Dr. Robyn Silverman has been studying body image for years. She put her research into the book “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It,” which shows the unhealthy societal message that “fat = bad” and “thin = good.”
Even though the book came out in 2010, many people still approach her about it because it strikes a nerve.
“‘Fat’ is associated with all kinds of bad things,” she said. “People have come up with this idea that fat means ‘worthless, ugly, lazy, blameworthy.’ These are what studies tell us. The word is so laden with character flaws — which are not accurate, of course.”
To talk more about how weight doesn’t equal worth, and that health (including mental and emotional health) are really what matters, and how we can take a stand against weight-bashing, MTV Act spoke with Dr. Robyn about 5 Ways You Can Truly Embrace Your Size.
+ Whose Voice Is It?
“When we start thinking, ‘I’m fat, I’m ugly, I need to lose weight,’ it’s often not coming directly from us,” Dr. Robyn said. Is the source the TV you’re watching, or maybe people close to you have said something? An early memory could even have triggered these negative thoughts. “In sixth grade, if somebody said something to us about our weight, it’s not something that can be erased with a positive comment,” she continued. “You mother could have said, ‘If you eat all of that cake, it will make you fat.’ Your friend could have said about another person, ‘Oh, did you see So-and-So? She’s so fat.’ We might repeat these things and they become our own voice.”
Once you can identify who’s really saying the negative comments in your head, it makes it easier to rise above. If it’s someone from your past or someone you don’t know, you can dismiss it, saying, “That’s so-and-so’s voice, not mine.” If it’s someone close to you, this might open an opportunity to discuss it with them. They might not even know that what they said was hurtful.
+ Highlight What Your Body Can Do
“Often we pick apart our bodies like chickens: my legs, my thighs, my breasts,” Dr. Robyn said. To get out of this kind of thinking, she likes to ask people about their favorite thing their body can do. “Then you can start being grateful for what your body allows you to do, rather than how it appears.” For example, “I’m so grateful my body allows me to run” replaces the negative thought, “My thighs are so fat.” You might realize that your body is pretty great!
+ Post Love On Your Mirror
“The mirror is a very intimate spot,” she said. “What do you want to see when you look in the mirror? If your mind immediately says, ‘My stomach is too big, my thighs are too fat,’ you need to replace these thoughts.” She suggests writing down positive things about you or your body and posting this love note on your mirror. You can also ask your BFFs or family members to write notes to put up. “Once you keep seeing that, perhaps your voice will change and you’ll start to see yourself how the people who love you see you.”
+ Banish “Fat Talk”
Dr. Robyn listed off a generic conversation we’ve probably all heard (or even been a part of). “There’s a script that’s been written,” she said. “One girl says, ‘Oh, I’m so fat. I shouldn’t have eaten that.’ And the other girl has to say (it’s like a baton pass), ‘No, no, you’re not fat. I’m the fat one.’” How do you stop this sort of negative talking? Dr. Robyn suggests one very frank way: put up a sign that says “Fat Talk Free Zone.” If someone starts something, you can point to the sign. It might even get some dialogue going about the importance of self-acceptance.
+ Stop Judging By Numbers And Scales
Dr. Robyn described how people can get really attached to numbers. For example, a person might go into a clothes store, try on the size they’re used to wearing, have it be too small, and be devastated the rest of the day. It doesn’t matter that it might just be that this store uses different sizes. If a person really struggles with this, they might want to ask a friend to shop with them, not look at sizes (the friend can do that), and cut out the tag afterward. Likewise, Dr. Robyn said the scale might be like an “evil troll” in the house that tells you you’re not good enough. It might be best just to not have a scale in your house.
“When it comes to health, you don’t have to worry about the size or the weight,” she said. “It’s about eating nutritious foods, drinking water, getting enough exercise, blowing off stress in productive ways, and getting enough sleep. Once you’re doing all those things, no matter where your body falls in terms of weight or size — barring any medical issues — you’re where you ought to be. We keep saying to ourselves that our value, our worth, is all dependent on what you weigh on the scale. Get rid of it and go inside to see how you feel as a person. It’s not the number — it’s who you are.”
Check out HalfofUs.org for ways to confront self-esteem and body image issues.
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