Fat shaming. Skinny shaming.
Our culture is obsessed with body image.
To me, it seems pretty clear that everyone is fed up with feeling like their body is inadequate. Unfortunately, while I absolutely love the fact that people are starting to be vocal and fighting back, I can’t help but be struck by the willingness to make fat acceptable.
Now, before I get the body image police knocking at my door to shred me to pieces, let me clarify: I think every one person is beautiful. Some are not conventionally pretty, but I have always seen beauty in every single person I have met in my lifetime. It saddens me to know that there are people out there who hate their bodies.
I know these self-deprecating people are out there, because I was one.
I have been overweight for most of my adult life, and was at some point considered obese. A few years ago, I realized that in order to stop hating myself, I needed to figure out what it was about my body that I was so ashamed of. Through a lot of introspection, I realized that it wasn’t what my body looked like that bothered me, it was the fact that I was severely limited by my body.
Fat increases the risk of disease. Fat reduces stamina. Fat makes the body work harder to do menial tasks, such as walking or standing for long periods of time. Fat changes the center of balance in the body, which can do all sorts of nasty things to joints and muscles. Every single day, I felt the negative impacts on my health of having excess fat, whether I actively recognized it or not.
What it comes down to is that fat is not good for our bodies.
This isn’t a novel concept, but it seems to be overlooked in all of these conversations about body image. Sure, there are plenty of articles talking about the rise of obesity, how non-nutritious commercial food is and how longer commutes are negatively impacting our nation. I haven’t yet seen many people talking about how the rise of obesity is making an increasing amount of people hate their bodies.
This problem is twofold. On one hand, yes, by all means, we need to embrace everyone with love and compassion to let them know that they are worthwhile, beautiful and not inferior to anyone else; on the other hand, something needs to be done to reverse and prevent the things that are causing us to gain more and more weight.
I have learned that losing weight is entirely feasible. I chose to make small changes to my diet and exercise habits over time, so my weight loss hasn’t been rapid, but it has allowed me to be forgiving with myself if I slip up occasionally. The slow progress has also allowed me to notice all of the changes in my body over time, and it has made me feel empowered. This is what I want to share with the world: being healthier isn’t hard. It takes mindfulness about a lot of minor aspects of life, but with a little practice, everything will start to come together. The benefits are bountiful and humbling.
Our bodies want to be healthy; it is just up us to enable them to do what they were designed to do.
I do want to mention that I am aware there are always outliers for any statistical representation, technical or not. There are people with health complications that I likely will never understand. This is why I feel that the message that every body is beautiful is so important. Every person deserves to feel good and every person deserves to be loved. It is not acceptable to demoralize or belittle someone for her or his body. But, it’s also not acceptable to ignore the downsides of fat.
It’s time our society accepts everyone with love, kindness and patience, while also enabling and encouraging each and every person to become the healthiest and happiest person he or she can be.
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Assistant Ed: Bronwyn Petry/Ed: Bryonie Wise