Ending dieting and embracing HAES has helped improve my health, but it’s still hard when I’m bombarded with messages that fat is bad. I need to do more about dealing with the stigma of having a big body in a fat hating culture. If I can’t make the world a safe space, the least I could do is feel at home in my own body.
The Rudd Center recently came out with a study showing that weight stigma affects the stress hormone cortisol. This is just the beginning of showing that some "fat-related-diseases" may be more related to the stress of stigma rather than being over some arcane number.
Exposure to weight-stigmatizing stimuli was associated with greater cortisol reactivity among lean and overweight women. These findings highlight the potentially harmful
physiological consequences of exposure to weight stigma.
Another study said that labeling fatness as a disease undermines health.
Specifically, obese participants who read the "obesity is a disease" article placed less importance on health-focused dieting and reported less concern for weight relative to obese participants who read the other two articles. They also chose higher-calorie options when asked to pick a sandwich from a provided menu.
Essentially fat people who saw themselves labeled as diseased didn't care about health when dieting and also ended up eating more.
I've mentioned it before. Dieting pushes weight loss not health as the ultimate goal. You diet, you lose some weight, then the weight loss stops and you go on a massive binge. When all that matters is being thin, health usually goes out the window.
Stigma causes stress and anxiety. Fat people face stigma either outright or even unintentionally: Small seats, labeled diseased, poor quality clothes, assumptions that you drink soda, or don't exercise.
All this could lead to body shame and a mistrust in yourself. I mentioned that when I was climbing the Manitou incline it was harder the closer I got to my goal. I didn't trust myself to make it. It disturbs me because it's been over 10 years since I stopped dieting and tried to work on loving my body and still I have doubts. I still sometimes look at weight loss “successes” (the exception, not the rule) and wonder why couldn’t I do that.
Stigma is hard to escape especially when you are bombarded with weight loss ads, and fat hatred. When you're patronized and told just to eat one less cookie. So how do you escape the stigma? Staying in your house without access to internet isn’t going to cut it.
We can, and have, changed the world to becoming more accepting that people come in all shapes and sizes. It’s slow but happening.
However in the meantime we need to think of ways to protect ourselves from fat hatred.
The best way to deal with that is improving your self-esteem. Names become meaningless if you feel you are better than them. Here are a few suggestions to help deal with stigma.
- Love yourself and tell yourself of your achievements. Tell yourself you deserve it.
- Write everyday things you are grateful for.
- Meditate and do deep breathing. Try not to think about triggers. Empty your mind if possible and concentrate on your breathing.
- Take a nice relaxing bath and tell your body how much you love it. If they didn’t make a bathtub big enough for you, take a nice hot shower.
- If you are someone like me who blogs about fat hatred, give yourself a respite when you feel like you’ve had enough. Read a fat positive blog or book.
- Remember this is the only body you have. You need to trust it.