Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Feeling Fat, Huge, and Gross

Feeling Fat, Huge, and Gross

This blog entry is about feeling fat. Carefully dissect the two words.

(1) Feeling an emotional state or reaction; it is a feeling, not a fact….yeah, it is a feeling- you are feeling, not taking up literal space, but feeling.
(2) Fat—big, the best or richest part; abounding in desirable elements; rich; having an abundance or amplitude; well-stocked.

Together that can be a great thing- emotion- and the best and richest part, abundance.

Thing is, sometimes we are feeling a lot. And it FEELS like it is us. It FEELS like we are big. Likely what we are feeling is big, overwhelming, too much, too rich, over the top, and/or something we are not used to and do not like.

To be clear, feeling fat and being clinically overweight are not the same thing and should be treated differently.

If your doctor has told you you are clinically overweight, I am sure your doctor has counseled you to eat healthy and exercise once a day (or something like that). This is good advice. I am also sure you doctor did NOT tell you to hate and judge yourself.

This blog entry is about feeling fat. You will hear from Zuri (i.e., Zuri’s Story) how this happens in Zuri’s life and then The Process in which I will link to you resources and explain things a bit.

Zuri’s Story

Zuri feels fat, huge, and gross.

Things are overwhelming. It is October and lots of things are due at school. The pressure is on. Eric (her older brother) seems to be going to school. Still, he is a constant worry. Rashan (her little brother) was sick. Zuri missed 4 days of school staying home with him. It wasn’t really her choice to stay home. Her mom said she had no more sick days left at work. So, Zuri needed to take care of Rashan.

And another thing happened earlier today. The whole day was hard. Her friends seemed to be excluding her-- or were too busy for her --or forgot about her. And she was waiting in line, for lunch on her own. Zuri was sort of sad and a little lonely. Then she felt it.

You know when you feel like someone is looking at you? She had that feeling. She looked back and there were the 8th graders. The 8th graders that everyone was nervous about. The 8th graders who were acting out and had no sense of their own feelings let alone anyone else’s. Those kids. Those exact kids were right behind her and looking at her.

“Ugh,” she started breathing. She said to herself, “Breathe, Zuri, breathe. Ignore them. Pretend they are not there.”

“Hey Zuri. Hey Zuuuurrrrrriiiii!” one boy said.

“Hey fat girl. What you got on your plate? Those potatoes Zuri?” a girl said.

“Why your pants so tight girl?” the other boy said.

Zuri started blinking her eyes. When she was little, she learned that if you blink your eyes you can keep tears from falling down your face. She didn’t turn around either. She didn’t answer.

“Why you so hungry girl? You mama don’t feed you?” the first boy said.

“I saw your mom at the club last night. Was she so drunk, she forgot to make your lunch?” the girl said.

That was it. She dropped her tray and ran to the bathroom. None of her friends were around, not now, not all day. She felt so huge and her heart ached. It physically hurt.

Flash forward—Zuri’s home. She’s looking in the mirror. She feels fat, huge, horrible, and gross.

I see her. She is not huge or fat. She is a healthy girl. I am sure that the last time she was at the doctor’s office her BMI was right within the normal weight range. What she is feeling is not about extra weight. It’s not about pounds anyway.

The truth is, those 8th graders weren’t teasing her about her weight. They were teasing her because she is BIG. She is going to be something in this world. She already is. She already affects people deeply. Other kids know when they are around her that they around someone special, someone BIG. She does not get this. I wish I could tell her.

She digs into her big box and finds her yoga bag. She finds my notes and looks for something to distract her. I am praying she finds the right page, the page that will explain it all to her. She keeps flipping through my yoga notes. Page after page flips by, nothing catching her yes.

Then, she stops. She stops because I wrote in all caps, “BE HUGE. BE AS BIG AS YOU CAN BE.” She stops right there and she reads.

It is a class that I taught on January 1st. It was about goals. I, on purpose, challenged the students to re-evaluate their new year’s resolutions. I knew that there were students in the room who had resolved to lose weight in the new year, to essentially be smaller. I challenged them to abandon those misguided goals. I challenged them to consider trying to be BIGGER. To try to take up more space in their worlds, to have an impact. We should not spend our time being smaller.

We should spend our time finding our life purpose, our soul’s intended journey.

You see, when our life purpose has voice and expression, we become less compulsive in our unhealthy habits. Getting smaller, food restriction, eating, shopping, drinking, all that--  are no longer drives. They are not necessary.

Zuri read all of this. She set down the journal and walked to the mirror. She walked until she was really close to the mirror. Her breath was fogging the mirror. She looked into her own eyes. She saw her beautiful brown irises. She saw light brown, dark brown, and deep brown lines radiating from her pupils. She thought, “My eyes are sort of beautiful.”

Zuri stepped back and looked at her whole face. She saw the gentle roundness of her forehead, cheeks, and chin. She saw her cheekbones rise and the hope, yeah, she saw the hope in her eyes. She saw something  else there too. It was big. She looked deeply and saw her eyes and in her eyes, her dreams and everything she is up to. Zuri was starting to get it.

She stepped back, yet another step, and saw her shoulders, her feminine shape, her hips, her legs, and she had to admit, her cute outfit that her Aunt Jasmine bought her at the mall.

She was just right.

She was not fat—whatever that is supposed to mean in the pejorative (the negative sense of the word). She was not anything but right where she needed to be. She lifted her chin, set her eyes, and looked in the mirror. Then, as if she was her own best coach, she said, “You’ve got this Zuri. You are beautiful in your dreams and your big love. You’ve got this!”

The Process

We spend so much time on the physical. We break others and our own selves down as we compare ourselves to external ideals or unrealistic, airbrushed expectations. It’s an easy target, much easier than looking into our own souls and asking if we are following our life path, our Dharma

a. The principle or law that orders the universe.
b. Individual conduct in conformity with this principle.
c. The essential function or nature of a thing.

I believe that we fall out of alignment with the universe and our dharma when we focus on judging our bodies, food restriction, and size reduction.

It is an empty journey.

Yes, it is an empty journey. One that Zuri has avoided. So many kids face weight-related teasing and bullying. They deal with it by going on a diet. Some of those move to eating disorder risk and of those, some go on to develop eating disordered behaviors (see Diane Neumark-Sztainer’s work below). *

In my research and private practice, I have worked for nearly 2 decades to prevent and treat eating disorders. I have watched young men and women, boys and girls respond to the stress of school, work, teasing or comments, and the pressures of our media-oriented culture by trying to change their body shape or weight. This is because it is hard address our stress, question the motives of those who are teasing and bullying, and to challenge our media ideals. It is hard, but it is what must be done.

Educate yourself on the issue. Be on your path and in your purpose. And do not, DO NOT EVER work to be smaller. BE YOUR BIGGEST! BE HUGE!

Take a few minutes. Look into the mirror and see deeply into your own eyes. In your eyes, see your dreams (look deeply). Then, step back and see the beauty in your own face. Step back once more and see how gorgeous you really are in your whole body, in the wholeness of your dharma, and in the full expression of your soul.

To learn more bout media check out these links:

Also, I have addressed these issues in my books-

Girls Growing in Wellness and Balance: Yoga and Life Skills to Empower

Cook-Cottone, Kane, Keddie, & Haugli

Healthy Eating in Schools: Evidence-based Interventions to Help Kids Thrive

Cook-Cottone, Tribole, & Tylka 

Weight-teasing among adolescents: Correlations with weight status and disordered eating behaviors.

Neumark-Sztainer, D.; Falkner, N.; Story, M.; Perry, C.; Hannan, P. J.; Mulert, S.
International Journal of Obesity, Vol 26(1), Jan 2002, 123-131.

This study assessed the prevalence of perceived weight-teasing and associations with unhealthy weight-control behaviors and binge eating in 4,746 middle school adolescents. The Ss completed surveys and anthropometric measurements. There were statistically significant associations between perceived weight-teasing and weight status; both overweight and underweight youth reported higher levels of teasing than average weight Ss. Very overweight youth (body mass index > 95th percentile) were most likely to be teased about their weight; 63% of very overweight girls, and 58% of very overweight boys reported being teased by their peers, while weight-teasing by family members was reported by 47% of these girls and 34% of these boys. Youth who were teased about their weight, particularly overweight girls, reported that it bothered them. Perceived weight-teasing was significantly associated with disordered eating behaviors among overweight and nonoverweight girls and boys. For example, among overweight youth, 29% of girls and 18% of boys who experienced frequent weight-teasing reported binge-eating as compared to 16% of girls and 7% of boys who were not teased. It is concluded that educational interventions and policies are needed to curtail weight-related mistreatment among youth. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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