What’s the Worst Thing You Can Say to A Woman?

I’m willing to bet a substantial sum of money on a phrase that goes something like “You look fat in that”, or “Have you put on weight?”, or even used as an epithet: ” fat b****h”.

And on the flipside of that particular coin, it’s become almost normal for a woman to say of herself something like, “I need to lose weight”. So normal in fact, that the language of fat has become part of our normal language, and very few people even question it.

There is hardly any other word in the English language that causes so much pain, fear and anxiety as the tiny three letter word: f-a-t. It has become a curse, something to battle and even war against, to be beaten, controlled, managed, and even medicated with drugs and surgery that can be life-threatening.

And Yet What is Fat?

Fat cells are more than just the body’s way to store excess calories; they have a whole lot of other functions in the body, including cushioning your internal organs against external damage, providing insulation, and possibly even as a secure vault for fat-soluble toxins the body cannot otherwise process. But in 1994 research emerged that body fat is an endocrine system in its own right. That means fat cells produce hormones, and lots of them.

One of the most important functions of fat cells is in converting testosterone to estrogen. Most of the estrogen in the male body comes from this conversion process. The same process is hugely important for women as they move into post-menopause.

Why do men need estrogen? It’s not just a female sex hormone, it is involved with healthy bone function, libido, healthy skin, protein synthesis, blood health, fluid balance, heart health, and even the maturation of sperm. Naturally estrogen is involved with all those functions for women as well, though of course it affects the female sex organs.

If you didn’t know this information before reading this article, you might wonder why this really important information has been essentially lost to popular health culture. One reason could be that in the last 50 or 60 years, it’s become normal to stigmatize fat people.

Fat people have been labelled lazy…..

…. stupid, greedy, repulsive, expensive, hopeless. Instead of the real findings of obesity research providing a balance, mostly we only hear the marketing message of companies selling lotions, potions, pills and programs: eat less, move more, and you’ll be thin. And if you’re not thin then you don’t care enough and that means you deserve all the nasty comments we want to make about you.

If we replaced the word “fat” in the above sentence with “black” or “woman”, the person using the language above would be labeled a bigot faster than you could say ‘calorie’. But for some reason it’s okay to both think and say all of the above about fat people. And even worse, fat people are encouraged to think and say all of this, and worse, about themselves.

Words are incredibly powerful.

This is not intended to be a rant against bigoted attitudes and treatment of fellow humans; rather it’s about how important your language is around this painful, anxiety-inducing area of human experience. I say to my clients that our ability to use words is the one thing that really sets us apart from every other creature on this planet.

New scientific research backs that up, offering proof that the old proverb “as a man thinketh, so is he” is more true than anyone has previously believed. Biologist Bruce Lipton is one of the people unraveling the scientific basis for the holistic concept of the body and the mind working as one body-mind.

Dr Lipton explains that every function of the body is controlled by proteins, not by the genes, as we have popularly believed for several decades. Proteins perform different functions in the body depending on the environmental signals they receive. Our thoughts and beliefs, Dr Lipton says, can and do control those signals. Now it seems like a huge ask that for example, we think our body into extracting just the micronutrients we need from our food and discarding the rest. Fortunately we have our powerful subconscious mind to take care of all of that and we’re largely unaware of any of it.

The 95% of a human mind that is our subconscious also includes our values, beliefs, and attitudes, which might ultimately control the physical size of our bodies. Now I’m not suggesting that if you think you are fat, you will be, though that is certainly very possible in this model.

What Doesn’t Work

What I am suggesting is if that you are an adult whose BMI is over 26, you will be constantly criticized by those who love you and those who don’t. You will be taught to think of foods as ‘ good’ or ‘bad’, eat highly-processed food-like substances instead of real food, be treated for the disease of obesity’, and may opt for frankly-dangerous food, exercise and surgical or drug programs. The emotional stress of all of that will cause increased levels of stress hormones in your body and there’s ongoing research into the negative impact that has on both your long-term health and your body’s ability to collect and store fat.

None of the above will help you achieve a smaller body in the long run, nor will it be helpful to either your self-worth or your mental health. You will believe that you are unhealthy, unworthy, unattractive, undeserving, inactive, incapable – and you will become a victim of those beliefs. All put upon you by your family, friends, colleagues and the ever-helpful mass media pushing the image of the Official Body.

And you may well be doing, or have done, all of those behaviours even if your BMI is under 26.

Clearly, another food modification programme is not the answer to balanced good health. The only answer is what it has always been:

The first two points are well covered by the weight-loss industry where there are great health-focussed programmes in amongst all the synthetic foods and boot camps. Belief-changing is coming more into focus with many counselors and psychologists offering extended sessions, and more books about the subject are trickling onto the market. For my money, methods such as EFT and PSYCH-K ®, which tap directly into the subconscious mind to help you change beliefs, are very much quicker, highly effective, and can be self-administered if you want to go that way.

What To Do Today

Pay attention to your language about yourself and others. The truth is if you had lived the life of the person who you’re now judging as fat and unworthy, you would most probably be exactly the way they are. As my granny always said, if you can’t say something nice, say nothing. And remember your thoughts will often appear on your face even if they don’t come out of your mouth; they certainly manifest in your energy field and in your cells.

The most important thing, as ever, is be gentle with yourself.

So how about sharing something you’ll do today to be gentle with yourself, with a comment below?


  1. britt1 on October 13, 2010 at 4:47 am

    I`m so judgmental it is pathetic will try to judge less.

    • Sandy on October 13, 2010 at 8:06 pm

      Brittany, the judging thing is automatic – did you read what you wrote, or was that automatic?

      • Britt on October 24, 2010 at 10:31 pm

        I think automatic . I am doing it less but it is one thing that will take lots of my energy ,time and patience to stop.

  2. Mary H on May 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    I know I’ve lived under a cloud of self-criticism and stress over gaining weight (whilst becoming almost 50 yrs old and in chronic pain). When they say that stress causes fat via cortisol, I truly believe it. So I was stressing and probably making myself heavier (not to mention, miserable!).
    In last few months I’ve tried to simply accept where I am and work at being healthier (not necessarily thinner).
    Going against an entire “thin culture” is tough thinking. Thanks for the encouragement, Sandy.

    • Sandy on May 9, 2011 at 9:21 pm

      Mary, yes it really is hard swimming against that tide! There’s another story going on here as well, and that is for women, our fat cells take over producing estrogen as we age, as we enter menopause. It’s one of the amazing systems our body uses to keep itself in balance. But we’re taught – by those interests who want to convince us that the natural cycles of our body are somehow a disease that we need to treat by buying the medications they want to sell us – that it’s not okay to trust out bodies. The only way to be peaceful in this world that wants us to put money into its pockets, is to educate ourselves about what’s really going on – luckily we’re able to do that so well now with the net. Thank you for your support 🙂

  3. Jane on May 24, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    People judge you when they see you in the street, and just think that you eat too much. I put on weight mainly due to stress after my first born was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when he was 2 and 1/2. Got pregnant with second child before managing to loose weight and now am so stressed with financial situation, suffer from insomnia which adds to the problem. My priority is to be healthy to run around after my boys and I am stopping stressing about my size. I am just trying to increase activity levels daily with the idea that this should have an impact on my health

    • Sandy on May 25, 2011 at 10:55 pm

      @Jane, thank you for sharing this. It’s very tough to live in a world that judges and blames based on the size of the body. Jane, have a look at the Health at Every Size movement – in fact I’m interviewing Linda Bacon, one of the most important voices in that movement, in a couple of weeks. If you’re on my database (join by signing up for the free poster that pops up when you leave this page) I’ll let you know the details of when and where….

      Meanwhile you can read more about Health at Every Size here. And keep on loving you, for all the right reasons, just the way you’re doing, I know it takes a lot of strength to do it!

      • Jane on May 26, 2011 at 5:47 am

        @Sandy, Thank you for your reply and I would be very interested in the interview with Linda Bacon and will be obtaining her book.

        Thank you

  4. Gina on March 1, 2012 at 2:48 am

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m really enjoying all your articles. Reading this has made me realise just how much LESS judgemental of others and myself I’ve become since just finding your site a few weeks ago. Amazing. So freeing. It’s so nice not to be looking at other women always in a threatened/judgemental way, comparing myself favourably or unfavourably. Thank you so much.

    • Sandy on March 1, 2012 at 3:45 am

      Thanks Gina – you’ve nailed it, when we learn to be gentler with ourselves, we can be gentler with others, and we all a bit more of that in our lives 🙂

  5. Addie Kania on April 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    En-“Light”-ening Blog, Sandy!
    The two worst things you can say to a woman is that she’s fat-or that she’s selfish!
    These words are a way to control woman–an emotional blackmail technique. As a Hypnotherapist, specializing in weight loss I know that many beautiful, intelligent and heartfelt woman base their value on being thin.(Studies show even more valued than love and success!) We are indeed “hypnotized” by the media and enslaved by the numbers on a scale. Being your healthy size is your always your best size!
    Will continue to enjoy reading your thoughts and insights,
    Take care and be well,
    Addie Kania, Hypnotherapist

  6. Katie on May 9, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks so much for this article! It was very refreshing and enlightening. I starve myself and it’s a vicious cycle. I know it’s unhealthy, but I still do it because of fear of other people’s judgements. I think I maybe need to accept myself enough to get better and when harsh comments come my way I will be able to let them go. Thanks for everything you do! I love your ‘site and all your blogs! They have helped in my recovery process.

    • Sandy on May 9, 2012 at 10:26 pm

      Hi Katie – thank you, you’re welcome, and remember that it’s okay to accept yourself for just one second at a time! You certainly don’t have to do a major life overhaul, just one little moment at a time and pretty soon you’ll be feeling calmer and more ‘you’ for a whole minute at a time, and then five minutes, and then twenty… and there will still be moments of uncertainty and feeling like you must be thinner stronger younger better somehow – we all have them because the marketing machine bombards us with them. What can you do today to ignore the marketing machine, and find five minutes to be okay with you?

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