By Arden O'Connor
Words carry weight. For millions of women who are made concerned about their weight during their formative teenage years, that statement rings especially true. The female body is heavily objectified, widely scrutinized and openly discussed in society, as well as mainstream media. From a very early age on, women are told how their body should look and shouldn’t look. What is perhaps the most shocking part of the relationship between women’s bodies and the world is the way that others feel part of that relationship. As girls, teens, young women, and adult women, females are subject to the commentary and opinion of friends, family, or perfect strangers. Descriptions whose words have become demonized like “fat”, “heavy”, or “ugly” burn a brand and scarlett letter into many women’s perception of self, which affects their self-esteem and can affect their mental health. The Journal of Adolescent Health published a study which found that teenage girls in the U.S. who are the victim of body shaming by use of the word “fat” in particular from friends or family are likely to develop eating disorder issues.
Reuters reports that this new study stands out from other studies which have also found a correlation between language and disordered eating behaviors. However, this study is the first to longitudinally examine the specific effects caused by being called “too fat” in teenage years. Interestingly, the study discovered that receiving comments from a family member had more of an effect than non-family members
Changing The Conversation On Weight At Home
There is a growing awareness of weight stigma and a major social media movement advocating body positivity. If you have a woman, of any age, in your life, who may be struggling with body image or disordered eating behaviors, change the conversation about body, weight, and image.
- Become aware of your own beliefs: Take a look at your own beliefs about weight, body image, and acceptance. Do you have your own insecurities? Were you taught specific beliefs about weight or appearance? Do you feel that these beliefs serve you or will serve a loved one in your life? After coming to your own realizations, open a dialogue.
- Ask for others’ beliefs: Even if a female in your life is young, it is likely she has already started to accumulate ideas and beliefs about what it is to be “beautiful” or “worthy” dependent upon her weight. Ask the women in your life about their beliefs.
- Ban the “f” word: Working toward destigmatizing weight in the household can mean taking a break from saturated trigger words. Disengage the word “fat” from being a criticism or judgment.
- Make body positivity part of daily life: Positive affirmations, notes on the mirrors, and encouraging women in your life to find their definition of beautiful are transformational practices. Bring body positivity into daily life, but be careful not to start demonizing insecurity. Insecurities are normal and even healthy in some regard. Continue to encourage an open dialogue to promote ongoing navigation of a loosely defined arena.
Let the O’Connor Professional Group take the guesswork out of putting a treatment plan together. Our combined personal and professional experience empowers us to empower you with a private consultation and customized plan of action for getting the help you need. Call us today for information: 617 910-3940