Abstaining From Appearance-Based Talk
One of my aspirations is to do my part in undoing the feelings of insecurity and incompleteness people feel in trying to measure up to society's "ideal" beauty standards. However, I find it quite challenging to live up to this ambition on a daily basis. I still sometimes catch myself engaging in fat-talk and making appearance-based judgments in the name of "health" - when I know better. I'm trying not to be so hard on myself because I'm fighting against years of hard-wiring to believe that skinny is the only way to be healthy or beautiful. I'm going to get there someday and voicing my commitment is the first step to achieving my goal.
I, too, along with the National Eating Disorders Information Centre, share the belief system of Health At Every Size (HAES). HAES philosophy boils down to this: if you have normalized eating patterns and exercise for pleasure, then whatever weight you are is the healthy weight your body is meant to be. You don't necessarily have to be thin to be healthy - and if you are thin due to dieting and over-exercising, then you are not healthy. The correlation between thin and healthy has been drilled into our heads and it's tough to fight against but we must take a stand.
The easiest part of abstaining from appearance-based talk is when I'm thinking of initiating it because the power to stop it is in my own hands. If you find that lately I'm not telling you how skinny you look in that dress or how your workouts are really paying off - it's not because I'm avoiding complimenting you - it's because I want you to know that I see you as more than that. I know from personal experience the way that appearance-based compliments can feed the urge to strive for "more". Sometimes, I can't help but blurt out a physical compliment, but most of the time I try to find other ways to compliment my friends (aka "Congrats, you've been running a lot and shaved 5 mins off your personal best!" or "You're getting really strong and have a lot of energy!").
The most difficult part is when someone else initiates fat-talk or thin-talk. I don't want to be rude or jump into my body-image issues with strangers but I feel a tinge of guilt smiling and saying "Thanks!" when someone tries to compliment me based on my appearance ...and I bite my tongue when people complain about weight gain when they eat a certain food. However, there are limits to everything and small steps towards taking the pressure and focus away from appearance will help everyone feel better.
Will you stand by my side and also make a commitment with me to try to abstain from appearance-based compliments?
Priyanka Parshad has been a volunteer at NEDIC since 2012. She is a financial analyst by day and a writer by heart. You can read more from her at www.priyankaparshad.com