When a new client sits across from me for the first time, their nerves are often palpable and I can tell that their minds filled with questions about what’s ahead for them. It’s an incredible act of courage to lean into this vulnerability and work to heal life’s wounds. So many times, clients come into therapy with a severely damaged relationship with their body but feel worried about opening up about these struggles to their therapist. As a therapist in a fat body, here are a few things I’d like you to know as you begin, or continue, to do this brave work:
1. Fat isn’t a bad word and using it won’t bother me.
Describing someone as fat has historically been a surefire way to oppress people and create an overwhelming sense of rejection. It’s the most dreaded insult for so many people. But the thing is, fat isn’t actually a bad word. It’s truly just a word to describe a body, like we would describe my 6’6” partner as (ridiculously) tall or me at a staggering 5’1” as short. The problem with the word fat, though, is that it is has been intimately coupled with a value judgment from society that suggests that people who are fat are also a myriad of negative things including, but unfortunately not limited to: ugly, unacceptable, lazy, and moreover, underserving of respect or belonging from others. When we learn to accept that our bodies come in all shapes and sizes and that one shape or size is not more valuable than another, we learn to reject fatness as something to be feared and can fully and wholeheartedly exist in a fat body.
2. We get it, really.
We get what it feels like to be in a place where you truly hate your body. When you come in to talk to us about how you wish you were smaller, are terrified of gaining weight, or are struggling to maintain a diet, please know that we have also felt the pain that comes from the judgment of others, the laying in bed at night desperately wishing for your body to be different, and the emotional ups and downs of the inevitable weight cycling that comes from dieting. We’ve done it all, too, in the name of trying to shrink our bodies to some unachievable, magic number that we are convinced will make everything in our lives be okay. The kicker is, though, that we also get how incredibly freeing it is to call out these lies from diet culture, to respect our bodies and what they can do for us, and to feel truly peace from the seemingly never-ending cycle of body criticism.
3. And you are not going to hurt my feelings.
Clients often worry that they will hurt our feelings if they fully describe their dissatisfaction with their bodies or be transparent about their fears of fatness. Chances are, though, we have already heard it, felt it, or said it to ourselves and we have worked to heal from it all. It’s not your fault that diet culture has told you that the only way to feel okay in this world is to exist in a small body. When you come into therapy, we want you to feel safe to discuss whatever concerns you have about your body and we will work with you from a nonjudgmental place to practice self-compassion, self-connection, and healing.
4. I am anti-diet culture, not anti-people-who-diet.
While we recognize that diets cause physical and psychological harm, we support and care for those who do choose to diet. It is incredibly tough work to reject the notions that we have to manipulate our bodies to be okay, engage in strenuous exercise past the point of enjoyment, or perform ridiculous mathematical equations of your calorie input and output each day. We honor each client wherever they are in their journeys toward body acceptance.
5. You can feel free, too.
We aren’t going to lie to you and tell that this is easy. It’s not. It’s really freaking hard. And even when you feel like you’ve come out the other side of diet culture, there will still be times where you feel the overwhelming impact of weight stigma and fatphobia. But we can also promise you that life on the other side of diet culture is a hell of a lot more enjoyable. You can have so much more space in your life to actually enjoy it when you remove the near constant thoughts about what your body looks like or if you’re somehow a bad person for what food you ate that day (hint: you’re not).
If you’re searching for a place to cultivate peace and wellness in the world of diet culture and fat phobia, check out our Peace at Every Size Thrive Circle beginning April 15th. There you will find a group of like-minded individuals fighting the good fight against diet culture and to stop the endless battle with our bodies. You deserve to feel free.