Saturday, July 07, 2007

Take the love-your-body pledge

The previous post, and some of the comments on it, got me thinking hard about how to begin to change the culture around fat and how we perceive it.

I asked myself: What's the one thing I wish I could change around this issue? The answer: I wish I could change the way girls and women talk to themselves and others about their bodies.

I've posted about this before. And I've written about it in this article. Now it's time to do something about it.

So I have this crazy idea: What if we could disseminate a kind of pledge that young girls and women would sign, promising not to trash-talk about their bodies? Something like this:

I, __________________, pledge to speak kindly about my body.

I promise not to talk about how fat my thighs or stomach or butt are, or about how I really have to lose 5 or 15 or 50 pounds. I promise not to call myself a fat pig, gross, or any other self-loathing, trash-talking phrase.

I vow to be kind to myself and my body. I will learn to be grateful for its strength and attractiveness, and be compassionate toward its failings.

I will remind myself that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that no matter what shape and size my body is, it’s worthy of kindness, compassion, and love.

Then what if we got some of their favorite role models to sign, and stand up and say why it's important? Folks like, I don't know, Sheryl Crow and Jennifer Hudson and Mia Hamm? Would you sign it?

See, I think sometimes if you change the story you tell yourself about something, your feelings follow along. So maybe if we change the words we use to talk about our bodies, our feelings about them will follow along too.

And then maybe kids like the 12-year-old in my previous post won't feel so anxious and conflicted about what they eat and how they look. And maybe some of the kids who are genetically predisposed to eating disorders won't develop them.

Maybe it's naive. Or maybe it's a good idea. What do you think?


samsi77 said...

LOVE IT! I just finished preparing packets for my group this week on "Self Esteem and Body Image" and within the packets I used handouts from the NEDA website. I included the "No Weigh" contract to distribute and discuss with the parents, found at:
This is where I would love to see money put into marketing instead of celebrities doing Slim Fast, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and other self esteem and body image defeating things! Spread the word we all have a part to play.

Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz said...

So here's something interesting...

As I was reading this post my initial, gut reaction was FEAR. A wave of panic washed over me.


One thought formed clearly in my head:

"But if I accept my body the way it is, I'll never lose this weight."

I need to go think about what this means. Yikes.

mary said...

I think it's great Harriet, though sad that we even need this. Yet we do. We need to begin with a much younger age group and with the women in their lives.
To have this message put forth earlier might be the way to truly begin the change in the mindset of all the people who spread the 'hate myself' by being petty. I've had my moments when I wonder why my body changed but then I realize that I am healthy and the way many women should probably look if they accepted their body as it followed it's own natural course and didn't obsess over themselves. Insurance companies would have us believe that we are only supposed to be a few lbs. over our 18yr. old weight for our whole lives. Sorry Mister Insurance Man, but it's just not normal! Even my hands got bigger!
Anyway, I'll sign! ; )

Harriet said...

Hi Samsi,

I'll look at the NEDA page. Thanks for the tip.


I know exactly how you feel. It felt counterintuitive to me, too--like Alice in Looking Glass land walking away from the Red Queen's garden when all she wanted was to get inside it. All I will say is that the thing you feel like you can't and shouldn't do? It's almost always exactly what you need to do. Life is funny like that.


Hee hee! I don't think my hands got bigger but my feet definitely did! I only hope my brain is keeping up.

Carrie Arnold said...

We've gotta start somewhere...and this, my dear Harriet, is a good place to start. Check out the website who is a champion of these sorts of things. In her presentations and books, she talks about "The Language of Fat." Maybe we could get something going here...


Katie said...

I would sign this pledge... and Maggie, maybe by agreeing to this pledge, it will become easier to lose weight because we'll be loving our bodies, therefore taking better care of bodies, which may result in the weight coming off in a healthy, natural way...

Count me in ;)

Harriet said...

The pledge has been making the rounds of some livejournal sites today, I noticed. Very cool! I'm working on creating a PDF version that people can email and download around. Spread the word!

Anonymous said...

I love the pledge. I'll sign.
I rarely say out loud any of the things I dislike about my body, but it's probably just as damaging to say them silently to ourselves.
I need to practice saying kind things about my body for now on.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of fat phobia, see the following article on survival rates post heart surgery of obese patients versus thin patients and the scientists' desperate attempts to maintain that being "overweight" still can't be good.

Harriet said...

Ah yes, the so-called "obesity paradox," which is code for "we can't understand why fat doesn 't kill you so we'll call it a paradox and be done with it."


Tara, you're not alone. If I had a friend who followed me around saying the kinds of things I say to myself in my head, I'd get ride of her on the double. And you know what? Why should I put up with that from myself, either? I deserve better. :-) So do you.

Sarah said...

I would like to sign the pledge, someday.

Harriet said...

Hi Sarah,
How about today? :-) It doesn't mean you have to be perfect. I'm not. I still catch myself bashing myself, sometimes without even being conscious of it. All the pledge means is whatever you want it to mean to you.

Unknown said...

I'm ready. Sign me up!

Anonymous said...

Hooray! I love your pledge. I'm starting a 30 days to breakthrough experiment to transform my thoughts about my body, culminating on Love Your Body Day (October 18.) I believe that, by working together, women will conquer this body image issue once and for all.

Will you join me in my experiment?