Fat talk is not allowed

Being healthy and weight loss are two different things. 

Fat should not be an emotion — but for the vast majority of women, it is. Various studies have found that over 90 percent of females are unhappy with the way they look, claiming that the top thing they would change about their bodies is their weight.

If you’re like me, you might get a rush of dread in the pit of your stomach whenever Facebook lets you know that you’ve been tagged in a new photo. I find myself thinking “I probably look super fat in that picture, I better go untag myself right away.” And I know I’m not alone.   

Remember that it’s more important to preserve memories with your friends than to look perfect in every photo, and it’s definitely healthier. Body image is ever-evolving, and while it might not transformovernight, it can be improved with some conscious, healthy habits and self-love.

1. Ban fat talk

Body image specialists have coined the term “fat talk” as all the negative discourse women tend to engage in about their bodies. It usually seems harmless on the surface. You might be trying on clothes at the mall with your fellow gal pal when she says through the fitting room wall, “I look so fat in this skirt.” The natural inclination can be to put yourself right down there with her. Don’t respond, “If you look fat, then I must be a whale.” You’re not a whale. You’re a human being who is allowed to have hips, thighs and a tummy. In fact, it’s pretty much required.

Fat talk manifests itself in this way because us women are thinking it on the inside. By casually saying it out loud to a friend, it feels less stifling. A good way to start developing a healthier sense of self starts here — don’t affirm all those negative comments, for you or your friends. Complement each other and be kind. Stop participating in fat talk.

2. Stop associating being healthy with weight loss

Believe it or not, going to the gym has other benefits besides weight loss. If your exercise routine is designed solely to burn the most calories as humanly possible, it’ll become a chore rather than a stress-relieving activity. Instead of getting burned out after two weeks of trying to meet a “goal weight,” you’ll be better off in the long run (pun not intended) if you concentrate on the other benefits of exercise and think of losing a few pounds as a side effect.

It works for food too. As someone who wouldn’t consider herself to be “into vegetables,” this one can be difficult. However, nutrition exists for a reason, so I’ve identified a few leafy green things I can tolerate and make sure to buy them each time I go to the grocery store and eat them along with the other things I enjoy, like bread and cheese and more cheese. Humans are meant to enjoy the things they eat. If you sneak some of each level of the food pyramid into your diet, you’re doing well. Again, think of weight loss as a side effect of respecting your body’s needs with a balanced diet.

3. Use your voice

The thin ideal is a social construct, and allowing clothing brands and other advertisers to perpetuate it is a choice. In the U.S., dollars are equated with speech. Neglecting to buy products from brands that promote negative body image tells companies that their actions aren’t acceptable.

Just look at the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries, who was highly criticized after stating that his company’s brand is only made for thin, beautiful people a few years back. The scandal erupted into an internet sensation, resulting in a severe sales decline and a permanently tarnished image. When was the last time you saw someone wearing a shirt with the trademark A&F moose logo? Probably when Miley Cyrus still had long hair and silly bandz were cool.

Other companies like Aerie for American Eagle are actively doing their part to promote self-love and positive body image by using unretouched ads, so show them some love right back by shopping there instead of Victoria’s Secret or Hollister. Make the most of your First Amendment right and celebrate the different shapes and sizes of all women.

In a world full of booty pics on Instagram and stores that seem to exclusively sell crop tops, it’s more important than ever for women to avoid negative body image and lift each other up. These three tips are steps you can start making today, but remember that having a positive relationship with yourself is a habit you have to develop over time — but once you do, it will be a big, fat relief.

Julia Nelson is a senior public policy and administration major. Contact Julia at nelso3jl@dukes.jmu.edu.