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The Big Event

Attending an event when you’re feeling crummy about your body can be highly stressful. You may refuse to go, waver back and forth on a decision, engage in a shopping frenzy to find the exact right thing to wear, or say yes and be filled with dread. The occasion might be a wedding, anniversary, birthday party, or some other family gathering that’s bound to include all the relatives. Or a high school or college reunion or get together with a group of colleagues or old friends.

The big worry is how you’ll be judged if you’re above average size or if you’ve lost a major amount of weight regained it. You feel badly about yourself because you believe that people with think badly of you because of your largeness. This belief is partially accurate in that there may be people at the event who are judgmental or obsessed with thinness who will think unkind thoughts or even say unkind words about (or to) you. However, this belief is also a product of your own negative judgment about your body size. Such perceptions are the result of a culture that exalts skinny and despises fat.

Whether or not to attend an event depends on how badly you want to go and how much work you can do on your thinking to make it enjoyable. Sometimes you may want to pass because you don’t care very much for some or many (or all!) of the attendees and would only push yourself because it’s expected of you. In this case, it can be easy to focus on your weight/size rather than acknowledge your negative feelings about the folks who’ll be there. Other times you sorely want to go, but are ashamed, can’t stand looking at yourself, and believe that others will feel similarly.

In these cases, your work is not on your body, but on your beliefs. Events like this give you a chance to examine your belief system and make sure that all your thoughts are rational. For example, you might think: Everyone will be so disappointed that I’m fat, There’ll be gossip about my weight gain, I’m too ashamed of my body to go, People will make comments to me about my body and I won’t know what to say. The next step is to reframe each of these beliefs to make them rational: It doesn’t matter if people are disappointed in my weight, Gossip about my weight gain can’t hurt me, I refuse to be ashamed of my body, I can handle comments about my weight appropriately.

Remember that other people’s thoughts and words only pack a powerful punch if you let them. Whether or not you have a good time at an event has little to do with your weight. Instead, it has everything to do with how you think about it and value yourself.