Today I had a conversation with one of my campers that caught me off guard:
Some of my girls was listening in on a conversation that I was having with another counselor. We began to talk about the process of becoming a RDN, otherwise known as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. As I began to explain different career paths within my field, one of my little girls interrupted and said, “So you’re going to tell people what to eat so that they don’t get fat and chubby?!” The other girls giggled and began to talk about weight, body shape, and people they know who are “fat”.
I tried so hard….I really did…but I couldn’t hide the look of shock and disgust on my face.
Tell people what to eat so that they don’t “get fat?”
I don’t think so.
Why do my seven-year-old campers believe that the sole purpose of eating healthy is to avoid becoming fat and chubby?
Why are they more concerned with their bodies than playing in the creek with their friends?
Why do they think it’s bad to be “fat” or “chubby”?
They have been told….by their parents, friends, TV shows, the internet, and the media that fat is bad and skinny is good.
Today I wasn’t angry at my girls.
I was angry that the enemy’s lies about body image, weight, and dieting had already infiltrated their minds at such a young age.
Fat phobias are developed overtime.
Little girls are not born with an innate weight bias.
They are taught that skinny is good & fat it bad. They are conditioned to associate a skinny body with good health, wealth, love, acceptance, self-control, and happiness. On the flip side, they associate people who have a “fat” or “chubby” body with poor health, rejection, laziness, and a bad life.
Their mothers, sisters, aunts, and friends were all taught to fear fat and everything that comes along with it.
We learn to identify areas that contain what we identify as “too much fat” and do our best to hide, disguise, or change the parts of our bodies that we think need fixing.
We don’t like fat on our face, arms, or hips, & definitely not between our thighs.
Rule of thumb: Less fat is always better.
I’ve been on this earth for almost 22 years, and I am just now able to start the process of breaking free from weight bias and fat phobia.
A little over a year ago my fat phobia turned into an extreme lifestyle when I developed anorexia.
I have never been overweight.
I have never needed to lose weight for medical reasons.
I have never been hurt by my body fat.
Yet, I have always feared losing control of my body and moving into a place where I could have too much fat on my body.
I feared losing muscle.
I feared having any body fat at all.
I feared eating fat.
I feared being fat.
I too believed the lie that to be fat was to be lazy, out of control, unlovable, and even unhealthy.
I feared fat so much that my metabolism slowed down and my heart rate began to drop exponentially.
I feared fat so much that I avoided certain food groups entirely.
I feared fat so much that I exercised even if I was sick or if the weather was dangerous.
I feared fat more than anything, even though I didn’t truly understand why.
I feared fat so much that I pushed myself to lose as much weight as possible, to finally attain the skinny body that I never once had.
I feared fat so much that it took many, doctors visits, therapy sessions, and nutrition appointments to even begin changing the way that I viewed fat.
It was extremely difficult, expensive, exhausting, and crippling at times.
After a few months in recovery, I began to realize that it wasn’t truly the fat that I feared, but rather, the idea of being unworthy of love and acceptance.
I had forgotten that my identity was not rooted in my weight or my body shape, but in Jesus alone.
My weight isn’t an indicator of my worth, and neither is my body fat.
To be thought about, cared for, protected, forgiven, adopted, chosen, and loved by the creator of the universe is so much greater than looking great or having a low amount of body fat.
I know these things, but there are days when I forget.
This is a reminder for myself, & the many little girls, teenagers, women, & even men who struggle with body image issues and fat phobias:
- Our bodies need fat…it protects our organs, provides us warmth, regulates our hormones, provides us with energy, & hold together our cell membranes.
- Eating fat doesn’t make us fat. Lipids (fancy word for fat) are essential macronutrients, meaning we need to consume them through our diet in order to reap the benefits of them. Certain fats, specifically omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can boost brain functioning, strengthen the immune system, and lower HDL cholesterol.
- Some people are born with more fat and some people are born with less…genetics play a big role in weight and body composition.
- Fat isn’t an indicator of work ethic.
- Fat isn’t an indicator of worth.
- Fat isn’t an indicator of health.
- Skinny isn’t an indicator of health.
- Skinny isn’t an indicator of happiness.
- Fat isn’t good or bad.
- Skinny isn’t good or bad.
For your daughter, sister, co-worker, friend, & neighbor…for yourself, fight to believe the that worth isn’t tied to weight. It is only when we start to believe this truth that we can start changing the way we see ourselves & others for who we are and not what we look like. It is only when we start to live confidently in the bodies that the little girls around us will too.