Deja Vu Blogfest 2014 post: Body Image and Being Fat in America

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I’m participating in the Deja Vu Blogfest, founded by DL Hammons. It’s an opportunity to repost a past post (say that ten times real fast!) that you wished would’ve had more readership and more exposure. I’m taking this opportunity to re-post the most exciting thing that happened to me in 2014: that is, getting published in the Good Men Project online magazine with my article on Body Image and Being Fat in America. It’s a topic that I think needs to be discussed. I would love if people would read this and talk about it with people they know and love. My hope is that the article speaks to many and has long-lasting significance. I received an email from an old acquaintance that read my article when it first came out; he sent me a note that ended with “I’m sure you are impacting more folks than you can imagine.” And because of that, I wanted to repost the article, in case it might reach some folks who need to hear it and others who might benefit from reading it.

The article appeared in the magazine back on April 23rd and I blogged my news that same day. It is titled THE BEST AND WORST OF F WORDS. Below is the article in its entirety. Or if you’d like to see it as it appeared on the Good Men Project site, click here. And feel free to let me know what you think in the Comments section! Thanks in advance for reading it.

The Best and Worst of F Words

APRIL 23, 2014 by MICHELE TRUHLIK   4 COMMENTS

Michele Truhlik challenges our notions of beauty and says that being called FAT f*cks with men as much as it does women.

photo by Laura Lewis

One of my favorite words begin with F. I’m sure you know which one I’m talking about. That oft-thought crude four-letter word, to me, is an important communication tool. It’s a word I use when I want to place great emphasis on something that I’m saying. It also happens to be very effective when used in the passionate throes of hot steamy sex.

On the other hand, one of the ugliest F words is FAT. I hate that word! In our thin-obsessed society, the word has grown to be one that can throw a woman (or a man) into a downward spiral of crash dieting, eating disorders, body dysmorphia and even into a full-blown state of depression. It’s a bad word, fat.

Another F word that I have come to hate is FACE. Let me just state this on behalf of all the beautiful fat women in the world: The worst compliment you can give us is to say, “You have such a pretty face.” If I hear that one more time I’m going to scream and not stop screaming. God, this makes me crazy!

Why is this compliment so bothersome and so very uncool? Because if you are complimenting a thin woman, you say, “You’re so pretty” or “You’re beautiful.” But when you compliment a plus-size woman, you say “You have such a pretty face” or “You have a beautiful face.”

Do you know what that tells us? It tells us that although our face is pretty, the rest of us is garbage, and that everything below our necks is worthless. In other words, you’re telling us that ninety-five percent of our physical being is hideous. That truly is exactly what that compliment says to us. To use another F word, it’s so fucking insulting!

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Though likely different in form, men experience the masked insults too. Their buddies rib them about their expanding “beer gut” and love handles or make comments about how they should hit the gym, all cloaked in the guise of good-natured kidding of course.

Once thought to only affect women, the obsession with body image and the development of eating disorders are striking men in alarming numbers. Though body ideals differ, as women are driven by an unrelenting pressure to be thin and men are obsessed with bulking up and achieving the coveted six-pack abs, the result is the same: an overall dissatisfaction with their bodies, the accompanying negative self-image and its detrimental aftereffects.

According to National Eating Disorders Association, in the United States alone, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their life. This includes anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders. Gathered data on people in treatment suggests that as many as 25 percent of those struggling with anorexia or bulimia are men. When binge eating figures are examined, the number jumps to 40 percent.

An April report in Eating Disorder Magazine claims that nearly half (43%) of men are not satisfied with their own body. Body image issues are a key component in eating disorders. Most men who are in this category admit to being depressed and a large number claim to use fasting, purging (self-induced vomiting) and laxatives to manage their weight. Unlike anorexia, which involves starvation, the main method of disordered eating in men involves the vicious cycle of binge eating followed by excessive exercise.

Men may be especially vulnerable to muscle dysmorphia, a condition in which one obsesses about lacking muscle definition and mass, even if they have a muscular body. In a recent issue of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal, Ball State University nutritionist Katherine A. Beals, PhD, RD, highlighted this trend among fitness buffs. “Millions of boys and men today harbor a secret obsession about their looks and are endangering their health by engaging in excessive exercise, bingeing and purging rituals, steroid abuse, and overuse of nutritional and dietary [products],” she writes.

This all boils down to body image. Brown University has a fabulous site devoted to Health Services and Health Education. Here they present a description and definition of Positive Body Image vs. Negative Body Image that really hits it home.

Taken from their page,

We have a positive body image when we have a realistic perception of our bodies AND we enjoy them just as they are. Positive body image involves understanding that healthy attractive bodies come in many shapes and sizes, and that physical appearance says very little about our character or value as a person. Healthy body image means that our assessment of our bodies is kept separate from our sense of self-esteem, and it ensures that we don’t spend an unreasonable amount of time worrying about food, weight and calories.

Negative body image can involve a distorted perception of size or shape, as well as more global feelings of shame, awkwardness, and anxiety about the body. People with negative body image tend to feel that their size or shape is a sign of personal failure, and that it is a very important indicator of worth. Poor body image has been linked to diminished mental performance, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, sexual dysfunction, dieting and eating disorders.

According to Brown’s Health Education discussion on Size Prejudice, “Intolerance of body diversity has a lot to do with the meaning of size and shape in our culture. Being thin and/or muscular has become associated with being “hard-working, successful, popular, beautiful, strong, and self-disciplined.” Being “fat” is associated with being “lazy, ignorant, hated, ugly, weak, and lacking in will-power.” As a result, “fat” isn’t a description like tall or redhead – it’s an indication of moral character: fat is bad.”

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So just how do we deal when fat is a reality for many of us? Brown University’s Health Services has a list of tips and advice on how to boost our body image. Of those sage words of wisdom, these are my favorite:

  • De-emphasize numbers. Neither weight nor Body Mass Index tell us anything substantial about body composition and health. Eating habits, activity patterns, and other self-care choices are much more important. It’s really hard to cultivate an attitude of body acceptance and trust when you are basically climbing on the scale to ask if it’s OK to feel good about yourself that day. It is ALWAYS OK to feel good about yourself – don’t let a machine tell you any differently.
  • Realize that you cannot change your body type. Lightly muscled, bulky, or rounded, you need to appreciate your body and work with your genetic inheritance.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Your physiology is unique to you; you can’t get a sense of your body’s needs and abilities with someone else’s body as a reference point. And the research has shown that frequent comparing tends to increase negative body image.
  • Limit the “body checking” that you do throughout the day. Researchers have also found that negative body image is reinforced by lots of time in front of the mirror, or frequent checks of (perceived) body flaws. Instead, consider rearranging your living space so that you aren’t running into full-length mirrors every time you turn around.
  • Question the degree to which your self-esteem depends on your appearance. Although we are repeatedly told “Change Your Shape and Change Your Life,” basing your happiness on this foundation is likely to lead to failure and frustration, and may prevent you from exploring ways to truly enhance your life.
  • Broaden your perspective about health and beauty. Read books about body image, cultural pressures, or media literacy. Google some fine art images on the Web. Fine art collections show that a variety of bodies have been celebrated throughout the ages and in different cultures. Fine art doesn’t exist to create a need for a product (like advertising does), so it isn’t intended to leave you feeling inadequate or anxious.
  • Recognize that size prejudice is a form of discrimination similar to other forms of discrimination. Assumptions that shape and size are indicators of character, morality, intelligence, or success are incorrect and unjust. Celebrate people you know who defy these generalizations.

So if you’ve spent (wasted) years trying to be what you weren’t meant to be, take these tips to heart. No one should be made to feel bad for the way they look, the way they are. Remember, media images are NOT reality. Women don’t have to be a size 2 to be considered attractive and men don’t need to have rippling abs and bulging biceps to be considered hot.

We are all unique and valued individuals, worthy of being loved and applauded for who we are, AS WE ARE. Perfection is way overrated, and impossible to achieve anyway.

And speaking as a one who has spent decades being fat in America: I do believe that most people who use the compliment “You have such a pretty face” are coming from a place of love and don’t even realize the implication their phraseology has on the one being complimented. But, please, from now on, consider your words before you tell a fat woman that she’s beautiful. Don’t pinpoint her face. Just say, “You’re beautiful.” Period. Because that’s what we are.

Picasso painting

Nude Woman in a Red Armchair by Pablo Picasso (1932)


Follow Michele on Twitter: @greyzoned

Photo Credit: Flickr/Laura Lewis

– See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/best-worst-f-words-jnord/

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51 thoughts on “Deja Vu Blogfest 2014 post: Body Image and Being Fat in America

  1. I try not to think about my weight too much. I’m not a fan of self-deprivation though I do try to avoid over-indulgence as well. Enjoy life, but try to live as long as I can is my mantra.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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  2. BRAVO!!! Loved your article (congrats on having it published) and I agree with every word. I do worry about my weight, but not from a body image perspective. Just about all of the men in my family have required heart by-pass surgery (some at an early age), so I do stress over things I probably shouldn’t. Anyway…true beauty is internal!

    Thank you for re-sharing with us today. A perfect choice! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much DL! I really appreciate your compliment. And you’re so right: true beauty is internal! Thanks so much for the opportunity to share this again. The Déjà Vu Blogfest is great fun!

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  3. I’v enever told a woman that she has a pretty face. I’ve said, “You’re beautiful!” or “You’re gorgeous!” or “You look amazing!” and meant it, regardless of how much she’s weighed. I think women look SO much better with curves!!!

    But as a guy, I was the kid who was 6 foot tall and weighed 120 lbs dripping wet. My body image issues were about my skrawny bird legs and skinny arms. And I was incredibly shy and self-consious and awkward.

    The sad fact is that there can be very harsh definitions about what is “attractive” and EVERYONE can suffer from a poor self-image, even those anyone else might cal beautiful. The secret is to focus on self-acceptance, self-worth, and being the best person you can be. And also treating everyone with compassion and acceptance, regardless of where they fall on the scales.

    Happy Deja Vu!

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    • Oh, yes!!! Yes, yes, yes! So well put! That is the secret…and let’s hope it doesn’t stay a secret! We should be shouting that from the rooftops! Thank you so much for sharing that part of yourself — and you’re so right: Everyone indeed can suffer from a poor self-image. And can I say: I love men who love women with curves! 🙂 Thanks for reading my article and for stopping by my blog. Please keep coming back: would love to see more of you here.

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  4. When I was younger (teenage me) I was stick skinny. Then, in my early twenties, I found myself closing in on 220ish. Then I lost a lot of weight for about a decade (drugs’ll do that to ya), but shot back up to around 250 (after quitting the aforementioned drug habit). These days I rest at about 220ish again. My one biggest pet peeve about being so-called overweight, is when complete strangers call me big guy. “Hey big guy.” I don’t think they are dong it to be mean, but it is still rather annoying.

    Anyhoo, great article. Keep on keepin’ on. See ya ’round the web. All Things Kevyn

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Kevyn, Thanks so much for sharing that part of you with us here. And I can absolutely see how that would be annoying…if not downright aggravating! People just don’t think! And that’s one of the reasons I wrote the article: I hope people that make those kind of “innocuous” comments read it and see themselves…and then do something to rectify their behavior and their choice of words! Thanks for reading my article and for checking out my blog. Hope to see you around here a lot more! Happy Holidays!

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    • Amen to that, LD! Thanks for stopping by and reading my article. I appreciate your comments! Happy Holidays. Enjoy that tinsel! 🙂

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    • Thanks so much Kim! It was definitely the highlight of my year. So now I have to work toward another published article in 2015. Shooting for at least two this year. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and for reading my article. I appreciate your comments. Happy Holidays. Hope to see you around!

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  5. Great Deja Vu post – I use to care a great deal when I was young about my weight but I’ve since grown out of that – thank goodness. It is definitely all about the inside and how you feel. 🙂

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    • So very true Kimberly! I can’t say that I’ve grown out of caring because I think a lot of damage was done when I was young and that stuff lingers throughout life. We all have that crap in our closets in some form or another… But as I get older, I definitely care less! 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and for reading my article! I appreciate you taking the time to do it. Happy Deja Vu! This is fun, isn’t it? Happy Holidays.

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  6. This is a powerful posts and thank you for sharing it with us … so many of us, men and women, have distorted body image issues. We place so much emphasis on the outer appearance … I love the comments too. Thanks Kim.

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    • Thanks Susan, for taking the time to read my article and leave a comment. You’re so right: SO MANY OF US have DISTORTED body image issues. Did you ever see that study where women were asked to view a lineup of various sized women and choose the one that they think best represents their own body type? Inevitably, ALL of the women chose a woman who was significantly larger in comparison to themselves. EVERY ONE of them truly thought they were bigger than they actually are. We must have a lot of dark-magic mirrors out there! Thanks again for stopping by Susan.

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  7. Hi Michele – a really great post for us to think about and consider .. when so many struggle with their image – it’s what’s inside that matters … the words we use, the way we convey ourselves … and the way we think … good way of putting this concept across to us and no wonder the article was taken up for printing … congratulations on that. We are who we are … again we have choices, but they shouldn’t be because of outward appearances …

    Cheers and have a happy build up to the Christmas season – Hilary

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    • Thanks so much Hilary! I so appreciate your comments. Thanks for taking the time to read my article. Wishing you a fabulous holiday season and an abundant new year!

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    • It sure does start happening young! And I think it robs kids of their innocent childhoods. They shouldn’t be so stressed out and dealing with body image issues so young. Years ago it was mainly girls that were affected but now so many boys are equally affected. It’s a shame. And the media and magazines have so much to do with it. Thanks so much for coming by and reading my article. I appreciate your comments too! Hope to see you around. Happy holidays!

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  8. I love this so much. What a beautifully written, important and relevant article. I love the part about not going by numbers. I agree a hundred percent. In fact, I never weigh myself and when I go to the doctor I ask the nurse not to tell me the number. I have a friend who suffers horribly from anorexia. She almost died years ago, and she swears she’s recovered now (lies lies lies) …I honestly don’t know how much longer she can go on. It’s devastating. Also fascinating to see the statistics about men who suffer. It’s sad that society doesn’t really acknowledge their struggle! Great post! Thank you for re-sharing so we can all read and learn!

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      • aw, thanks. Yeah, my babies. The loves of my life! They can get into some trouble occasionally but all I have to do is look at them and all is forgiven. 🙂

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    • Oh Beth, thank you so much! I’m so happy that you found my article relevant and informative. Thank you! I know, it was eye-opening, even for me, one who’s dealt with weight and body image issues all my life, at how men and boys are struggling now. And so, everyone needs to be made aware. Thank you for taking the time to read it and for your incredible comments. Please, by all means, feel free to reblog or circulate however you wish, to help spread the word. It’s an important issue and I think the country (the world) needs to be having a conversation about it. You just made my day Beth. 🙂

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  9. This is a great post- thanks for sharing. My son is in middle school. Body image is a huge issue with both the boys and the girls. Fat is the big insult, even hurled at the thin kids.

    On a dog note, my vet told me my 26lb dog was fat and needed to lose weight. She’s not slender but not really overweight. I asked how much she should lose and was told one pound. Then the vet called her ‘fattie’ while giving her a treat after the exam. The worst part- the two vet techs were more than a little overweight. Every time that vet opened her mouth, I couldn’t help but cringe.

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    • isn’t that awful?! Oh, I’m cringing with you! I’m so conditioned to be cognizant of my words that I wouldn’t even think of calling a dog a derogatory name (like fattie, as your vet called your dog, or Porker, etc). Dogs are sensitive too and have feelings, after all! 🙂 And yes, FAT is THE ultimate insult. Always has been, probably always will be. The sad thing is that weight prejudice is not given the seriousness that other prejudices have been given over the last decade. Everyone knows now that race and sexual preference are areas where it is unacceptable to make jokes or use slurs, but still the overweight are targeted over and over again. Look at the movies. You don’t see movies anymore making fun of these other groups, but they’ll make fun of an overweight (fat) person all day long. I keep thinking that one of these days, the word fat will make it into the “not politically correct” corner but I think we’re a long way from that. Although, I hope this younger generation is more accepting of ALL people who are “different.” I see hope when I see how far this younger generation has come in terms of acceptance. Let’s just hope they can embrace people of size too…

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  10. Great post. Congratulations on getting it published. I never know what t do when people give me the old “you’ve got such a pretty face” or its cousin “your hair is such a lovely color.” My first instinct is to make a snide comment about the rest of me being ugly. I’ve come to wish people not say anything about me appearance rather than say something disingenuous. Fat shaming is far more hurtful than thin people can understand.
    Thanks for speaking out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amen Sister!!! Amen to that. It is hurtful … and it’s the kind of hurt that lingers over a lifetime. People don’t understand that. I’m still haunted by the teasing and taunting that happened to me in elementary and junior high school. It wasn’t so bad in high school because I got a reputation for being tough and kicking ass in Junior high in defense of myself so those people who used to fat-shame me pretty much kept their mouths shut by the time high school rolled around. Which was nice because it let me flourish naturally as I could be myself. But I think it’s even worse when it comes from adults. Adults are supposed to know better. Over the years, I’ve come up with some effective comebacks, like the time this jerk of a man in a bar said to me, “You have such a gorgeous face. Now all you need to do is lose about 50 lbs.” I said, “Why? To attact someone like you?? No thanks!” Idiot. Or the guy who I shamed into being a human again. He would make comments when I’d walk by and I would either ignore him or say something not very ladylike, until I finally went up to him one night, and privately said to him, “Hey, this is the way God made me. Who are YOU to judge THAT?” His eyes got wide, he was speechless and I just walked away. A while later he came up to me and apologized for being an asshole. And he actually turned out to be a pretty decent guy. We ended up playing pool a few times after that, because he was genuinely remorseful and I think he really took to heart what I said to him. Ay-yi-yi…I could go on and on. Sadly, right? But hey, I’m 52 years old and the shit that happened to me back when I was a kid still, to this day, bother me. THAT’s what people need to realize. I can honestly say that I understand when kids who get bullied go off the deep end, with tragic results. There but for the Grace of God go I…
      Thank you Elizabeth, for taking the time to read my article and thanks for sharing your experiences. Feel free to reblog or pass around. The more people who learn from this can only make for a better world, I think. You think??

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    • Thanks Romi! I’m so glad you found the tips to be beneficial! Thanks so much for stopping by and reading my article. Hope to see you around here more often. 🙂 Happy Holidays!

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  11. Do you know, my fleshlings were just discussing the mirror question the other day…The lady fleshling was commenting on how that, since the current living arrangements have only one small face-heighted mirror, she rarely gives a thought to how she looks when she goes out, and how this has been quite a liberating thing. But now that we are all moving into a house with full length mirrors in every bedroom, she wonders whether, and how, this might change.
    Very. Interesting.

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  12. A good, thought-provoking article. Obsessing about our appearance seems a dead end, though I will toss out that many Americans would do well to think more about their fitness (completely separate from their weight and looks). As I age, I’m not wild about the changes in my body, many of which seem beyond my control. But the one thing I can and do address is keeping myself fit enough to do and enjoy the active things that give me pleasure.

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    • Thanks Rebecca! And right you are. Indeed, the focus should always be on fitness and health and how we feel and less on how we look (from a body image standpoint)… Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my article. Much appreciated.

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  13. The “pretty face” line really rings true for so many women. Body image is constantly mentioned in social media, resulting in more young women feeling self-conscious about their weight than ever. Congrats on getting this important piece published! I’m sure it will continue to help people care more about being healthy than trying to be model thin. On the flip side, I’ll never forget when my Grandma told me one of her neighbor’s was dating a skinny girl with a “horse face.” Bullies strike at all ages!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Julie! I do hope the piece helps people too. From your lips to God’s ear, as they say. Yes, the media is certainly the main culprit. For decades, advertising has told people what they need to look like in order to be desirable. Lately many celebrities have insisted on no air-brushing in their ads because they see the devastating effect it’s having, especially on young people today. You’ve probably seen some of the articles that show how dramatically different the air-brushed subjects look from their real selves. It’s outrageous! And a few years ago Dove started that “Real Beauty” self-esteem boosting campaign, depicting real women as they look without technical or creative touch-ups. So the tide is shifting, but it has a long long way to go. Thanks so much for reading my article. I appreciate your comments. Feel free to share or reblog if you feel it would be beneficial.
      Happy holidays to you!

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  14. Sorry to be late to the party. I had a family Christmas in KC and I promised myself I’d go computer free the entire weekend. My mother says fat is the only prejudice still accepted in our society. All you have to do is watch the media as they perpetuate all the stereotypes of it. Ugh. Great post.

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    • Thanks Dawn! Yep, you and your mom are so right. That is, sadly, very true. I don’t know if it will ever change but there’s always hope. Thanks so much for reading my article. I appreciate your comments! Hope your family Christmas in Kansas City was fun and fabulous!

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  15. Hi, catching up on the second half of the linky-list! Your do-over is an inspiring choice 🙂 For years I was a skinny-mini, verging on anorexia, but for the last 20 years I have been overweight. I have been going to the gym for a year now, and I am much heathier, have a better stamina and everything’s toned up! BUT the scales still say the same and it really gets me down. I know it shouldn’t because I am in a better physical place, but we’ve been conditioned to believe the scales, that everything stops with the figure on the scales x

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    • That’s the same dilemma so many of us find ourselves in. That our self-worth is determined by a number on a scale. It’s absolutely ludicrous but still we worship the numbers. It’s so sad. And it’s a cycle that needs to be broken. If only the media would quit playing on our insecurities! We have to find it within ourselves to say “F*** the scale! I am who I am and I’m just fine the way I am!” Wouldn’t that be nice to be that free?? We have to keep trying… Thanks so much for coming back to read my article. I’m so glad you did. Nice to hear from you! Hope to see you around here more often. 🙂

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  16. I’m rather late (13 days late? Crikey!) in getting around to the Deja Vu bloghop participants. I’ve been soooo busy…
    Thanks for sharing this great article.
    When it comes to ‘body image issues’, I think people should focus on health and fitness instead of ‘fatness/thinness’.

    Happy New Year to you and your family! 🙂

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    • Hey Michelle. So glad you had the opportunity to stop by and read my article! Thanks for that. And I completely agree with your comment. I’ve been big all my life but my health is very good: no high blood pressure, no high cholestorol, etc. So it is completely possible to big fit and healthy and still be big! Thanks again and Happy New Year to you too! 🙂

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  17. Thanks for sharing your article here with us. In my humble opinion, if the “food industry” would get its act together and produce REAL food that is healthy and eatable, we wouldn’t have the problems we do. Our bodies were never made to eat what is being literally “shoved” down our throats through advertising and the way we live here in the US. Evidence of that is what is happening in other countries where being over weight or obese has never before been a problem, but now that they eat as we do in this country, they too, are getting bigger. It is hard to starve. It is hard to look at all the processed food out there and say no all the time. But the truth is, eating REAL food and not processed muck from greedy manufacturers does help. My sister and I have done the yoyo thing all our lives so I know what it feels like to be fat. Only now, in my 50s, am I coming to terms with what I chose to put in my body. Only now am I becoming aware of just what those processed foods REALLY do to a body and the price I paid all those years for being unaware because there was no one telling the truth about it. You are one brave and lovely lady. I admire you for speaking out as you have. Keep up the good work, on your writing and your self!

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    • Thanks Lisa. And thank you for sharing your story here as well. You speak the truth! The fast food, the advertising, the media…all to blame. But we too have free will so the choices we make are ours. But people also have to realize that not all fat is caused by bad eating. Some of it is just darn hereditary! I eat healthy most of the time, fresh food, non-processed, and still. So while I do believe that fast and processed food is for sure to blame for much of America’s weight problems, it is not the cause of all. Thanks for bringing up this point though. It’s very valid! And thanks so much for taking the time to read my article. I so appreciate your comments! Happy New Year!

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