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Dr. Susan Albers Headshot

A Week Without the "F" Word: 5 Ways to End Fat Talk

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The media strikes again. Last week, the cover of a tabloid magazine called Khloe Kardashian, a reality TV star, the "F" word. They took a jab at her weight even on her wedding day. Shame on them! We can all feel for Khloe. She is a woman who is constantly being compared to her two petite sisters who are well over a foot shorter than she is. Jessica Simpson is another celebrity who knows how she feels. The media frequently calls her the "F" word. Just last week Fox, in a moment of poor judgment, poked fun at her weight in a cartoon. Isn't it time to put a stop to using the "F" word to hurt and bash people and ourselves?

It's not just magazines. We all use the "F" word way too much. Can you go a week without using the F word? If you're not sure, here is your chance to give it a try. The Academy of Eating Disorders and Delta Delta Delta are supporting a Fat Talk Free™ Week (FTFW) October 19th-23rd. This is a five-day awareness campaign to challenge and begin to reverse the prevalent and damaging pursuit of the "thin ideal" by women of all ages. If you would like to host an event see: Body Image Program Events.

Think for a moment about how you use the word "fat." Is it one of these three reasons?

1) AS A JUDGMENT: Unfortunately, the "F" word is often used like it was toward Khloe Kardashian. It is used as a judgment rather than a description. It's confusing and simply not logical that we use the same word to describe people who are size 2 or 22. How does this make sense?

2) TO COMMUNICATE HOW YOU FEEL: When you say, "I feel fat" many people nod sympathetically. In this context, it is as short hand way of communicating how you feel. It's interesting that we pin insecure and uncomfortable feelings onto our bodies instead of reasons that might really underlie the discomfort.

3) IN COMPARISONS: Do you stand in a circle and bash your body with friends or coworkers? If so, you aren't alone. Critically discussing and comparing your body often happens as casually as if talking about the weather. Imagine walking into a crowd and stating that you are happy or comfortable with your body. How would people look at you? It's a shame that it is almost a cultural norm and expected that you be dissatisfied with your body. You may even feel pressure to label your own body with the "F" word even when you aren't by diagnostic standards.

FIVE TIPS TO GET YOU THROUGH AN "F" TALK FREE WEEK:

1) Label Emotions. Instead of, "I feel fat," try to be more specific. When you hear yourself saying, "I feel fat," use actual feeling words to describe your emotions like angry, upset or frustrated. You are likely to see that it can be challenging to erase this common phrase.

2) Stop "F" Talk. When people start to talk negatively about their bodies or get into obsessive diet talk, simply change the topic. Divert. Introduce a more positive conversation. Don't allow F talk to be normal, casual conversation.

3) Don't Ask. Avoid the little phrase our partners hate to hear, "Do I look fat in this?" If you must, a better choice is, "Does this look flattering?"

4) Stop Judging, Be Compassionate. Avoid giving compliments to people who have lost weight. Many people twist positive comments around (ex. what did they think of me before I lost weight?). Also, we don't know if someone has lost weight in truly healthy ways. You may unknowingly be complimenting unhealthy or dangerous behavior. Notice whether you use the "f" word to judge. When you do, investigate this closely. What do you really feel about this person? Why?

5) Speak Mindfully. Use more mindful words to describe your body. You can do this by observing and describing (I have brown hair). Instead of saying, "I feel fat" when you overeat, say "I feel too full," a more accurate description.

Why is this "F" word free challenge important? Language impacts behavior. If you call a dandelion a weed versus of flower, it will vary what you do with it. You would throw away the dandelion versus putting a flower into a vase. The same is true with your body. If you call your body fat in a loathing way versus describing it as strong, powerful, curvaceous or other positive words, it will likely impact how you treat your body. Would you take care of and protect something you criticize?

The second reason is that using this word is damaging to self-esteem. Whether you call yourself "F" or someone else, it can trigger a lot of unhealthy behavior particularly for people who have eating problems.

Perhaps we could tweak this challenge a bit. Just begin by being more mindful of the "F" word in general. Pay close attention to how it comes up in conversation. Notice what people do when they hear it. Cringe? Cry? Laugh nervously? Attend to the way people use the word to bash themselves or describe others. I'd also like to extend the same "f" word free challenge to magazines and other media. What would magazines and articles look like if this word was suddenly erased?

Whoever said that words don't hurt wasn't factoring in the "F" word. Take this challenge. See how an "F" free world treats you and how other people respond. Have a happy "F Talk Free" week.

By the author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and Eating Mindfully

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