A few months ago, after a particularly overwhelming day of mothering, I was relaxing in a scalding hot bubble bath with a glass of sangria and a bowl of dark chocolate chips spending a glorious hour of my life scrolling through one-minute videos on TikTok. I was mentally filing away cleaning tips, laughing at couples pranking each other, and smiling at people’s adorable chunky babies dancing to Interior Crocodile Alligator when a different kind of video came across my FYP.
On my screen was a ray of human sunshine smiling back at me. Dr. Katelyn Baker is a Doctor of Clinical psychology based in the Chicago area, and her TikTok handle is “ThatFatDoctor.” She has incredible style and a megawatt smile, and on this particular evening, she was inviting people to stay and get some encouragement from a pro, free of charge.
Obviously, since learning and writing about the experience of life in a fat body is kind of my entire jam, I was like, “Don’t mind if I do.” After following her for a few months, I knew that I needed to bring her awesomeness to our Scary Mommy readers. It isn’t often that you find a Doctor of Psychology that specializes in eating disorders, body dysmorphia, body image and self-acceptance from a fat positive POV. Lucky for me, she agreed to sit down for a chat.
So, now, without further ado, enjoy a fat body self-love crash course from Katelyn Baker, Doctor of Clinical Psychology.
Dr. Katelyn has walked a long personal road with her own body to get to a place of positivity.
“I joined [TikTok] during the pandemic like everyone else,” Dr. Katelyn laughs. ”But my own body journey started when I started grad school. I had a professor that brought up the idea of discrimination based on size, and up until that point, I’d never heard anyone confirm that it was a valid thing. Having someone I really respected bring that to a class where I was the only one in a larger body led to a really meaningful discussion about my personal experiences.”
She continues, “That was very eye-opening for me, so I started researching more and I woke up one day, and I was like, ‘This is stupid. Feeling this way is stupid. I just want to be me and happy and wear what I want. I’m tired of hiding. This isn’t my fault.’”
“I have an eating disorder I’ve been working on and I have been for years and years,” Dr. Katelyn shares. “I just got fed up with hiding myself, said screw it, and took my clothes off on TikTok.”
She says that her goal is to be the person that she needed as a child. “I didn’t see anybody educated and big,” Dr. Katelyn says. “They didn’t exist at that time [in media.] I have so many kids following me, and I love that. I just want to be that person that kids can look up to and say, ‘Hey you know what I might be chubby or whatever, but I can still be educated, and I can still do what I want to do in life.’”
Coming to a place where you are happy and comfortable in your body isn’t always easy, and that’s because you can’t just jump from self-hate to self-love. There’s a phased process involved.
Dr. Katelyn explains it below:
Starting in the “body-negative space” where you’re uncomfortable with your body, and your self-esteem and confidence is low, Dr. Katelyn explains that there are three phases of falling in love with yourself.
“First, you move into body neutrality where you feel neither good nor bad about your body. It simply exists, and it’s there to function as it was designed,” she says. “After that step, you move into body positivity which is where you’re able to recognize and celebrate your body a little bit.”
Then there’s step three. “The last phase is fat revolution or fat acceptance which is the radical acceptance of living in a larger body, not having any desire to change that. Even people who are body positive sometimes have that nagging voice in the back of their head that says, ‘Oh, this isn’t healthy,’ but I think when you’re fat positive, you get to that point where I think you are able to recognize that health is not related to weight, and your worth is not related to your weight, and also being fat can be fabulous and sexy!,” Dr. Katelyn encourages.
So, how do we get from a body negative space to a body positive or even fat revolution mindset? Dr. Katelyn Baker has tips.
- Make a list of things you like about yourself.
Dr. Katelyn’s first assignment is simple, but not always easy. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself. The list shouldn’t be about what you can do for other people, or what other people like about you — only things you like about you.
“What my clients find is that there are only a couple things on that list, so then we do a lot of work to start exploring and find reasons and things that they do love about themselves that they’re not even aware of,” Dr. Katelyn explains. You can add as you go.
- Start thanking your body for just working.
This is the beginning of moving from body negativity to body neutrality. “Even if you don’t like the way your body looks, you can appreciate that it’s working, and that helps you to start forming a relationship with your body that is not just hate and negativity,” she says.
- Recite affirmations in the mirror.
It might sound silly or cliché, but Dr. Katelyn swears it will work. It’s science! “There’s a kind of theory in psychology that in layman’s terms, basically means ‘fake it ‘til you make it.’ Standing in the mirror and saying things you feel about your body that you wish were true until it becomes true. ‘I love my belly.’ It might sound ridiculous the first few times, but if you say it enough, it starts sinking in. That’s an actual psychological principle!”
- Combat negative thoughts and self-talk.
The opposite can also be true. If you say negative things often enough, your brain will begin to believe that they are the truth.
“When you start having those negative automatic thoughts popping up, a behavioral therapy theory is to challenge those negative thoughts. I always encourage people to find two reasons why that thought isn’t true. Any little reasons that go against what you think. Plant an ounce of doubt. Our thoughts are not controllable. They are random and intrusive. The best thing you can do is actively combat them until it becomes a natural process,” she instructs.
- Throw away the rules, and wear whatever you want.
This one is all about drawing new boundaries and disconnecting from the restrictions you’ve put on yourself. Dr. Katelyn suggests that you buy clothes that fit you, saying, “It’s the clothes’ job to fit on your body. It’s not your body’s job to fit into the clothes.”
“Put it on. Walk around your house until you’re comfortable going out in it. It’s amazing what it does for you mentally if you just put it on and you go out and realize that nobody’s going to say anything to you. They might look, but you don’t know those people. Who cares?”
So, maybe you want to find a therapist that can help you work toward a body neutral or body positive relationship with yourself, but you live outside Dr. Katelyn’s area.
How can you determine if a therapist is fat positive and willing to work with you without assuming weight loss is your only path to a healthy mind?
“I would recommend asking if they follow the HAES (Health At Every Size) Model, which is medically-based, but I’ve kind of altered that for my own practice, and my peers have altered that as well. I’d also ask if they’re familiar with intuitive eating because that’s something I usually recommend rather than dieting.”
Dr. Katelyn explains that if they are unfamiliar with these terms, they probably don’t have much experience with or interest in fat positivity. That doesn’t mean they can’t be a fantastic fit; it just means you might have to take a little extra time getting on the same page.
I wish I’d had someone like Dr. Katelyn Baker in my life when I was younger. Maybe I could have spent my first thirty years of life accepting the body I had instead of fighting for a body I thought would make me happy.