Friday, January 27, 2012

Weight and Social Identity

Psychology Today blogger, Dr. Pattie Thomas, wrote a very interesting article a few weeks ago that I wanted to be sure to mention. She examines the social identity of weight, in light of new research, and does so by conducting an interview with Dr. Mary Beth Asbury, a professor of Organizational Communication at Middle Tennessee State University who has been studying this! You can check out the original post here.
My favorite part of this article doesn't have as much to do with the central subject matter (even though its great) as it does with some suggestions that Dr. Asbury gives about 'fat talk.' See below.  

DR. THOMAS: If you were to give suggestions to people about how to speak of bodies, what would you suggest?
DR. ASBURY: Everything can be summed up in one sentence: "Be nice to everyone at all times." But, more specifically, do not talk about weight or food. You should not label foods as "good" or "bad," nor should you label weights as "good" or "bad." The more emphasis we put on weight and food, the more likely we are to build up the importance of these items in our lives. This leads to us seeing food and weight as "battles" that we feel we can never overcome.

I think Dr. Asbury has it right. I like her summary: "be nice to everyone at all times!" While it is unrealistic to think that we would never talk about food, I think that there are better ways to talk about it than others. Trying not to be judgmental about food, and not making it a focus really helps food and weight not become more important than they are. Someone once told me that food should be neutral- like a toothbrush. A toothbrush isn't good or bad, it just is. Same with food! Of course its not that simple or easy in a culture saturated with messages about weight as connected to beauty and self-worth. [Or if you struggle with an eating disorder.] But as Dr. Asbury said, when we don't place as much importance on food, we limit its capacity to become a battle. 

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