A 5 minute read about banishing body shame and learning to speak in public as a fat woman
IN AUGUST I WAS BLESSED WITH THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK ON THE TEDX STAGE.
Now I am a girl with the gift of the gab. For whatever the reason I was born without the freak out gene when I have to speak in front of people...so this was a good starting point.
Except that I freaked out.
Not on the day. That thankfully went well, but it was the process of learning to present a speech that wasn't just off the cuff that threw me. (Oh and a little kick in the gut after I gave the talk but more on that later.) Each segment had to earn its merit, then I needed to memorise it and present it without notes.
That was the part that had me crapping myself. Because I can't memorise for squat, that is also probably why I never considered a career in acting...a script kills me...improv...yep I can do that...memory...nope. So this was a HUGE stretch. How do I take something that was meant to be carefully distilled and deliver that and still have the passion in the voice?
HOW I GOT THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE
Several of the Luscious Order of Golden Shield Maidens sent me the link to the application. Catherine who helps out with the HeArtivists program pushed me to fill it in so I thought "What the heck" Slim chance, but I'll give it a crack.
Made the shortlist from well over 100. I went for an interview with DK who was AMAZING. Now I really wanted to do it, but I wasn't sure I had done the Shield Maidens justice.
But let's just say...Golden Boobies. Who doesn't love those? We were in!
THE FIRST DAY WITH THE TRAINERS
DK, the organiser of TEDx Wellington is a man of a hugely generous spirit. He also wants to put on one of the best shows around, so he makes sure that he gathers three brilliant coaches to work with the speakers. My coach was Gareth who works with Price Water House Cooper as a coach.
On the first day, all of the speakers in the room got a chance to have the first crack at presenting. Their talks were so engaging!!!! It was my turn, and I just rifted what my ideas were off the cuff.
I looked around the room and to my trainer, and he smiled and said..."Mandi that was passionate...and I think you had about three separate Ted talks in there." Monica, one of the other speakers, said, "I think you need a one-woman show...I would pay to see that." Others nodded in agreement.
Cool... but Shit.
The most potent tip he gave me was to watch this video and apply the lessons to my speech.
THE NEXT 5 WEEKS.
So for the next five weeks, I wrote.
I wrote more
I tossed that out
I thrashed it and thrashed it and thrashed it till I had it down to the barest bones I could create from 2 years of my life.
Then I changed it all again after I had the dress rehearsal.
Was it perfect? Shit no. But I stood up there, and I gave it the best I had in me.
A couple of people told me the talk made them cry. I got laughs. I hit the notes I was aiming for then.
But here is the next level irony
When the video finally was sent to me, I watched it and what I realised was the last vestiges of cultural body shame, the very topic of my talk, was lying dormant like a pissed off serpent...Here I was on stage talking about the life-sucking ability of body shame, and part of my mind was saying..."You know what Mandi...I think you have put on a fair amount of weight." I shit you not. I had just pulled off a dream of mine, and "Fat" was my critical voices first response. For Fark Sake. This is probably what triggered me so much when my niece asked me if she was "fat" at 5. Why was I so horrified? Culture. Freaking sucks on this particular point.
So I had to sit with "Fat"
I had to honour that.
I had to send myself compassion for having grown up in a society that creates toxic fat phobic mind worms.
I had to realise that even after six years of some pretty serious self-compassionate introspection, the rut was still there at the bottom of the gully in my mind. And no matter what weight I was that voice would have an opinion.
But here is the crux. The stats are clear. If you diet...long term, you will regain the weight or depending on your body type you will gain even more weight than before dieting. I have a body that is proof of that theory. And as you grow older, you will gain more weight...I think I had my first hot flash the other day.
So I am, once again, owning my fat. Fat, Fat, Fatty Fat Phat! The lusciousness that will most likely accompany me until I am in my 70's and natural atrophy weight loss starts to kick in. My body's defence against a possible zombie apocalypse.
So the biggest take away I have from all of this is that the only correct response I have to that voice is to take care of both my mental and physical health in the best way I know how.
- Commit a daily act of joyful movement
- Build positive community
- Eat a variety of foods
- And do what I love and am curious about
- And most importantly of all...do all of the above with self-compassion
The body shame rut formed over 37 years and will probably be there until I leave this body...but I have built a fabulous rainbow coloured overpass over the top of it and have plans to create a koi pond in its pointless depths. I have committed to treating my body as my best friend until I finally say goodbye to it.
Because when you boil down the research, that is how you create a life worth living and the strongest body to handle said life.
Oh and speaking of community and life well lived...One of the most significant benefits of jumping into the Tedx arena is the community of the other speakers that sprung up around it. If you want to feel hope for the world, please make sure that you check out their talks because they ROCK.