion is old, my concern is where those in recovery should draw the line between speaking up and letting conversation pass.  I don’t suffer from anorexia, but I would assume listening to thin women (or women of any size) complain about their shape would be difficult to deal with.  It’s difficult for me to deal with!  The question is, do I ask other people not to talk about those things around me?  Or do I just refrain from engaging in that conversation?

It’s different with close friends, who, at least in my case, know that I’m dealing with food issues and for the most part respect my desire not to talk about weight loss.  It’s different with coworkers, or people in the gym, or clients.  With client’s its easier, because there it’s a clear distinction between therapist and consumer.  Do I tell my supervisor not to discuss her daily eating plan because it makes me want to binge?  Do I share with the woman who uses the locker next to mine that when she tries to get me to buy her diet products, it is uncomfortable because I’m aiming for recovery?

how much hate can you stand?

We tell alcoholics and addicts to avoid liquor stores and “wet places.”  To be assertive in their recovery.  At the end of the day, however, I believe most of recovery is dealing with your own stuff.  It’s not anyone’s responsibility not to talk about diets but mine; my responsibility is to increase awareness and manage my reaction to these triggers, because in no reality are triggers always avoidable.  Sometimes, though, that boundary is hard to maintain.