I embrace the concept that we need to know we are OK no matter what labels are being applied to us. This is also a starting point if we want to make change. If we are labeled bad or shamed into making change it is usually has the opposite effect. One of my best friends died from a sudden stroke at age 38. She was morbidly obese and had symptoms that were warning signs of a stroke. She refused to go to a doctor as she felt shamed rather than being helped at every visit. My friend was one of the most intelligent and compassionate people I have ever met. She was starting to look at lifestyle changes herself without medical help when she passed. I recently read something that resonated with me. No one is fat. Saying someone is fat is dehumanizing. People have fat and people have fingernails. We don’t say you are fingernails. Fat shaming is getting more attention, here is an article I like with more on the topic.
Working at an eating disorder clinic has encouraged me to think about things like fat shaming and how we can accept ourselves in the midst of making changes. Sadly some patients were bullied for having fat. The acceptance they received for rapid weight loss contributed to an eating disorder. The National Eating Disorder Association states “Although our current culture is highly obsessed with food and weight, and disordered patterns of eating are very common, clinical eating disorders are less so. 20 million women and 10 million men will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives.” That is still a lot of people. I love that where I work we respect the individual and constantly say “you are not your eating disorder”.
Many yoga teachers, including myself, sometimes start practice by saying where ever you are on your mat starting your practice is OK. Yoga, when done right, encourages listening to your body and what it can do without labeling or being judgemental. A healthy weight is important and surveys often show weight loss is the number one reason women list for exercising. When I teach I try to emphasize the other health benefits of working out. Lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, stress reduction, stronger bones, more energy and better sleep to name a few. Exercising because we feel we are not OK often leads to doing too much and eventually injury. Many eating disorder clients have an addiction to exercise for weight loss.
Others constantly label us in unhealthy ways. The images we see in advertising contribute to our feelings of not being rich enough, young enough or thin enough to be happy. We internalize this and it may be difficult to come to terms with feeling we are OK. In my years of wellness coaching the people with the least love for themselves also had the worst long term results. Those who decided to make lifestyle changes out of love and respect for themselves had more lasting positive results. Find good professional help if you can’t bring self esteem up by yourself. Affirmations, positive self talk and reading might help, find an author that resonates with you.
“Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.” Martina Navratilova