Dr. Deah's Tasty Morsels

Fits and Starts

Posted on May 20, 2012 by Dr. Deah

Fit Now there’s a helluva word.  Think about it…how could one itty bitty word elicit such a broad spectrum of feelings, images, and associations? Throwing a fit If the shoe fits Misfit The perfect fit Fit for life Fit to stand trial When I worked in an inpatient psychiatric hospital for adolescents, one of the Expressive Arts Therapy activities I led was to have my patients free associate on the word fit and then choose one event from their list to explore. Without fail, the material generated from this directive was deep, rich, and expansive. In the scenarios that emerged few, if any, were neutral in nature.  There is no middle ground about throwing a fit or not fitting in.  We are either fit or unfit for duty, a 1A or a 4F.  From the time we are aware of others around us we are praised for fitting in and criticized for not fitting in.  Redheads don’t fit in, tomboys don’t fit in, boys that cry or are too short don’t fit in.  I’m sure I’m not the only person who has had:
  • Dressing room fits while on a quest for the perfect outfit
  • Worked with her child to find a perfect fit college
  • Became fit to be tied by the enormity of my to do list
But nowhere is the doctrine of having to fit in more oligarchic than in the context of women’s bodies. I received an email this week from a patient I worked with years ago that made an enormous impact on me.  (She found me via Facebook, which brings up a topic for another time about how social networking effects patient therapist closure etc.).  I’m not sure if she was in one of the groups where we did the “fit” activity, but her letter got me thinking about the whole “fit thing” once again.  I asked her if I could share a portion of her email in my blog assuring that her identity would remain anonymous and she said, “Yes.”
“...It’s been many years since I worked with you as my therapist in the hospital and the work we did helped me alot.  I changed alot of my bad attitude about my body and don’t get depressed as much.  The recreation activities we did helped me like my body more and I like doing more active things now than I used to.  I even think my eating is more normal I know I don’t binge like I used to and I am much thinner than I was when you knew me. I lost 45 pounds! But the problem is that other people still see me as fat. They don’t know that for me this is thin or thinner.  It makes me want to diet so they will like the way I look more.  I found your web page on Facebook and it made me feel better to know that I can be healthy at this weight. (I am 5’4 and weigh 150 pounds) But I still feel like I don’t fit  in. It’s hard for me to like myself when everyone around me thinks I’m too fat.”
Let's be clear.  I read mountains of material on fatness and fitness and feelings.  I am used to reading endless disparaging comments about fat people by people who hate fat people or are truly worried about a loved ones' health that they believe is jeopardized by their weight.  In fact, I recently received a comment  that kindly informed me that,
“You are doing a disservice to fat people by giving them the excuse to stay fat which comes with the tacit approval of being unhealthy.  How can you say you really care about someone’s health if you don’t encourage them to lose weight?”
Those kind of comments usually elicit a weary sigh and a response that I call “D3 on the juke box,” as I explain the Health at Every Size® perspective and that the war on obesity is causing more harm than good. But the personal perspective of my former patient’s note struck a different chord in me.  I felt angry and sad on her behalf and it elicited a flurry of questions.
  •  How do we hold on to the benefits of adopting a HAES approach if loving yourself continues to be undermined everywhere you go?
  • How do we strengthen our commitment to finding our healthy weight when the criticism we receive about how we look activates the urge to sign up for a diet program offering pre-packaged foods not fit for human consumption.
  • Why do people keep insisting that even if we are healthy we still need to “just lose the weight” because we don’t fit the image of a healthy thin person?
  • And why the hell does everyone on the planet all of a sudden seem to care about my weight anyway?  (Sorry, had a little s*#t fit there)
It saddens me that fitting in is so important in our culture that we often adopt self-destructive behaviors to feel included.  Pressure from peers, parents, and the media starts at an early age and continues relentlessly as we get older and often results in habits that become increasingly challenging to change. Negative thoughts and self-loathing are perhaps the most difficult habits to break because the standards of beauty and health that we are expected to attain are so extreme it makes it impossible for many of us to appreciate our strengths. Think about it…we get perpetual positive reinforcement for NOT LOVING ourselves! I realize that answering the questions I raised, is an ongoing, complex process for all of us and the writings of one zaftig, redheaded blogger isn’t going to change the world. BUT,  one thing I am certain of is Virgie Tovar was correct We could all stand to lose a little hate. We have more of a hate problem than a weight problem in this culture. We need to spend some time focusing on what is working not on what isn’t and find new ways to look at health and wellness goals, standards, and measurements.  Lets find  ways to help people understand the concept of body diversity and that some of us can be fit as a fiddle and can't fit into a size 6 dress.  I love this quote by Rollo May,
“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice it is conformity.”
I agree.  I am  hoping my former patient can be Very Very Brave. Til Next Time, Dr. Deah

About Dr. Deah

Dr. Deah Schwartz, clinician, educator, and author specializes in Expressive Arts Therapies, Eating Disorders, and Body Image. Deah is the author of Dr. Deah's Calmanac: Your Interactive Monthly Guide for Cultivating a Positive Body Image and co-author of the NAAFA award winning Off-Broadway Play, Leftovers, and its companion DVD/Workbook Set. An outspoken “New Yawker,” Dr. Deah believes that it is everyone’s responsibility to point out and eliminate size discrimination even when it means battling the mainstream media, and even more challenging...family members! To find out more about Dr. Deah’s work or to book a session visit her website at www.drdeah.com

Categories: Body Acceptance, diets, Dr. Deah, HAES®, Obesity, Weight | Tags: , , | 15 comments

Comments (15)

  1. Deah, I love your writing. You are witty/compassionate/clever. Apropos of nothing, I saw this cartoon yesterday: The title was “Low Self Esteem.” It shows a man writing in his diary, “Dear Diary. I am sorry to bother you again.”

    He was apologizing to his diary. Let’s institute a new holiday: I’M NOT APOLOGIZING FOR ANYTHING THIS MONTH. Best regards, Mary Anne Cohen

    • I LOVE THAT!!!! I want to make a cartoon of a clam lying on a therapist’s couch and the clam says, “I just have this horrible feeling that if I open up, I will DIE!!” 🙂 Where would we be without humor? Thanks also for your very sweet feedback about my writing. I really appreciate that!

  2. Dr Deah – What can I say as a woman with clinically diagnosed atypical binge eating disorder your writing resonates with such undersanding, warmth and compassion. The Diet Tribe (term borrowed from JJ @ fu*k the diets) have such a pervasive and destructive effect on self esteem that it’s getting harder to see the wood from the trees however bloggers like yourself are shining through can’t wait to see what you write next xxx

  3. And I think we need a “leave everyone the hell alone” day. Reading your post brought back the shades of times when I would outwalk all my thinner friends without getting tired. And yet I was the one the doctor pushed to lose weight (according to him, I was still 13 pounds overweight at 5’9 and 153, with a large frame. I was 16. My “measurements,” as they called them then, were 38-28-38). Now, thinking of the idiocy and confusion inherent in his “good” intentions, I keep thinking how ridiculous his stipulations were, and how ridiculous such stipulations are when all well-intentioned doctors make them. How many women are sucked into hating their bodies? How many must develop a dysfunctional relationship with their bodies and themselves before the stupidity (and cupidity) of Big Diet and Big Pharma stop?

    Thank you for writing about it and questioning the blind unwavering wrongness that continues to be called “dieting/behavior modification/taking care of yourself/healthy behavior.” If enough of us keep questioning and showing in how many ways it is wrong, we will start to make a dent in the awfulness. And one day women will not have to worry about conforming to some very arbitrary standards of health and beauty.

    Hugs, Frannie Zellman

  4. Having been a misfit all my life, this really resonated with me. And I think because of being a misfit, it made all that much easier for me to tell the diet industry to take a long walk off a very short pier into some very deep water when I finally found fat acceptance. I’ve come to look at my not “fitting in” as just a different way to shine, my way to shine, and that it’s not the same as everyone else is a good thing.

    • Vesta, I so appreciate that you take the time and read each one of my blogs and always have an affirming perspective on the topic and how it has impacted you. Thank you!

  5. Dr. Deah, I applaud you and thank you. As a practicing Intuitive Eater I realized one of the hardest parts is learning self-acceptance… we all strive so hard to ‘fit in’ that some of us will do anything to get there… even if it means self-destructive eating patterns. Learning not to force fit my body into a size that is not natural for me has brought peace and freedom into my life… so much so that I now provide support groups in my community to share the knowledge of Intuitive Eating. With your permission, I would love to be able to share your post with my groups and on my facebook page. The questions that you present come up so often. It’s nice to be able to offer another person’s perspective. Thank you for the work you do 🙂

    • Of course you may share! Share away! I also have some wonderful resources on my website that you may want to check out. If you haven’t visited it yet it is drdeah.com Thanks for taking the time to write, it means a great deal to me.

  6. Deah – this is one of your best. I love the exploration of “fit”(ness?), and the great way you finesse the substitution of “hate loss” for “weight loss.” Thanks.

    • Thank YOU!! It really is an important topic. I just re-read an article from April of last year about two 8th grade girls who had a suicide pact because they were both chubby and were teased for being fat. 8th graders and they died because of NOT feeling like they fit in? Heart breaking.

  7. Great blog Deah!!! So true. We must be peaceful warriors to fight the fat fear and shine as our TRUTH.

    • Thank you Julie! My hope is that we can get this message to the younger folks also, and perhaps they will be able to forgo this particular rite of passage!

  8. Pingback: The Other F Word | Fierce, Freethinking Fatties

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