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Normalizing with Shared Stories

Note: A group of facilitators for the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program is doing a book group discussion of Health at Every Size. Learn more about the Am I Hungry? program here or at

I recently watched an amazing documentary called She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, about the history of the feminist movement. I learned a lot and was struck by many aspects, but one part particularly caught me because I realized how much it also applies to weight and food issues.

One of the women in the film spoke about the importance of women sharing their experiences of abuse, rape, botched abortions, being belittled and sexualized and marginalized. The reason she gave is because if you think you’re the only one to feel a certain way or have a certain experience, you’re likely to internalize the shame and blame of that, believe it’s because of something wrong with you. But once you know how pervasive those situations and emotions are, you realize the problem is not with you but with society. Then you can act to change it.

And my immediate thought was: that’s what needs to happen with weight.

This also came up in the group I’m in to discuss the book Health At Every Size, about how important it is to normalize our experiences. After all, if you think you’re the only one who eats the whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting, eats in secret so others can’t see you, or has body image issues, it can be very hard, almost impossible, to move past that.

That’s what I used to believe, that no one knew what I felt like as an obese teen, because no one ever talked about any of it, at least to me, and I certainly never broached the subject. I still remember my shock upon discovering that other girls – even skinny ones – didn’t necessarily like their bodies and worried about food.

And I can’t help thinking how wonderful it would be if we shared more of these stories to normalize our experiences. Not because those experiences should be the norm, but because until we own and claim them, we will never be able to move forward and create a new, healthier normal for ourselves and society.

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