What is Thin Privilege?

Thin privilege, related to weight bias, stems from the unrealistic ‘ideal’ of a thin body type for everyone, or for a preferred thin body type. It supports the idea that those with a thin body type have more advantages than those who do not. These advantages can be represented in scenarios such as easily finding your size while shopping at trendy stores, being offered help versus being told that nothing will fit you, not being judged by what you choose to eat, finding a place to sit on a bus or an airplane, and even finding a seat that properly and comfortably supports you. Others include not being associated with labels such as “lazy”, having more employment opportunities, receiving unbiased healthcare, and being accepted by peers, colleagues, and family members1. The adverse effects that result from those who lack these advantages can be detrimental to one’s well-being and include less engagement in self-care behaviour2. These unjust social advantageslead to not only unequal access to resources or health inequity, but also poor interpersonal relationships4.

This is not to say that judgment can’t be felt by thin individuals as well. Just because someone has thin privilege, does not mean that they feel accepted, have high self-esteem, find clothes that fit them, or necessarily have all of the said advantages noted above. This is why thin privilege can be such a contentious topic. It’s important for us to remember that no one is immune to hardship and we are each fighting our own battles. In addition, those who are thin due to serious health issues or poverty, are most definitely not privileged5. However, recognizing that thin privilege exists can help to bring awareness to the topic, and hopefully end the stigma that surrounds it. It’s crucial for us to be aware of how such biases can be harmful to those of any body weight.

One way in which we can combat this is by educating ourselves and others about the existence of thin privilege, because being aware of it can help us to be more aware of our own actions and biases as well. We can also educate ourselves and others about dated information regarding health, such as the use of BMI as a determinant of health. Fortunately, with the help of the HAES® movement, education regarding Health At Every Size is making it’s way around. It’s about time! Every body is deserving and should be treated with equal respect.

The more we know, the more capable we are of standing up to unfair practices. It’s essential that we talk to each other about circumstances like this so that we can support each other and prevent them from happening in the future. We are all deserving of equal opportunities and body equity is something that is to be celebrated. So let’s rise above and instead of judging, remember to practice love and compassion to others but also to ourselves.


References

  1. Bruce, K. (2018). What exactly is “thin privilege”? Retrieved from https://www.kristinabruce.com/blog/what-exactly-is-thin-privilege
  2. Kater, K. (2015). Hope for the future: transforming the destructive assumptions of thin privilege and weight stigma. Retrieved from: http://nedic.ca/conference/closing-keynote-%E2%80%93-april-17th-2015
  3. Bacon, Linda. (2010). Health at every size : the surprising truth about your weight. Dallas, TX :BenBella Books
  4. Nutter, S., Russell-Mayhew, S., Arthur, N., Ellard, J.H. (2018). Weight bias and social justice: implications for education and practice. Retrieved from: https://link-springer-com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs10447-018-9320-8.pdf
  5. Nash, M., Warin, M. (2017). Squeezed between identity politics and intersectionality: a critique of ‘thin privilege’ in fat studies Feminist Theory Vol. 18. Retrieved from: https://journals-sagepub-com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/doi/pdf/10.1177/1350506812456461

 

Body Positivity or Body Acceptance?

A quick Google search will yield millions of hits in just seconds on body positivity, with mixed messages. It has become an ever broadening movement founded on the belief that everyone should just love their bodies, no matter what the size. This movement is not exclusive to the internet – its’ roots reach back into the late ’60s when certain body types were marginalized and the rights for all shapes and sizes were fought for1. The body positivity movement seems to have reached its’ peak with the invention of social media as millions of people of all shapes and sizes began using hashtags such as #bodypositive and #bopo. This movement urges people to “embrace their curves” and “flaunt what they’ve got.” But in the rush towards “loving the skin you are in”, some people may find themselves left behind wondering how they can truly love their bodies after spending years upon years hating them.

While the body positivity movement has brought to light the importance of seeing all shapes and sizes represented in media and encourages people to love their curves; it may not be for everyone. At least not right away. After spending a period of time not being happy with your body, being told you should just love it – flaws and all – does not seem realistic for some. Perhaps there is a need for a middle ground where body positivity or negativity are not the only two options (and we all know how much change.creates.change likes to point out all.the.grey. between the black and white thinking!).

It is suggested that instead of working towards body positivity, which can seem daunting at first, one works towards body neutrality2. This encompasses the acceptance of the body without the need to change it. A sort of transition phase where one strives, though still struggles, to see their body as more than a body. Where there are neither positive nor negative feelings attached to one’s appearance. These feelings will likely still occur, but will no longer be the basis of one’s evaluation of their self-worth. This middle ground is known as body acceptance.

The idea that your body offers you ever so much more than looking good in that new pair of jeans or aligning with societal ideals of beauty is the basis for body acceptance.  Body acceptance is not a switch where you go from hating your body to loving it in the time it takes for you to evaluate your appearance in the mirror. It is a process and it is also a decision. One that is not based on your appearance but rather the decision to accept your body for more than it appears to be upon a glance in the mirror. Your body, more than just your external shell which is visible to the world, allows you to do many things in your daily life and experience all of the beauty this world has to offer. If you cannot accept the way your body looks, accept what your body does for you. You have air in your lungs; you are able to breathe. You have blood pumping through your veins; you can move and run and play. Your acceptability as a person is not dependent upon your outer appearance therefore while you may not necessarily love every part of your body, you can accept it as a medium that allows you to carry all of your hopes and dreams and put them into action.

First you accept your body and then you move through your day. This will influence decisions you make throughout the day and reduce stress from the striving for feelings of worth through your appearance.  You don’t need to jump on the #bopo bandwagon and love every single part of your body right away. Accept your body not for how it appears, but for what it does for you every day.


References

  1. Alptraum, L. (2017, November 6). A Short History of ‘Body Positivity’. Retrieved May 25, 2018, from https://fusion.tv/story/582813/a-short-history-of-body-positivity/
  2. Stewart, T. M. (2004). Light on Body Image Treatment.Behavior Modification,28(6), 783-811. doi:10.1177/0145445503259862
  3. What If Body Acceptance Doesn’t Work? How About Body Neutrality? (2016, March 21). Retrieved May 25, 2018, from http://nedic.ca/blog/what-if-body-acceptance-doesnt-work-how-about-body-neutrality

All or None Thinking

Imagine this: you are at a friend’s house watching a movie and your friend offers you some chips. You immediately decline her offer thinking chips are bad and if you have any at all you will be a failure. As you see your friend enjoying the chips, you begin to think maybe one won’t hurt. After you’ve had a handful of chips you feel guilty so you think you might as well finish the bag off because you feel you have already failed.

Or: you forget to set your alarm, sleep in and then have to rush to school. You end up missing breakfast which is a key part of your mechanical eating plan. You feel guilty that you have started the day imperfectly and think, “screw it, I will start again tomorrow” and continue through the day with restricting your food intake.

Both cases represent a thinking style known as “all or none thinking”. It is the belief that some behaviours are all good or all bad1. It perpetuates the mentality that there is perceived success or failure, but no grey area of balance in between. This can make it very difficult to recognize progress. All or none thinking is closely related to perfectionism2. Perfectionism manifests itself in the unreasonably high standards one sets for themselves that can lead to dissatisfaction if expectations are not met3. All or none thinking is what determines whether one’s efforts have met their standards or not2.

The problem with all or none thinking is that one tends to make generalizations based off their actions that are not accurate4. Thinking you are a failure because you ate a bag chips only takes into account the bag of chips and none of the other factors that contribute to your health. Setting high standards for yourself and only allowing yourself to succeed or fail will likely only set you up for failure if your standards are unattainable. This is why having a “grey” area is so important. It is within this space where progress occurs; it is neither success nor failure but the space where one can learn and grow from their experiences.  

Human beings cannot achieve perfection. There will always be something that is out of our control. Imposing strict rules for yourself to follow will only narrow the acceptability of your actions and leave you feeling that you have lost more often than not.  It will also narrow your range of success and leave you feeling like you have failed while you have actually had many smaller successes along the way. It is okay to want to do your best or be the best version of yourself, but strict standards can be mentally and physically draining, actually decreasing your capacity to perform at your best.

When you find yourself slipping into this pattern of thinking, take a moment to think about the situation and remind yourself that one decision does not determine your ultimate success or failure. For example, in the situation described above, instead of viewing the chips as a “forbidden food”, try to see them without a label and instead, as a means of increased enjoyment while you are spending time with your friend watching a movie. Enjoy your food and allow yourself to move on without lamenting.

Be specific in your thoughts and focus on what is real. If the consequence of your actions (ex. missing a meal) does not directly relate to the outcome (ex. failing at disordered eating recovery), you may be seeing things in too general of terms, leading you to believe something that is not true. Give yourself grace. Surround yourself with people who encourage you to find balance and support you right where you are, not for a version of perfection you are striving for. Learn to live in the grey area where complete success and failure are not the only two options.


References

  1. Antoniou E, Bongers P, Jansen A. The Mediating Role of Dichotomous Thinking and Emotional Eating in the Relationship between Depression and BMI. Eating Behaviours. 2017; 26: 55-60.
  2. Egan S.J, Piek J.P, Dyck M.J, Rees C.S. The Role of Dichotomous Thinking and Rigidity in Perfectionism. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 2007; 45 (8): 1813-1822.
  3. Centre for Clinical Interventions [Internet]. Perfectionism in Perspective. Retrieved from: http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/docs/1%20What%20is%20%20Perfectionism.pdf
  4. Shindman J. The Albert Ellis Institute [Internet]. All or Nothing Thinking. [about 1 screen]. Retrieved from: http://albertellis.org/all-or-nothing-thinking/

The Truth About Willpower

Almost everyday, we overhear people say, “I wish I had more willpower over __________”. And we get it. Some days can feel like a battle. We may reach the end of the day and are left with a feeling of disappointment. Maybe we didn’t check everything off the to-do list that we wanted to accomplish. Or we managed to talk ourselves out of energizing our body through exercise for the fourth day in a row. Or maybe we just couldn’t say no to that bag of chips after work. We beat ourselves up, saying, “If only I had more willpower.” We tell ourselves tomorrow will be better. Or we give up altogether, handing off a project, ditching our goal to be more active, or discarding meal preparation because “scrap that”, we’ve discovered we just don’t have enough willpower.

The issue with willpower, though, is it seems to be tightly tied into self-criticism. Self-criticism is not the best motivator for self-improvement and can actually lead to inaction and procrastination instead of progress1. A couple weeks ago, we introduced you to the non-dieting world. In that world, willpower doesn’t exist. The thing is, when we eat something that “goes against our willpower” or breaks the rules we’ve set for ourselves, we are in-fact, ignoring an all-too-important voice. Our bodies are trying to tell us that we don’t need to restrict ourselves. By ignoring that voice, all we’re left with is our self-criticism, shame, and guilt. That voice is our built-in self-compassion.

Recent research has discovered that self-compassion can be a useful tool in combatting those negative self-conscious emotions and their effects on our well-being2. To put it simply, self-compassion is a method of treating yourself how you would treat a loved one going through a tough time. For example, if your best friend was feeling discouraged about a stressful situation at work, what would you say to them? Would you say, “This is all your fault. If you had just kept your mouth shut and had a little more self-control, this wouldn’t be happening”? No! You would likely respond to them in a kind and understanding way, without criticizing them for their shortcomings. The point is, a lot of us can be caring and non-judgemental with our loved ones, but not with ourselves. We’re our own biggest critic.

Self-compassion turns self-criticism inside out. It also goes a step further than self-esteem. Self-esteem can be defined as our evaluation of our own self-worth3. It’s affected by how we see ourselves as well as how we think others see us. Self-esteem tells us “You are awesome” and “You can do this”. Self-compassion says those things, too, but it’s not afraid to embrace our weaknesses as well as our strengths. Let’s face it – we’re human! We all have our fair share of weakness. But by employing self-compassion, we’re better able to have a holistic, healthy view of ourselves.

It is generally understood that there are three main components of self-compassion2,4. The first is practicing self-kindness—this means that when we fail or feel inadequate, we are patient, gentle and understanding with ourselves, not critical or judgemental. The second is to remind ourselves of our common humanity—we all face difficulties, failure and struggles. It’s part of being human! And lastly, self-compassion involves being mindful. Mindfulness is viewing our situation from a neutral perspective. When we are being mindful, we recognize times when we are being self-critical or judgemental, and then we let them pass without emotion. Employing all three of these components of self-compassion can help reduce discouraging self-talk and improve our overall outlook.

One way to practice self-compassion is writing a letter to ourselves. When we feel down about our appearance or are beating ourselves up over our mistakes, sit back and imagine that we have a friend who is doing what we are currently doing. What would we want them to know? Then, take a pen and notebook and write a letter to that “friend.” Just taking 2 or 3 minutes to do this can totally transform our outlook on the situation.

As we learn to be compassionate towards ourselves, we’ll learn to be more in tune with our bodies instead of listening to all the voices around us. We’ll stop trying to conform ourselves to a set of rules and start liberating ourselves to a world of possibility. As you go about your week, you will face failure, doubt and regret. Choose to be responsive toward your body, not restrictive. Make the conscious choice to go forward in compassion and notice the difference it makes.


References:

  1. Powers, T. A., Koestner, R., Zuroff, D. C., Milyavskaya, M., & Gorin, A. A. (2011). The effects of self-criticism and self-oriented perfectionism on goal pursuit. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(7), 964-975. doi: 10.1177/0146167211410246
  2. Pila, E. (2015, September). How self-consciousness can burden our well-being – and how self-compassion can help. National Eating Disorder Information Centre Bulletin, 30(4). Retrieved from http://nedic.ca/sites/default/files/files/Bulletin%20Vol%2030%20No%204.pdf
  3. Neff, K. D. & Vonk, R. (2009). Self-compassion versus global self-esteem: two different ways of relating to oneself. Journal of Personality, 77(1), 23-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2008.00537.x
  4. Pollock, M. D. (n.d.). How self-compassion helps strengthen your motivation. In Michael D. Pollock. Received from https://www.michaeldpollock.com/self-compassion-motivation/