Trigger Warning: Discussion of eating disorders and Halloween candy.
None of us were born with a negative body image, nor did it develop overnight. So assuming we can instantaneously fix it just because we decide to feel better about our bodies is a bit unrealistic. In short, it takes PRACTICE! We must practice setting limits on other people telling us that our body is wrong. We must practice telling people that the only weight problem we have is their problem with our weight. We must practice taking action to increase the inclusion of all sizes in the cultural paradigm for beauty. And October is a perfect time to PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! Here’s why.
October is a month full of contradictions when it comes to body image. Starting with Halloween that challenges us to feel comfortable collecting and consuming massive amounts of candy, and at the same time, demands that we fit into skimpy sexy nurse costumes. If that isn’t a dichotomy, I don’t know what is. Luckily we also have Love Your Body Day (the third Wednesday of October) and End Fat Talk Week, (October 21-25) to proactively prepare for the 31st. Let’s take them one at a time.
Halloween: For people with eating disorders and body image issues, Halloween can be a very ghoulish time. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I found out that the miniature candy bars were available all year long which defused my binging on them (because I was afraid it would be a whole year before they would re-appear). Sometimes just knowing something is available, for me anyway, takes away a certain amount of the charge. Instead of looking at the food as an enemy, I can look at the food as just another wonderful option. But I want to stress that not everyone who is fat has disordered eating issues or the sweet tooth that I am certain I inherited from both sides of my family. The discomfort comes less from the consuming and more from the costuming experience. As a fat kid who loved to dress up for Halloween, I was always devastated at the lack of cool costumes that were available in my size. Each Halloween I would face discouragement at the paltry selection and wound up making my own costume. I don’t think anyone knew that my costume was a consolation prize for not finding what I really longed for. I always received great praise for my creativity but inside I coveted the store bought version to whatever I may have crafted with the help of my mom’s incredible handiwork.
As hard as it was for me back then, it has to be even more HORRIFIC for fat kids now. Please correct me if my perception is completely distorted but each year, it seems that the costumes for girls are increasingly scanty and sized for younger and thinner girls. The options of sizes for larger kids are still frighteningly limited and I won’t even get into my feminist rant about the choices for women compared to men. One example to share with you is that in 2011 there was a costume that caused such a stir it was pulled from the shelves only to reappear this year. The costume was titled “Anna Rexia,” and I don’t want to post the image because it is too disturbing. Huffington Post covered the protest that is currently underway and includes an image if you would like to see it in all of its frightfulness! The article also has a link to the petition protesting the costume’s reappearance.
With Halloween sounding pretty scary, why is October a great month for practicing ways to improve our body image? Because earlier in the month, we are given two fantastic dress rehearsals in order to prepare.
Love Your Body Day: LYBD was created by the National Organization of Women and provides us with the opportunity to remember all of the wonderful qualities of our bodies and how vital they are for our just being alive! I know it sounds ridiculous, but we get so caught up in how our bodies look that we forget that if it weren’t for our bodies we wouldn’t be here! And so we get to take the time to PRACTICE body appreciation and join forces with our bodies with a bond of love and self-acceptance. It is a chance to try not blaming our body because it doesn’t fit in to a costume designed for the small end of the size scale and PRACTICE putting the onus on the manufacturers for discounting an entire portion of the population.
End Fat Talk Week: Created by the college sorority Tri Delta, E.F.T.W. was established to help improve body image of girls on campus. Each year Tri Delta makes an amazing video that publicizes the need to “Change the Conversation” and not talk about our bodies in negative ways. It reminds us that we have the power to control what we think about ourselves even if we can’t control what others may think or say. It also demonstrates how toxic it is to our self-esteem to continually program our “hard drive” to believe that there is only one definition of beauty and that beauty above all other things is what makes women successful.
So with two fantastic chances to PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE for the body image challenges that Halloween may bring, perhaps we can rediscover some of the fun in trick or treating.
Until next time!