Late last year I set myself a challenge to make a change. And now I’m inviting you to do the same.
In writing my latest manuscript about Maggie, a 16-year-old girl whose little sister has anorexia, I had to do a lot of research into eating disorders and the effect of these disorders on the whole family. Most of it was sad, some of it was shocking and some of it was bewildering. Because of my research, my Facebook and Pinterest feeds and browser ads began to change. Most of the changes were annoying but innocuous, like diet supplements, but some were distressing, like this little poem that came up in my Pinterest feed:
Hungry to bed
Hungry to rise
Makes a girl pretty
And smaller in size
Of which 1, 3, 4 and especially 10 make me shudder and none of which are ‘to be healthier’.
Things like this made me appreciate even more the value we put on weight and body image and how I reinforce this through my own actions. So, last year I made a conscious decision to stop saying to other women, “have you lost weight?” and to start saying, “you look well.”
You might think this is semantics, but I have found that even the response I get from women is different.
Me: “Have you lost weight?”
Them: “No, but I really need to.” or “A bit.” or “I look terrible.” And on and on and on.
Me: “You look well.”
Them: “Thanks. I feel well.” or “I’ve been really good.” or just, “Thanks. So, do you.”
It seems like, by taking the focus off their body and making it about them as a whole, women (and the men I’ve tried it on) feel able to accept a compliment, to see themselves as doing well and to recognise that they feel good.
And so, I want to extend the challenge to you. Can you change a single sentence? Can you take the focus off body and weight and put it back onto feeling good and healthy and ‘well’?
Of course, there’s going to be times when, ‘Have you lost weight?’ is a valid thing to say. If Aunty Jo has lost 25kg and got down to a healthy weight, don’t deprive her of encouragement and support. But at other times, there must be more that you can say to someone than, ‘have you lost weight?’.