Anne Cuthbert, of Food Is Not the Enemy, knows first hand what it's like to deal with food and body issues. For years, she struggled with food issues and hating her body. Fourteen years later that has definitely changed. Anne is now passionate about her work as a counselor, helping people to eat whatever they want and feel good about it. I interviewed Anne recently!
Virgie: What is the one thing you'd tell someone who is just starting out on their journey to self-love?
Anne: First, I would say "Yay for you!" It takes a lot of courage to step out of the box and move toward loving yourself. It takes courage to face your feelings and to change your beliefs and to be different from others. Yay for you! Now that you've found the courage to do it, find safe, loving support! This can be through the support of friends, family or co-workers who you trust and feel safe with. It's even better if they are starting or in the midst of their journey too. It's also okay to get professional help, especially if you don't have enough (or any) support elsewhere. Although very rewarding, this may be a difficult journey and having help along the way can really make a big difference!
Virgie: I totally agree! Community and support are two of the most important things in my practice of self-love. Ok, I'm always asking people this question and I'd love to know your answer: Why do you think fatphobia is so pervasive in our culture?
Anne: Our own, deep, personal fear of fat, which often goes unacknowledged. We tend to think it's just the way it is, rather than exploring and admitting our own fears. First, our culture teaches us that being fat is bad. That's a belief, not fact, but a transparent belief that we see as fact. Seeing that fat people are treated with disdain teaches us that you never want to become that. The fear then keeps us pushing fat people away (or our own fatness) and convincing ourselves that there is something fundamentally wrong with people who are fat. The fear is what keeps it so pervasive. Fear is an emotion that protects us and tells us to run away, even if the fear is unfounded. The fear doesn't know any difference and can't mentally figure out the difference. It just says "that's bad... run!" Therefore, fear about being fat or getting fat keeps us running away from it and making up stories to give evidence that the fear is true. This cycle tends to dig us deeper into the fear and belief until we only recognize it as the facts. I think if there wasn't so much fear around being fat, people would show curiosity and love for others and have space to believe that being fat is okay and even wonderful.
Virgie: Being fat is wonderful! Ok, last question. What was your personal journey to self-love?
Anne: My journey started one day while walking toward the library at University California at Santa Barbara. Several feet in front of me was a thin woman with long, straight blonde hair. I noticed her hair and wished it was mine. I noticed her legs and wished they were mine. I noticed her body, piece by piece, and wished I looked like her. I was convinced that the person walking with her was her friend because she looked that way. I was obsessed with comparing myself to her. Suddenly, it hit me! I was wasting my time, my life thinking about her and how she looked. Doing this wasn't going to make me happier or a better person. It certainly hadn't so far and this wasn't going to change. I knew, in that moment, that I had to change! I had to love and accept myself in order to be happy and a better person.
Thank you for sharing your words with us, Anne <3! Find Anne online at Food Is Not the Enemy.
Along with Anne's personal and professional experience with eating disorders, she is a licensed Marriage a,nd Family Therapist in California and a Licensed Professional Counselor in Oregon. She holds a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology from Antioch University, Santa Barbara, CA. Anne's counseling experience spans over 12 years and has included studying and working with experts in the eating disorder field, teaching counseling and communication skills classes, and assisting and managing several personal growth seminars and support groups. Anne provides individual and group counseling as well as body image workshops to people who want to make friends with food and peace with their body.
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.