In This Episode:
This episode is all about recognizing where existing in a fat-phobic society has impacted my life by means of feeling shame and fear while preventing myself from experiencing moments of joy. We will focus on how to reclaim that joy and confront those fears.
As I started to gain confidence in myself during the start of my body acceptance journey, I took inventory of more recent situations I experienced that I can look at with greater perspective and recognize now how fat-phobia played a crucial role in those events. When I started to step back and see these situations more clearly, making sense of how systemic fat phobia in society has directly impacted my own personal and professional growth, I then started to remove shame around various aspects of my life - failed diets, not being ‘good enough’, being assertive, having preferences, etc.
Prior to this discovery, I did not see how much I was living in constant fear and shame even in doing some basic things. There was always this automated filter embedded in me before I approached doing anything, especially in public or with people I cared too much about what they thought. It was so ingrained in me from the time I was little that if I didn’t fit in society's rule of what a woman should look like, then I must carry feelings of being ashamed, I must be excluded from participating in experiences, I must always be in a constant state of “bettering myself”. And, if I did what I was expected, then I cold experience being attractive to others, being popular, getting the better job, having more success, more money, more perfection.
Things I feared as a fat person…
*Eating in public
*Sitting on flimsy outdoor furniture
*Airplane seats & seatbelts - especially in the middle row
*Public swimming pools, beaches and of course bathing suits
*Running in gym class
*Shorts and tank tops
*Being naked/in underwear in front of other people
*Narrow bathroom stalls and having to go #2
*Gym locker rooms
*Any activity with a weight limit (zip lining, horseback riding, cycling, etc)
*Walking by teenagers, particularly boys
*Working out in public
*Splitting my pants in public
*Needing to change my clothes while out and there's nothing around in my size
*Always being the fattest person in the room
*Dating, putting myself out there
*Tight fitting clothing
*A bad smell not from me but around me, or a fart sound
*Being by myself in public
*Walking into a plus size store at a mall
*Booth at a restaurant
*Narrow chairs with arms on them
*Being on stage, center of attention
*Sitting in the back seat of a car when the car is full
*Judgement for buying "unhealthy foods" at the grocery store
*Being hungry and wanting to eat when everyone else around you isn't wanting to eat
*Walking into a non plus-size store (especially places like Victoria's Secret) to shop with friends
...and the list goes on and on...
When I look at this list, I am reminded of the endless amount of time I spent preventing myself from experiences and being present in the moment. There are moments when I am reminded of the experiences I have lost, when looking through photo albums or scrapbooks and friends or family will say “don’t you remember how fun that was?” - and a lot of the time, I don’t remember the ‘fun’ - I remember how worried I was about how I looked in that outfit, or that comment I overheard about looking like a beached whale, or how I purged my food in the bathroom at that sleepover that night.
So a few years ago, as I was learning to embrace and accept my body as it is, part of that journey was to face these fears that prevented me from participating or doing even those basic things in my life.
Realizing that I will no longer prevent myself from experiencing life and feeling joy in living and existing as I am. No longer am I giving my precious time on this earth to the fear of what someone else may think of me. If someone else has an issue with how I look, that is 100% on them and their inability to process their own insecurities and break a cycle of behaviors they have witness, learned and now repeating. I cannot control what someone else thinks or even says. I can only control myself and how I react or allow these things to carry on (or not) with me throughout my day.
#1) Make a list of activities you have prevented yourself from doing, or basic day-to-day events that you have feared doing on your own.
#2) Plan activities to confront these fears. Start small. Bring a friend as support initially until you have confidence to do these things on your own.
#3) Before you confront a fear, sit with it for a moment. Sit in quiet, take slow deep breaths.
#4) Visualize all of the worse possible things that could happen. Then, LOGICALLY, make a counter list of actual evidence you have that will prove those bad things will happen. I assure you, they won't.
#5) Now, visualize all of the positive things that could happen and focus in on those.
#6) Don't aim for perfection. Life is messy and so are we. Again, we cannot control outside factors. We can only control how we react and how we allow those things to affect us. So, don't get off that plane if all you fear is asking for a seatbelt extender - don't let the shame keep you from experiencing the bigger picture of these moments. Keep moving forward.
#7) Treat yo'self! Celebrate the wins. Learn from doing.
#8) Talk about it and your experience with others. And, keep going back to that list and ticking off the next challenge. You got this!
Trigger Warning: Discussion of self-harm, suicide, dieting and eating disorders will be touched on this episode. --- This episode is sponsored by Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. Create your own podcast with Anchor by visiting https://anchor.fm/app --- Have a comment? Want to share your experience after listening to this podcast episode?
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