F-A-T. This three letter F word that we women use to beat ourselves up does more damage to our feminine psyche and sense of self-worth than just about any F word another person could spew at us. I've seen the most confident, high self-esteemed women go from centered and calm powerhouses to confused, upset puddles and hot messes because as she pulled on her jeans, tried to zip up her dress, or glanced at herself after getting out of the shower, she felt like (and judged) her body was just a big blob of fat. Perhaps you have experienced the "fat freak out" yourself?
As a woman, a friend, a sister, a godmother, what makes my heart wrench is that in these moments when women and girls perceive our bodies as something other than what we would like, instead of being compassionate and loving with ourselves, we bully and berate ourselves with words like this:
"I am so fat."
"I hate my body. I am so fat."
"I should be skinner. I am so fat."
"I am so fat."
I've seen women as skinny as toothpicks F-A-T themselves into a frenzy. Women with beautiful shapely bodies, as well as women who have battled with excess weight their whole lives, hate on their bodies and as a result hate on themselves.
Feeling fat has nothing to do with the number on the scale, and everything to do with how incredibly hard we are on ourselves.
We would never stand for letting our daughter or best friends get away with such self-abuse, so why do we think it's OK to call ourselves fat?
I have an answer -- that I actually learned from a man!
A few years ago, I almost ruined an entire romantic night because of a nasty F-A-T freak out. It was Friday evening, my guy Noah and I had plans for a saucey night on the town. I had just gotten out of a sweet long shower, you know the kind where you shave your legs, rub fruity scrub all over your skin, and leave the conditioner in extra time so your hair is more silky? Me and my body were feeling so divine as I walked to my closet in my fuzzy towel to find the outfit I would wear to shine my inner beauty out to the world.
Noah was standing close by primping himself and looking mighty handsome as I began to try on my favorite dressy dresses. First one, didn't quite zip up. "Oh well, I haven't worn it in a while." Second one, hmm made my stomach look "poochy." Third one, "I don't have the arms for this anymore." By the fourth try to find my ultimate outfit, I couldn't even zip the zipper on the dress because I was having such an internal meltdown. Unable to hold the self criticism in any longer, the fat words just came spewing out like a volcano erupting:
"I am so F-A-T!"
Noah stopped his primping immediately, looked directly at me, and said in a distinct and clear voice, "What did you say?"
I said "I am so fat. None of these dresses look good on me. I am just fat now." Mind you at this point in my life I was maybe 140 pounds and 5'7, but I felt like I was 400 pounds, looking like Jabba the Hut in a dress.
Noah's response to my F-A-T self-abuse changed my relationship to myself and my body forever.
In the most compassionate, loving and truthful voice, Noah said to me, "Christine, it is OK if you are unhappy with the current state of your body, and you want to be more fit, but you are not allowed under any circumstances to call yourself fat. If you want to be more fit, great, we can talk about how to accomplish that. But beating yourself up by calling yourself fat is something that I am not going to stand by and watch you do, and neither should you!"
This hit me like a ton of love bricks, waking me up to the truth of how we go about motivating ourselves in ways that are totally opposite of what works.
We mistakenly believe that being hard on ourselves will motivate us to change.
But being mean to someone (in this case yourself) while it may coerce you into action out of guilt, shame or fear -- like eating healthier or exercising more for a few days -- the change never sticks.
The truth is that motivating yourself with compassionate loving truth is a much more effective and long lasting strategy than trying to motivate yourself via self-criticism.
The challenge is that most of us women are so trained to motivate ourselves through pressuring, criticizing, guilting and shaming ourselves that we have forgotten how to use self compassion to inspire ourselves forward, and we don't trust that self kindness will be as effective as self- bullying. Which is just not true.
Being compassionate with yourself is all about giving yourself the loving truth. Not sugar coating, or denying that a change is needed, but delivering the message in a way that you would talk to your child or to your best friend -- with love.
Since the episode with Noah in the bedroom that night, I have employed the tactic to deliver loving truth to myself in the moments I am not happy with my body instead of bullying myself with the F-A-T word. And by changing just one letter, I've turned this former self abusive, self sabotaging word that makes me feel like crap into a self loving word that empowers me to motivate myself by loving myself.
Next time you find yourself about to use the F-A-T word, try this loving truth instead, replacing the A with an I:
Self Bullying : "I am so F-A-T"
Self Loving: I would like to be more F-I-T
Change the A to an I -- and focus on loving your body into fitness instead of hating it into feeling fat. And then ask yourself, "What is one inspired action I could start taking tomorrow that would support my body to feel more fit? And love yourself enough to give yourself that gift.
This article was inspired by the Tri Delta Sorority and their Body Image 3D movement who every year sponsor a "Fat Talk Free Week" supporting women and girls to give up the fat talk and support their friends to do the same. I say let's make it a Fat Talk Free Year!