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Time to Give Up the Body Shame

While reading our local paper, I came across a photo captioned “Dancing to support first responders” which really caught my eye. The photo was of a couple dancing the tango. Each was what our culture might call “overweight” or what I prefer to call on the higher end of the weight spectrum. The pose they struck showed their grace and dancing prowess. The story accompanying the photo was about why they chose to be in a charity dance competition to benefit such an important cause.
I immediately thought back to the two clients I’d seen the day before who’d complained that they were too large and embarrassed to be seen exercising. Both came from highly judgmental families, but neither was of such a high weight that she couldn’t jog, dance, or exercise. I’d seen both bound up the path to my office when they were running late for a session, so obviously, the barrier was not their bodies, but their minds. They were stuck in feeling ashamed and allowing that feeling to prevent them from doing something that would be good for mind and body: regular activity.
I wish I could have spoken to this couple to ask how they managed to get themselves out on the dance floor, not only to have fun but to be in a competition. Here are some versions of what I imagine they’d say: “Well, I’ve always loved to dance and move my body. I feel as if this is such an important cause, that I wanted to raise money for it by dancing.” Or, “I thought about how people might think I’m too fat to do the tango, but then I realized that I can’t spend my life worrying about being judged. If they don’t like watching a woman/man of size doing the tango, that’s just too bad.” Or, “I found a dance partner that compliments me in so many ways. First, because we both could probably lose a few pounds. Second, because we just seem to move as one when we dance. He/she is a terrific dancer and partner and I wouldn’t have chosen anyone else.”
Are these folks exceptional because they think this way? Would they be better off if they fearfully tried to hide their bodies or let their feelings about their size inhibit them from doing things they love? Do they live in a different culture, one that isn’t fat phobic? Would you want to be the one to tell them to get off the dance floor and go on a diet?
No, no and no, of course. My point here is that it is not solely your size that prevents you from being active. Repeat, not. It’s due to the meaning that you give to it and likely several other issues (yeah, mostly from childhood), including the things your negative self-talk. If you were to talk to yourself like I imagine these dancers do, you would start thinking like them. And maybe even get out on the dance floor yourself.