So Fat Talk Free week is in full swing and I have a bit of an unannounced treat for you all! A lovely lady got in touch today and said she would like to write something on the subject, so instead of me going on, I would like to introduce you to the wonderful Emma who has written about her experiences of Fat Talk & Anorexia.
Emma – Anorexia & Fat Talk
A dangerous spiral comes into action in that you lose weight which leads to you receiving compliments. Your work has been noticed so you then think you have met the bar of competitiveness, you need to maintain the positive attention you are receiving so you continue exercising and restricting.
Your appearance becomes normal, causing people to stop commenting, you feel as if you have lost your ‘special skills’ so you think you have let yourself down and you cannot compare to others around you. This means you continue to work out, eat less and loose weight to have that buzz which you previously received.
With each compliment you are made to believe the idea that you have been accepted and have met the high standards of competiveness around you. In fact, you are sinking lower and lower accepting the fat voice as your own.
Fat talk effects me in the respect that when I feel down, sad or tired I focus more on myself and less on my surroundings. I find it hard to share my feelings to the outside world so all of my problems and issues circle inside. Everything is internalized and I cannot escape. When this happens I find that I highlight all of my flaws and issues causing a doubting voice to emerge. The doubting voice takes over and means that I do not believe I can do anything, I do not believe I am good enough. This feeling of inferiority causes the fat voice to emerge meaning that I believe I am fat and cannot compare my body image to anyone else’s. When this gets started it doesn’t stop. The fat chants go round and round in my head making me feel worse and more inferior, causing there to be an even larger decline in my mood. I go more internal and this means that I keep all of my feelings locked up in a cage inside.
The only way that I get through these dark times is with the belief that it will pass. Soon the bad feelings will be over. I have to push through, continue with my eating plan, keep myself busy and surround myself with people who make me feel good and appreciate me for who I am. These factors all make up for the bad feelings on the inside.
Before you can rid yourself of fat talk you need to work on the idea that not all of what you see is truth. I know as much as anyone how hard it is! But the media doesn’t always tell us the whole story or the truth. Images of slim models can be manipulated in a way which makes them more attractive and slimmer, teachers can make you feel inferior and not worthy of their praise, people surrounding you may not appreciate you for the beautiful person you are and the skills you have, as an individual you may not be accepted for who you are or you may have lost your way with education, relationships or work. When these things occur you have to remember you are a worthy and lovely person who deserves every piece of praise for persistently trying your best. Don’t feel disheartened if you do not feel accepted, it is because the people around you are too judgmental, don’t sink to their level and return the hostility. There will be plenty of people around you who will accept you, and love you for who you are and the qualities you possess. Don’t waste your time with doubters and haters.
Finally just be happy to be you because you are an individual, you are beautiful; you have everything to live for! Have courage and be strong.
Thank you Emma! What do you think about Fat Talk? How does it affect you?
So the Fat Talk Free week theme continues and today possibly my biggest pet hate of subjects, the DIET!
I could get started on the whole thing of diets, how most of the time they fail and that living a healthy, balanced life is the way forward but I shall refrain (thought I would get it in there!), because today I wanted to talk about the thing that angers me more than the diet itself and that’s the way the person doing one just loves to shout about it and throw it in your face…
A friend of mine has recently been on a ‘diet’ (despite my attempt at education) and it seems to worm it’s way into EVERY conversation we ever have.
“I lost x this week”, “In total I have lost x”, “I need to lose x more”
Congratulations if it makes you feel better about yourself, if it increases your self confidence that is amazing and as they are doing it in a very healthy way then I don’t have much of a problem with it, but I do have a problem with constantly hearing about it. This is where we start to get into the realm of how fat talk affects others, as opposed to the person talking.
I don’t know if it is just me, I expect it isn’t, but every time I hear it, it really does make me feel uncomfortable, like I have nothing to report on that topic, like I should be losing weight just so I can say “oh same here, I have lost x”. It makes me feel pressured to say something in return, something along the conventional “it shows, you look great, oh well done”. The fact is, I couldn’t care less, I don’t want to hear it and it makes me feel very awkward. Given what I do with my life I try to educate this person, but it seems to make little or no difference.
But it gets so much worse and you start hearing about how this person tells the “fat” woman at work about how much weight they are losing in the hope it will “inspire” them to do the same. Then you start to realise that it is not just an obsession with the diet, but the big picture, the way they view body image in its entirety.
Now this person knows about my past and you would think that knowing that they would be a little bit careful about the way they talk about it to me of all people, but in general it is bad for everyone around this kind of talk. It’s almost like using your own new found self-esteem to crush everyone else’s. It’s repetitive, boring and damaging, yes for some reason, if one person is doing it, everybody must participate because you are not their idea of what you should look like.
Diet’s, like cigarettes should come with a warning;
“May make you talk obsessively about yourself, your weight loss and make everyone around you feel like shit”
You only have to look at some of the figures out there, unfortunately not that many out there which include men, but;
- A study found that over half of girls and a third of boys between 7 and 12 admitted feeling unhappy with their body and wanted to be thinner
- In the US as many as 70% of adolescent girls thought they were overweight and had dieted at some point
Many articles out there blame the media portrayal of image and how it affects young people, but the fact is the way we talk about it affects them too. How many people reading this have heard one of their parents talking about their weight or diet? How often did you engage in this talk in school? With record numbers of young people dieting the talk is rife in school, out of school and on social networks, everywhere you turn, someone, somewhere, is talking about their diet. Does hearing it make you think you should diet?
This is one of many reasons why Fat talk Free is such an important concept, dieting is just one example, possibly one of the biggest and most talked about subjects and without a doubt one of the things that not only do we hear so often, but makes us think about the way we look and if we, like everyone else, should do it because it is expected.
So Fat Talk Free commitment time, if you insist on a diet, can you go without sharing it with everyone else?
For those of you that don’t know, this week is Fat Talk Free week, but what I hear you ask, is Fat Talk Free?
It has been in the US for the past 3 years and has only just been bought to the UK by The Succeed Foundation, it is a week to get people to look at the way they talk about body image, weight, appearance and all the derogatory ways we do that. There are two events in London that Succeed are putting on, which will be attended by Body Gossip, Men Get Eating Disorders Too and other campaigns that have close links to body image. So in my true style, I thought I would kick the week off with a blog…
One thing that has annoyed me in the run up to Fat Talk Free week is the way that Succeed have publicised it. Women have these issues, when women talk about…, when a group of girls are together…
It is just yet another time that the issue has been feminised when the fact is the way we talk about our bodies has a lot to do with men too, the conversations may be slightly different, the way they are had may be slightly different but under it all it is the same issue, as a nation we are obsessed with ideals and the way we fit into them and we like to talk about it, usually negatively.
I have always said and will continue to say that men have missed a lot of the body image debate. But gender roles in society, in my opinion, have shifted away from the traditional model of women being the ones who have to watch their appearance and men being the ones who went out and built the career. This went a long time ago and as a result women are now under the same career pressures as men and men are under more pressure to fit in to appearance related ideals. This is of course a very narrow example, but otherwise I could go on about how I think it has come round to this all night long!
So what is it with men, we certainly don’t have the sample conversations I have seen on the Succeed website, about sliding into jeans and “does my bum look big in this” type discussions. The conversations are different, they revolve around muscle, height, fitness and the like, but they can have the same damaging consequences. Doing what I do, I speak to men all the time who engage in the kind of talk about how they need to look a certain way to be considered attractive all the way to people who feel they need to go the gym 6 times a week just to keep this up and when guys get together it is the same body competition, just in a slightly different way. You so often hear men in a pub, talking competitively about how much they have worked out or how much they can press or lift, which can make people feel very insecure about their appearance and ability, they may not show it, but it can.
Fat Talk is a very general term, you call it what you like, Fat Talk, Muscle Talk, Height Talk, but it is all the same thing. When we talk about our bodies excessively, it not only creates problems for you, but for the others that have to sit there and listen. It is certainly a fact that the way we are so obsessed with ideals isn’t helpful and the fact we have such a narrow view of what is to be considered to be perfect really limits our ability to see that really if someone is being themselves, then that is pretty much as perfect as it is ever going to be, for them!
You could blame the media, the way body image is portrayed, but we have a responsibility to moderate what we are exposed to and how we look at it. Yes I believe that the way body image is shown needs to change, but we need to change also.
I feel the need to mention Natasha Devon and the whirlwind that is Body Gossip, for every time I meet with her she makes it abundantly clear that body image is an issue that affects everybody! And it is one of the only campaigns by far that makes an extra effort to include everyone in the body image debate.
So as this is all getting very long now, my message is easy, can we take this one week to look at the way we talk about ourselves and other people? And, can we also take this week to look at the way men are affected? As it is all too often forgotten.
Today is world mental health day, lots of charities are doing lots of different things to raise awareness about their campaigns and take it as an opportunity to publicise the work they do and pass on their important message at the same time.
The fact is, we can campaign all we like, but if people’s attitudes are not open to change, it will make little difference. The way that so many people conceptualise mental illness and the way they talk about it instantly makes so many of us afraid to talk openly about the issues we face.
Let’s take twitter yesterday when someone merely posted “Louis Walsh must be mentally ill” for letting someone through, as harmless as a comment like that is, it shows the mentality and the way people view mental illness. That is just one example, I think I could find at least one example every day, of someone using it as a way to insult someone, belittle someone or used as some kind of joke.
It is used to describe bad decisions, to describe someone voicing their opinion and even as a show of criminality “oh they must have been mad to do that”. It is spoken about using many a derogatory term, played down or seen as attention seeking when the fact is, mental illnesses are like any other illness, just because you can’t see them, or they have few physical symptoms they are there and they are real.
It’s no wonder we still see it as a taboo, something we can’t talk about, if we throw around the term as we do now. Can you think about a time where you have used it in a derogatory manner? At the same time can you think of someone you know that has a mental health problem?
If you can’t think of someone, I bet they are still there, but they just haven’t spoken out. Most of us know the figure now, 1 in 4 people, that is how many will suffer from some kind of mental health condition in their life time. Be it depression, bi polar, schizophrenia, eating disorders, personality disorders and the many more that exist I bet you will know at least one person with one of them.
That doesn’t mean they are stupid, criminals, lunatics or any other word or stigma that has been attached to mental health over the years. It simply means they have difficulties, like we all have from time to time and with that they need help, someone to talk to and they need to not be afraid of talking openly about these issues and admitting they need help. Without this feeling of safety so many have gone through years of struggling, before admitting they need help. In my case I never admitted I needed help, until it was forced upon me.
It shouldn’t have to be this hard for anyone, we can talk about most other illnesses very openly with certain people, but the progress in mental health has been slow. My thoughts today turned to what we can do as individuals, while it is all well and good that there are fantastic campaigns out there providing the platforms from which these discussions can take place I also think we all need to be responsible as individuals, to be accommodating, tolerant and understanding of people in general, regardless of someone’s mental health.
So as it is world mental health day I wanted to see how much just a few people can achieve, why not just think about what you say and how you say it, but yourself in someone else’s shoes. How would you feel walking down the street if you had a mental health problem and hearing the words “nutter, looney, schizo, weirdo” while you are trying to deal with what could well feel like the lowest point of your life.
Why not see today as a day for tolerance and caring for others and make it day 1 in a personal commitment to stop the stigma.
I was shocked when I heard the news of Harry Moseley’s death, for those that do not know him, or hadn’t heard of him, he was an 11 year old boy, who made a massive difference in people’s lives for the short time he was around.
Harry suffered from an inoperable brain tumour and despite fighting through it for years, lost his battle on the 8th of October.
Not something I would usually blog about, but this just goes to show the strength and determination of our young people to make a difference in other people’s lives. Harry ran a campaign http://www.helpharryhelpothers.com/ which raised awareness of brain tumours and raised money for cancer research UK. He had such an accomplished life, working with Virgin and even persuading the prime minister to wear one of his bands to promote awareness, in doing this he raised over £85,000 to help raise awareness of the condition that sadly took his life.
Having taken twitter by storm he soon gathered a massive following and used it as a way of getting the message out there, promoting his awareness work and telling the moving tale of his life, the up’s and the down’s, while always seeming so positive about things and he should be proud to know just what a difference he has made in so many people’s lives.
Too often we hear of young people being blamed for everything, for our young people in society being broken and out of control, yet we forget about the young people that have a story to tell and do so much good, those that are fighting to change the way things are and helping others, Harry was certainly one of these young people. Young people are selfless and caring just like anyone else, we cannot tarnish a generation with negativity, when we can reflect on the positive work done by young people.
Something I thought the world should know, an amazing boy, an amazing life. My thoughts go out to his family at what must be an incredibly difficult time for them but at least they can take comfort in the fact that his son, no matter how short a life, made more of a difference then most of us will make in a lifetime.