The 4 Most Important Words

I was thinking today about how much of our world is based on fear.  Fear sells – if people are terrified of something they will pay money to avoid it.

If you’re thin they try to make you scared of getting fat. If you’re fat they try to make you scared of being fat and staying fat.  They try to make everyone scared of their own body.

I spoke at a lovely event centered around body love recently and one of the booths was about proper nutrition.  She had the same plastic models of food that we used in the eating disorder facility where I taught dance, and little test tubes filled with the amount of sugar that’s in various things.  I was trying to block it out but her voice would penetrate my consciousness “This is how much sugar is in just a half cup of JELLO” she would say in the same voice that you would use to tell scary stories around a camp fire.  Because making people terrified of some Jello is definitely the key to health.

When it comes to health it’s as if people think that we’re too dumb to make choices that are in alignment with our priorities and support our goals.  Like we need to have someone tell us what we should want and then terrify us into doing what they think will get us there.

Of course this ignores the fact that people get to choose how important health is to them, and that health is not entirely within our control and is not a binary state.  It’s not just healthy or unhealthy, health is a spectrum and very few people fall  all the way on either end.  It also ignores the fact that stress is a major predictor of poor health so having people walking around terrified of jello or that they’ll eat more broccoli than was represented in the plastic broccoli replica is counter-productive.

So I think that the four most important words that any of us can speak right now are:  I am not afraid.

I am not afraid of food.  I eat often to support my body and sometimes for my pure enjoyment and I am comfortable with that.  I know that being afraid of food will do nothing to make me healthier – mentally or physically.

I am not afraid of  fat hate.  As my Mom told me – never wrestle with a pig, you’ll both get dirty but the pig is used to it and won’t mind.  I know that allowing haters to stress me out is bad for my health and I will not allow them to affect my health.  I will ignore them or I will mock them as I see fit but I will not give them power over me.

I am not afraid of movement.  I do movement that I enjoy and I honor my body and its signals.  I don’t see my body as a limitation to be overcome but as a constant friend and companion.

I am not afraid of my fat body. My body is beautiful and amazing and perfect just as it is and if it changes tomorrow if will be perfect then too.  I am not afraid to be in my body in public, to ask that my body be accommodated or to have my body viewed and appreciated.

I’m thinking about this whole fear thing a lot because I resigned from my CEO job. It was great money and I loved the staff but for certain reasons that you’ll have to buy me a drink to hear about, it was the most stressful experience of my life.  And that stress took a major toll on me over the last year – I got sick more in that year than I have been in the last 10 years.

There was a crossroads and I took the road away from that life for the sake of my mental and physical health and to do things that I’m absolutely passionate about. Immediately I feel better, and now it’s time to see what’s next.  For now I have some money in the bank, a couple of consulting clients, a world speaking tour happening, a book in the works, and some other super secret stuff.  If the diet industry can make 58 billion dollars a year with a message of self-hate and a product that only works 5% of the time, you would think that some of us could make a living supporting people in loving and appreciating their bodies and giving options that the diet industry doesn’t want us to hear.  I don’t know what’s in store but I know that I am not afraid.

For a little inspiration, here is one of my favorite YouTube videos of all time:

17 thoughts on “The 4 Most Important Words

  1. Oh dear….with having tv on too much, I have noticed this. Realky, ild navy, dont jiggle it while you wiggle it? Or all the other stupid conpanies telling you wrinkles, under eye circles, non glaring white teeth, and balding are all evil and bad.

  2. That video is amazing 🙂 and as always, your words are inspiring too! I have started trying to get the weight does not equal health message across when I am involved in a discussion where they are being equated. Actually scary how often I hear it and how prevalent this message is.

  3. What a fantastic video. to me, it represents just how I’ve always felt when walking into a gym or putting on a swimsuit. I think I may be almost ready to take that dare. I won’t say that I’m at the place where I’m not afraid, but I’m sick of the fear and ready to stop stepping backward and rush the wolves!

    (I will admit that I’ve been looking at tankinis all summer)

  4. That video is amazing. And “I am not afraid” are very powerful words. I have noticed that most of the good things I made happen in my life (at least with the things that are within my power to change), happened because I faced my fear. And sometimes just the act of trying to be courageous in the face of bad things is revolutionary and strengthening. Every day I face my fear of all sorts of small and big things – sending someone an e-mail, answering the phone, owning up to making a mistake, speaking up for myself, standing up for what I believe in.

    Ultimately, perhaps, “I am not afraid” isn’t the most powerful saying – “I AM afraid but I will not let it stop me” is.

  5. That is such a powerful message even in its simplicity. I wish that I could say it. Maybe it’s a fake it until you make it thing? LOL Some of the best events in my life have happened because I was able to push through fear. If I had let fear stop me, I wouldn’t have met my husband and our 10 year anniversary is this December.

    Kathryn, I despise that Old Navy commercial. I find it so offensive. Like the man gets to worry about sweating, but the woman is only concerned with how she looks (i.e., not jiggling while she wiggles). Fuck that. When I go to the gym, I work out until I’m drenched and couldn’t care less if I’m jiggling while I do it. In fact, I’m quite sure that I am jiggling.

  6. Ragen, I needed to hear this so much today. (To the point I actually considered sending you a private FB message yesterday regarding fear with food and what you might suggest to read for it.) I have been so afraid of food lately: food with sugar, food with fat, heck, I can’t even eat a damn salad now for fear of salmonella! (But that’s another rant).

    You are SO right about all of this. I’m to the point that I am ready to just stop watching and reading the news all together. It’s negative, it’s fear based, and MUCH (as we discuss here on this blog) isn’t even based in reality.

    Also, I am right in the same space with you regarding the job. I’m in the process of cutting my hours at my day job due to the stress. I realized that the time I spend there is probably more damaging than anything I do all day long, just because of stress. I notice that when I’m there less, I’m more creative, healthier, more active, and just overall happier. I applaud you for your courage and send you good vibes for the next leg of your journey.

    Ragen, you are part of the shift. It’s coming, it’s happening, and isn’t it all so exciting?!!

    Thank you for blogging today (and every day!)

  7. Ragen – you write so well & with such passion; it’s a rare quality & much appreciated!

    A quote I’ve always treasured is one that (so I’m told) Lillie Langtry had carved into a wall in one of her houses: “They say? What say they? Let them say!”
    Much like not being afraid, and remembering that the only thing to “…fear is fear itself”, let the morons say what they want, just keep on letting them know that they are indeed not terribly bright, and that we can help them learn a better way.

  8. I admit it. I’ve been overweight most of my life (right now, I’m at 190 at 5’4″ and feeling terrible about it). My mom is losing weight after being overweight for years and getting diabetes because of it.

    Both my parents have been pressuring me into losing weight. “You’d look so much better if you lost some weight.” “You kinda have a muffin top there, kiddo.”

    Never mind that I deal with stress all day with trying to get my degree in computer science. Never mind that I spend more of my day hoping that my antidepressants and ADHD meds are working so I can function without drawing completely into myself. Never mind that my boyfriend, wonderful man that he is, could care less what I weigh.

    No, I -need to lose weight-(tm) because then I’ll be happier.

    I don’t remember the last time I was comfortable in a bathing suit. Not since I hit middle school, I know that much.

    When I first came across your blog, I wasn’t sure what I was going to find. In this world, society looks down on those that don’t look and act the way they expect people to act, and I’ve always danced to my own beat. I’ve taken the consequences for it too.

    But the more I read, the more I realize that you are comfortable with yourself. It’s not a mask you put on and show the world while inwardly you hate yourself. You really do love yourself and who you are. You love what you do. And you see the injustice in the world against people who don’t fit society’s standards, and instead of remaining silent, you stand up. You open your mouth. You speak out against it. And quite a few people get on your case about it, but others…

    Others like me? We hear you. We start to think that maybe, just maybe…all those trainers and diets are wrong. Maybe…it’s not about weight. Maybe it’s about how you feel, rather than how you look.

    I step on the scale every morning and wince every time it doesn’t move downwards. It sets the tone for my entire day. I could have an amazing day, but ‘I gained a pound. Shit.’

    I’m tired of living this way. I’m willing to follow my nutritionist as far as eating smaller amounts of food more often. I can tell that has affected my energy levels. But working out?

    I’m terrified of working out. I’m terrified to go into the gym and lift weights or run on a treadmill because I’m confronted with all of these people who are stronger and more slender than I am, and in a lot of ways I know that I will never look the way they do. I’m not built like they are.

    The excuses are taking over. “I’m tired. I don’t have time to work out.” They don’t even have to make sense; it just reinforces the ‘I don’t want to be judged by my peers because I don’t want to deal with that stress.’

    I saw your book, and I may check it out. I need to work out, even if I put the thought of losing weight out of my mind, because I’m tired of not being able to run as far as I want or climb something because I can’t support my weight with my upper body.

    I suppose in this long-winded response, I just want to say:

    Thank you.

    Thank you for writing this blog.

    Thank you for reaching out to people like me, people unlike me, people in general and telling us that it’s okay to be us, that it’s okay to not fit society’s ideals, that it’s okay to want to exercise even if we don’t look like models.

    Thank you for having the courage to come out and say these things despite all the hatred. It’s harder to stand up and speak out when your ideas are different from the majority viewpoint.

    Thank you, Ragan, and rest assured I will be continuing to follow this blog with a new outlook on life. The video clinched it for me. It’s time to stop living in fear.

  9. My name is Eileen and I am from the Philippines. I am so glad that I discovered your blog. I am a plus size Filipina, and proud to be one, though it is hard to live in a country where women are supposed to be petite and slim. You are an inspiration with such a powerful message.

  10. Those are powerful words for any circumstance. If we can just remind ourselves of that every time we have a fear-based unhealthy thought it can really have an impact. Because WHY be afraid? If we don’t have compelling reasons then we needn’t be.

  11. I love love love this video and need to watch it more often. I do have it on the inspiration page on my blog. I guess I need to be inspired more!

    I AM NOT AFRAID. Lordy, how many parts of life does this really apply to?! Everything! Absolutely everything!

    Very well said and very inspiring, my dear friend!

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you! That was your best column ever. I am going to write down all those “I am not afraid”s and maybe have them done in calligraphy or something to hang on the wall. Being naturally shy, I’ve fought fear in one form or another my whole life. You’ve handed me another weapon, and again I thank you.

  13. Ragen, GREAT for you for quitting your CEO job. I was laid off from my executive job three months ago and I had been wondering for months if I could sacrifice the money that came with it to preserve my health. I was working insane hours, traveling ridiculously often and far, and basically felt like it was slowly killing me. I was incredibly lucky to have been laid off in a restructuring and took a three month “summer vacation” while I casually looked for work. The right job found me this week, and now I’m ready to go into it with boundaries and self-care, and to create a corporate culture that fosters the same for everyone there. I’m totally impressed that you took that step for yourself and didn’t live with the fear that I did.

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