Are you in? Fat Talk Free Week 2014

Your voice is powerful.
I really appreciate the leadership of Delta Delta Delta and their vision for Fat Talk Free Week.

This year’s Fat Talk Free Week kicks off tomorrow and runs through Friday, October 20th.

I value taking a week – with the hope it will extend longer – to intentionally redirect fat talk in our heads, with our friends or about others to more honest, life-giving, respectful dialogue.

We all need a break from the “I am so___”, “If only I were___”, “I hate my _____”, “I am not ______ enough” conversation.

Scarcity culture is exhausting. (Click to Tweet)

Bullying others or ourselves with fat talk only fuels deeper pain and fat talk represents attempts to manage the parts of our story triggered by pain, fear, loneliness, anxiety and more.

Which is why taking a break from the fat talk is important. Even more important is to get to the heart of the meaning of our fat talk by talking about our hurts in a constructive manner – with the right person at the right time.

Taking a break from fat talk does not mean stuffing your pain.

Early in my training in the treatment of eating disorders and trauma, I was told “fat” is not a feeling. Over a decade of treating men and women taught me differently – that it is often a fight to have a positive relationship with their body and their reflection in the mirror. They also taught me how the quick fix pressure to “just love their body” often backfired because they felt so ashamed for not loving, let alone liking, the body they have been given.

So, yes, stopping the fat talk is needed. Desperately. But we cannot stop there.

We still need to talk about how we are feeling and develop a better way to tolerate struggle and negative emotion. Distressing life events, brain chemistry imbalances, family of origin, temperament all can alter our trust in ourselves, our bodies and others.

When we are feeling out of control – focusing on our bodies or comparing ourselves to others is a common default. Turning on ourselves or others with biting, judgy, harsh words only fuels more biting, judgey, harsh words.

At the heart of fat talk is a lot of hurt and insecurity which needs to be voiced and given some air time. Our struggle feeling comfortable in our skin along with our desire to feel connected is real. Fat talk is an attempt way to hot wire connection or appease our inner critic.

What we really are searching for is to know if we are ok, we are loved, we belong. When there is doubt about our worthiness, we often look to others to approve or disapprove of our worth. We all struggle with this dance. Belonging and connection are innate desires.

And for those with faith, I see this matter of worthiness dig even deeper as they feel like they are the exceptions to God’s wild and radical love and grace.

It is a constant recalibration to stop externalizing our worth to others and redirect our worth to the One and those who truly matter.

Fat Talk Free Week is not just about semantics or becoming the word police. It is a chance to listen to your heart and see where you are feeling convicted for operating outside of your authenticity.

When fat talk surfaces, it is an opportunity – and a risk – to change the conversation.

Words are powerful. Your voice matters. Choose wisely.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

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Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

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Note from Erin Curlett, Potentia’s Marketing Communications Manager: Our final interview this week is with Rebecca. I wanted get her thoughts on some of the questions we have been asking in honor of Fat Talk Free Week 2013. Thanks for sharing some of your heart, Rebecca!

How do you define fat talk?

It often occurs when conversations foster bonding over critiquing their bodies or the bodies of others.

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

Where do I NOT hear it? The gym, at the meal table, at church, at schools, at parent meetings, on TV… Holidays, weddings, reunions, parties in general, when the weather warms up and we approach bathing suit season (which is mostly year round here in San Diego).

How do you respond to fat talk?

Gosh, it depends on the day and the circumstances — sometimes I am full of grace and tact and other days I can trend on the blunt side. Most of my friends know exactly how I feel about fat talk so when they bring it up, they usually are trying to rile me up or tease me. But when it is with people I do not have a previous relationship with, I try my best to redirect the conversation or just not participate.

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

Shame, culture, anxiety, peer-groups, family of origin, temperament, unhealthy perfectionism, traumas/distressing life events

Where have you been surprised to encounter fat talk?

I think I have been the most bummed to hear it in faith communities that I run in. It really hurts my heart to hear people fat talk and mask it in the name of faith, holiness, or humility.

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life?

Oh my goodness, yes! When I was in high school and through my twenties was when it was the worst. My unhealthy drive for perfection really jammed up my ability to see my true worth and value for a while. But I am grateful for the gift of growing, healing, and falling in love with my amazing husband and two children which gave me a powerful perspective on what being enough really means.

What self-talk helps ground you in your true worth and value today?

When I am feeling particularly uncomfortable in my skin, I pause, take a breath, and ask myself what is really going on around me that triggered these dark thoughts. I can usually credit them to one or more of the following:

1) not enough sleep;
2) feeling disconnected from my husband;
3) not moving my body regularly or feeding it well;
4) over booking my schedule;
5) not spending enough meaningful time with God.

Once I take an inventory of the above, I make sure I take time to meet my needs for mind, body, relations, and soul. And sometimes I just have to jolt my brain by talking out loud and telling the fat talk thoughts to go to permanent time out — which is a g-rated version. 🙂

How have you seen the connection between disordered eating and fat talk?

Fat talk fans the flame of dieting and disordered eating. Once we lose site of our true worth and value and start buying into the lies of shame, fear, and the fat-phobic culture, obsessions about our looks, how we feed and move our body can become all-consuming.

How has being a mother changed your view of fat talk, if at all?

I am 100% committed to trying my best to have my words and actions match up. (NOTE: TRY) I am very fierce about not allowing any negative or obsessive talk about food, our bodies, or the looks and bodies of others. We also steer clear of praise, especially about looks, and instead reflect back to our kids how proud they must feel, how capable they must feel, etc. I talk about beauty in terms of character in addition to what is pleasing to the eye. When my daughter shares with her brother or when when she extends grace, I note how her choices just made her heart even more beautiful.

We also avoid commercials (which is so tricky when my husband is watching a game) and most TV shows. They are going to be exposed to so much more in culture as they get older but I am committed to making our home a safe zone from the toxic aspects of culture.

What are your thoughts on the current trend of sharing “fitspiration” images? Do these encourage a healthy body image or foster more fat talk?

“Fitspiration” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and triggers fat talk big time. It can be like cocaine to the brain and can deplete your self-worth when you come down from the high. These images are most often photoshopped and they only fuel comparing, dissatisfaction, and feeling not enough. Yuck.

How do you help your clients combat fat talk?

I walk with them as they seek to heal their relationship with food, their body, and their story. I have found EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) to be so helpful when people are stuck with negative core beliefs, ie: I am broken, I am permanently damaged, I am not _______ enough, I am a failure and so on.

I work with Megan Holt, Potentia’s Coordinator of Wellness and Nutrition, to help support them in moving and feeding their bodies so their brain can get on their team and help push back on the lies and the noise of fat talk.

Lastly, we work a lot on what it is like to respect your body, even if you do not like it. This involves working on negative self-talk but also re-evaluating core relationships and boundaries.

Have you seen changes in your clients as they work to resist such negative self talk?

Yes! As they heal and draw on their amazing courage, it is truly incredible to witness their spark, hope, and healing as they push back on how culture defines health and redefine that definition to a creed that serves their true health in a sustaining and life-giving way.

How does your faith play a role in combating fat talk?

It has taken me years to finally really believe the truth about what God says about me. The kind of love, grace, forgiveness, and guidance He offers me blows my mind. I think finally trusting His words, His Truth has been medicine for my soul. Spending the last few years building my shame resilience skills and training to help others do that work has had a profound effect on shifting my core beliefs about myself on an even deeper level. I now know feeling bad, gross, like a failure, not enough is what I feel though not the truth. Now I can push back on those feelings and lean on God’s Truth, regardless of my emotional state. Some days are easier than others but whew, the freedom I feel from building my shame resilience super powers has been life-changing in my relationship with God.

What role do you see the church playing in combating fat talk?

I think the church could really play a significant role in combating fat talk. If the pulpit stopped being a place for fat talk, body shame, or buying into trendy diets in the name of holiness, that would be a good start. My dream is for pastors and their leadership teams to stop church-wide dieting and talking about numbers; to get educated on the disordered eating spectrum; to learn how to lead their congregation in a fast with sensitivity and awareness and be a safe place for those struggling with food and body issues. I have found some incredible leaders in the faith community leading courageously and boldly in these areas, but we still have a long way to go. One step at a time. One heart at a time.

Thanks so much for following along here on the blog and on Potentia’s Facebook page as we supported Fat Talk Free Week 2013. Thoughts? Any new insights or convictions? We would love to hear from you in the comments below. Stay connected and join our email list for blog updates and thoughts on how you can (re) define your definition of health.

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Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Constance Rhodes

Constance Rhodes Cropped

Note from Rebecca: In honor of Fat Talk Free Week, I invited my friend Constance Rhodes to share some of her thoughts on fat talk. Constance is a powerhouse of faith, faithfulness and determination. She is the Founder and CEO of FINDINGbalance, the leading Christian resource for daily help with body image and eating issues, advocate, mentor, wife, mom and friend to many. Thank you, Constance! I appreciate you and your courageous heart.

How do you define fat talk?

Anytime we are making negative comments about the size of other people’s bodies or our own, with an emphasis on the larger size of a person being undesirable.

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

When I tell people what I do (i.e. help people with eating and body image issues) they often make derogatory remarks about their own weight, which is sometimes awkward and generally unnecessary. I also hear this talk frequently whenever women are gathered together and food is involved.

How do you respond to fat talk?

I either simply don’t engage with it or I engage with a twist, such as asking the person, “Do you have issues with weight that you’d like to talk about?” This can go one of two ways – either they clam up and move on or they start talking with me about their fears and anxieties in this area. Either result is generally more productive than letting the conversation continue as it was.

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

I think it’s been going on for so many generations that it is hard to even find the roots. But most assuredly a key root is the belief that one’s weight says something about a person, and if it is a larger weight, it is generally assumed to say negative things. Pointing toward someone else’s weight can be a way to deflect concerns about our own, or to try to control the problem of overeating/overweight, such as when children are instructed not to eat too much or “you’ll get fat like so-and-so.”

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life? 

I went through a few years of struggling with binge eating, during which I gained a lot more weight than was normal or healthy for me. I felt fat and ugly and could think of nothing else. Once I lost the weight those negative voices continued screaming at me, warning me not to lose control or I would be fat again. So it’s a topic I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, in more ways than one.

What self-talk helps ground you in your true worth and value today?

Sometimes it’s just very practical. When I start feeling “fat” because I’m on my period or I’ve had a few too many rich meals lately, I have to be practical and tell myself that I have a ways to go before that would ever be the case. Beyond that, however, I have to ask myself what I really believe is attractive. Do I really want to be known for being a certain weight, or do I want to be known for the quality of my character? I think about other women who I admire and respect and I realize that my appreciation for them has nothing to do with their body size. Most importantly, I’ve got to continually be reminded through scripture, prayer, and spiritual conversations that the God of the universe created me and is far more interested in who I am than what I look like.

How do you see FINDINGbalance as an antidote to the “Fat Talk Culture”?

For the last eleven years we have been building a culture at FINDINGbalance that promotes the wellness of the person over whatever size they happen to be wearing. We know that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that what is “fat” to one is “thin” to another. Most importantly, as the leading Christian resource for daily help with these issues, we are trying to send out Christ-centered messages on a daily basis to combat the self-centered, negative ones so many of us are bombarded with.

How have you seen the connection between disordered eating and fat talk?

Often, many eating disorders are fueled in some way by a desire to change your body. Fat talk reinforces weight stigma and also creates problems that may not even be present. The more we say a negative thing about ourselves, the more we believe it. Since our nature is to work on the things we think need to be better, if we are constantly telling ourselves we are fat, then we are constantly going to be pushing ourselves to lose weight. Wherever you are on the weight continuum, whether overweight, underweight, or somewhere in-between, if negative self-talk is the loudest voice in your head it will be impossible to have a normal relationship with food and your body.

When those are undernourished and in the throes of an eating disorder, it is hard to shake the loud critical voice. How do you encourage those in this space of shame and self-loathing?

The key is to not be the only voice in your head. Which means you’ve got to come out of isolation into community where the lies of the critical voice can be fought out in the open. This might mean seeking out a counselor, plugging into a small group (we have tools for this at our site), sharing your struggle with a trusted friend, parent or advisor, entering a treatment program, or some combination of these things. Ideally, this would include at least a key person or two who can share God’s truth with you. For those who have faith, reading scriptures and praying on your own is a good discipline, but without healthy community the truths won’t sink into your soul in a practical and long-lasting way.

You are married and have three adorable children. How do you encourage your kids when they are struggling with their worth and value and fall into negative talk about themselves?

My kids are 12, 9, and 6, and as a former disordered eater and now wellness activist, you can imagine I’ve been pretty proactive on this front. First, we do not allow any fat talk in our home. The kids know they are not even allowed to say that word. We also don’t consume media that objectifies women’s bodies. This includes things as seemingly benign as shows on the Disney Channel, as well as commercials, movies, magazines or other materials that present women in sexual or objectified ways. And I never make negative comments about my body in front of them, so as far as they know, the body is not something to be worried about. I have yet to hear one of them say something negative about their bodies. I do, however, see them trying to hitch their value to their accomplishments from time to time. We talk about this openly, and I am constantly watching and guiding as it occurs. When they get older, you can check back with me to see how it’s gone…

Do you think fat talk is worth trying to combat? Many say it is pointless…

I think it’s worth it, but I also think if the only step someone takes in this direction is simply stopping engaging in it themselves, that’s a huge start. It can seem overwhelming to fight such a huge cultural problem, but taking one “next right step” at a time still adds up and can lead to greater changes in the long run.

Constance Rhodes is the founder and CEO of FINDINGbalance, the leading Christian resource for DAILY help with eating and body image issues. Sign up for her free Daily Vitamin eDevo at findingbalance.com/dv.

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Fat Talk Free Week 2013: Interview with Natalie Lynn Borton

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Note from Rebecca: In honor of Fat Talk Free week, I chatted with my friend, Natalie Lynn Borton. Writer, editor, and creative consultant, Natalie is also an advocate of redefining culture’s definition of beauty and worthiness. Her blog, Thoughts by Natalie, is a community for women dedicated to honest talk about beauty, style, wellness and life. I met Natalie several years ago and have since grown to greatly respect and value her voice, heart and mind. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer questions for this post. I appreciate you!

How do you define “fat talk”?

I define “fat talk” as any kind of negative talk—to others, about others, or in our own heads—about body size or shape. I think talk that creates shame about eating habits could fall into the “fat talk” definition as well.

Where and when do you most often hear fat talk?

I hear it everywhere, in almost any conversation between women. It’s become part of normal conversation and is accepted as normal, which is so sad. Also, I admittedly hear it in my own head, which I hate. Thankfully, I’ve found a lot of positive ways to counteract it, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t there.

How do you respond to fat talk?

When I am in a conversation that turns to fat talk, I try to negate it immediately, reminding the person who is being down on herself that she is beautiful as she is, and that looking different has no impact on her worth. I also proactively strive to prevent fat talk by not engaging in it myself publicly.

What do you think are the roots of fat talk?

Insecurity and fear of inadequacy. There is nothing about our appearance that makes us more or less valuable or attractive as human beings—but our culture suggests otherwise. We are conditioned from a very young age to believe that we are most worthy of love and adoration from others when we look a certain way—and when we feel that we don’t fit that mold, we seem feel the need to make sure others know that we know we’re not ideal.

How have you struggled with fat talk in your life?

Overhearing others engaging in fat talk was definitely one contributor to the eating disorder I developed while I was in college—though my disorder was related to feeling out of control, the object of my control became my body, I think because of all of the lies I’d heard over the years about how not to look, and how looking a certain way makes us unacceptable.

Additionally, I’ve struggled with creating fat talk in my own mind, and to this day find that when times are difficult—whether it’s a tough day, a fight with my husband or a death of a loved one—I tend to engage in fat talk in my mind as some kind of strange coping mechanism, perhaps as a way to refocus my frustrations toward something I feel like I could actually change.

What self-talk helps ground you in your true worth and value today?

I choose to focus on my character as much as possible. When I’m feeling down about my appearance, I remind myself that 1) I’m likely seeing something distorted in the mirror, and 2) that my beauty comes from the way I interact with others, not from how I look in my jeans.

You are passionate and fascinated with the topic of beauty. How do you define beauty?

Beauty is defined by who we are, not what we look like. Our appearance plays a small role, I suppose, but it’s our character that makes us beautiful people, attractive people and loveable people. Specifically, some of those traits are joy, kindness, generosity, confidence, compassion and love.

How do you think fat talk harms our perception of beauty?

Fat talk reinforces the lie that beauty is determined by a certain type of external appearance.

You are also passionate about fashion. Fashion and fat talk often go hand-in-hand, as clothes can be such a trigger for those who struggle feeling comfortable in their skin. How do you avoid the dark side of fashion but still enjoy its beauty?

For me, fashion has provided so much freedom for me in terms of embracing and loving the body that I have. Style has become my personal creative expression, and a way for me to be more authentically myself, rather than try to fit a mold. It’s counterintuitive, I suppose, but that’s just how it’s played out in my life. I don’t worship high end brands and expensive products, but rather let style be something that is playful, fun, authentic and enjoyable.

What advice would you give to women who have a love/hate relationship with fashion mags?

Don’t look at anything that makes you feel bad about yourself. There are plenty of fashion magazines and blogs out there that celebrate real beauty through the images they share and the language they use surrounding fashion. Personally, some of my recent favorites are:

What words of encouragement do you want to share with those struggling with fat talk?

Choose to redefine beauty in your life. Invite your friends and loved ones to encourage you about more than just your appearance, opting instead for complimenting you on who you are and how that is beautiful. Also, when you feel the fat talk coming out or creeping into your thought life, choose to squash it down as a lie, replacing it with a truth about something that is good and truly beautiful.

Natalie is a writer, blogger and creative consultant who lives in north county San Diego with her hilarious and charming husband Brian and their very scruffy adopted pup, Maggie. A lover of the written word, avocados, beach picnics and champagne, she believes that beauty comes from who we are—not what we look like—and lives life accordingly. She shares her thoughts on beauty, style, wellness and life at thoughtsbynatalie.com.

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