So today is the conclusion of Fat Talk Free Week as some of you may (or may not know).
I've talked before about how my parents' comments about my body often shaped how I felt about myself. I'll put it this way: I loved being contrary with them. Part of it was my wildness. The other part was a realization that my mom and dad were not happy people. If I wanted a chance at happiness myself, I'd either need to figure it out myself, or do the opposite of what they said.
My father once told me that I would never have any friends if I were argumentative, that I would never have any friends (odd, coming from a lawyer...). And so I was argumentative. Well, rather, I began to figure out who I could debate with. I figured out who had the intelligence and the fortitude to disagree with me. Those people became my friends. I knew when to back off, and when a debate had crossed the line into being a fight.
I think the lesson for me regarding my parents is that I learned to love myself exactly as I was, and the right people would love me for it. The wrong people would continue to disparage me, but that I knew the difference. I feel bad that my mother and father never learned the same kind of self love at a young age. Their lives might have been shaped very differently if they broke a few rules and told a few more people to shove it. They might have benefitted from making mistakes of their own accord, not from trying to please other people.
So getting back to Fat Talk Free Week ...
We had a small little fire in my office building, prompting an evacuation. On the way down the stairs, I ran into many people that hadn't seen me since I began this journey. And they say "Oh, you look so skinny."
It kind of baffles me that we're conditioned to think that "skinny" is a compliment. I mean, what if i had been suffering from cancer this whole time? I know people aren't trying to be malicious, and it's not an issue of ignorance. It's an issue of cultural programming. Skinny is often equated with being successful and beautiful. Fat is often equated with beung unsuccessful and ugly. This is what we're getting wrong.
But you can't really go up to a person and say "Wow, you look really healthy" without them thinking "I must've looked like crap yesterday" much in the same way when someone says "You're looking skinny" our minds do this whiplash thing where all we can think of is how fat we used to look.
So what's going to be appropriate? How do you know if someone's appearance truly reflects a healthy lifestyle (versus having an illness, an eating disorder, etc.)? How do you compliment them on that healthy lifestyle if you do know that healthy lifestyle is responsible for the change in their appearance?
What are we left with if we can't use the small talk?
Maybe we say nothing. We begin to look people in the eye more. We smile at them.
Maybe we start investing in people and knowing their stories so we know the appropriate thing to say. And then people will know our intentions.
Maybe when we say "You look great... really healthy" it will be received as intended--that at this moment your whole self is a reflection of (inner & outer) happiness and health.
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