There is a viral video going around these days of a "fitness motivator" named John Burk ranting about obesity and overweight people. In the video, Burk goes on an intense tirade about finding overweight people "utterly repulsive and disgusting." Burk is not going to "accept you as you are with that bullshit excuse that 'you should love me because I'm beautiful.' Your personality might be beautiful but your body is not," he yells. And that is just the first 45 seconds so you can only imagine what the rest of the 5:30 clip holds.
As I watched this video, like many have already commented, I was appalled at his unapologetic fat-shaming. I've rarely seen such weight-based hatred so clearly illustrated. But the more I thought about it, I realized Burk has actually done something very helpful: he's given us a face to put to our own inner voice.
For many of us, our inner voice is much more critical than any other voice we might choose to speak out loud. When we are struggling with our body image, it's our inner voice that says the most horrific things to us. It tells us we are disgusting, repulsive, lazy and worthless. We use words that we'd never say to another person out loud. Silently, we abuse ourselves with words. Burk is finally saying out loud the things we so often only say to ourselves. Burk is bringing our private self-loathing into the light.
I wonder what Burk's inner voice is telling him? If these are the things he is saying about others, I wonder what he says to himself about his own body? What words does he choose to use when he sees some part of his body that he does not like?
Now obviously, Burk and I have VERY different approaches. I want to help people change their inner voice, to be more nurturing for one simple reason: most people do not respond positively to being barraged with negative messages about their body. Just like in Intuitive Eating, where there are different voices that speak to us about food, there are similar voices that talk to us about our body. There are negative voices, like Burk, and then there are positive voices. By developing a positive inner voice about our bodies, we make healthy choices from a place of nurturing our health rather than restricting food and exercising as a punishment. Building that nurturing voice is important because once that voice is strong, we find the truth about our bodies: each one is different and no matter what the external shell looks like, not one of us is "disgusting" or "utterly repulsive" as Burk or our critical inner voice would say. We are unique, beautiful and inspiring beings, each of us.
I used to have a voice like Burk. Yelling at my body for every indiscretion, every extra calorie consumed and every moment wasted on the couch. I'd call myself lazy, fat, weak and gross. But that voice is gone, and it's not coming back. Instead there's a peaceful voice that is able to listen to my body and accept that some days will be better than others. Making peace with my body is not the same as giving up; it's just the opposite. It's taking more time and putting in more effort to gain a self-understanding that will sustain me for years.
I'll leave you with this final message to hopefully inspire to you to say goodbye to your inner John Burk voice and instead find the voice that we really need...kindness.