• Mandy Raff

A 'weighty' conversation...

Some years ago I read a newspaper article by a female journalist in which she lamented the fact that at a recent lunch with a few girlfriends, all of whom were highly intelligent and very successful in their careers/lives, most of the conversation was about weight – how many kilos they needed to lose/had lost, how many kilos someone-or-other had put on/taken off, what diet they were currently trying, etc. This really struck a chord with me at the time as it highlighted how we view ourselves as women, and the far too great an importance we place on striving for that often unrealistic goal weight or body image.

I’ve spent most of my life struggling with my weight and have definitely been guilty of engaging in conversations about weight/weight-loss/diets, and sharing lots of negative emotions about my body. But after reading that newspaper article, I vowed to be more aware of how, when and why I discussed weight issues with female friends.

With one much younger female friend in particular, I realised I was an enabler. I'd been unwittingly supporting her diet obsession and kilo-watching habit, so I just didn’t engage in her weight conversations anymore. Weight is also a really sensitive topic for most women. I know that it has been for me most of my life. I’ve hung onto some things people have said to me about my weight for far too long. And I’ve seen friendships end because of comments made about weight.

For so many of us, our feelings of self-worth have been at one time or another tied to our weight. Maybe they still are for you. It’s a really hard habit to break, I know, especially as so many messages we receive out there in the big wide world tell us we have to look a certain way and be a certain size to literally ‘fit in’. And we want to belong! We really do! So sometimes I think we talk about our weight issues in the hope (consciously or otherwise) that the listener will dispute our feelings about ourselves and boost us up. I’m all for women supporting women, but it pays to think about whether what we say to each other is actually doing that.

We need to be aware of the actual language we use to describe ourselves and others too. If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend you take the ‘F’ word (FAT) right out of your vocabulary. It’s full of negative connotations and really doesn’t deserve our attention. Replace it with ‘fabulous’, ‘fantastic’, or ‘freaking awesome’. Changing the language you use can really change your self-perception. It’s just like flicking a switch.

So the next time you’re about to be drawn into or start a ‘weighty’ conversation, pause for a moment and remember -

  • It perpetuates the judgement of women according to their appearance (weight, body size/image). Our weight is not the measure of who we are.

  • It can be an enabling behaviour – it gives you and the woman/women you’re talking to the chance to delve into, and possibly keep alive, very messy, negative feelings about weight/body image.

  • It can be about seeking validation from others, and we will never be satisfied if we keep looking for external validation. It has to come from within girls, from within!

  • It’s not the best message to pass on to younger women. We are their role models and we can help break the cycle of body loathing.

  • There are so many other things to talk about. More interesting, more fun, more inspirational, more humorous, more joyous. And so many better ways to spend our time.

There are certainly still times when I revert to old patterns of behaviour and get sucked into talking about weight. (Hey, I’m doing that right now, lol.) When I finally found what worked for me to get to and maintain my natural weight, I wanted to tell everyone. Yep, anyone who even gave me the slightest opening got an earful. Hmmmm. It was well meaning of course. I’m passionate about my new lifestyle and want to help others feel great. And I always come from a point of no judgement. But I soon realised that I was starting to sound a bit like a born-again Christian – I’d found the lite!

Now with Finding Beautiful there’ll be times that I’ll talk about weight, because people ask me to and because I’d love to change your feelings about it. But there'll be no preaching! What I really want to focus on is health and nutrition, and finding the mind/body/spirit balance to help you feel like the fabulous, wonderful, beautiful woman that you are, regardless of the number on the scales. Those numbers are no measure of the person you are. You and I are so much more than that.



(PS. Unfortunately I can’t recall the name of the journalist who wrote the article I refer to here. I think it was in the Courier Mail – Brisbane. I wish I could thank her.)

#womenshealth #weight #bodyimage #selftalk