I am a huge proponent of positive self-image and body positivity. I believe that it is very important for women and men to feel happy in their own skin and that this is a huge aspect of mental health. But here’s the thing:
I am fat, and I need to start living a healthier lifestyle.
Now, let me explain. I’m not saying I hate myself. I’m not saying I’m ugly. I am saying that I am overweight, and for my overall health, I need to lose some of that weight so I can live a better life.
Many people, whenever someone calls themselves fat, immediately say “Oh, no you aren’t! You’re perfect as you are! You’re beautiful!” I didn’t say I wasn’t. First, beauty comes in many forms and not just what you see on the outside. Secondly, weight doesn’t necessarily determine beauty. I’ve had friends have this type of response whenever I made comments about my weight; often individuals who weigh less than I do and sometimes called themselves fat. While I don’t believe it is the intention, it is almost condescending as if they must reassure you that you are fine as if you cannot handle the truth of knowing that you are overweight. Recognizing that you have a weight problem and having a negative self-image are two totally separate things. Overall, I think I have a positive self-image. I hate looking at my arms and stomach. But I like my eyes and my pixie cut. And I also know that over time, with some healthy changes, I might not hate my stomach and arms anymore. But the point that we need to get across is that acknowledging that you are fat does not mean you hate yourself.
I feel as if somewhere along the way where we tried to stop “fat-shaming,” “skinny-shaming” became more of a thing. And you know what? No one should be shaming anybody. There are dozens of reasons a person could be overweight or underweight, and it isn’t always based upon their diet and activity level. There are many medical reasons that would cause a person to over-and underweight. And that’s for both sides of the spectrum. I would imagine that would be extremely frustrating. The fat and skinny shaming isn’t contributing to anything positive. And I’ve noticed that many people who do weight-shame aren’t trying to be helpful towards the person. Generally, they’re looking for a way to be nasty and demean that person. They don’t want to be helpful. It’s stating the obvious – that there is a problem – without offering any solution. Get out of here. No one has time for that bull. I have never seen an instance where judging or shaming a person accomplishes anything positive.
But there’s another point I want to discuss. Fat-shaming and wanting someone to get healthy are two separate things. And I’ll use myself as an example. I started gaining weight after I graduated college for a variety of reasons – it was too easy to buy lunch out where I worked, I still ate as if I was in college even though I wasn’t running around like a lunatic anymore with ten pounds on my back, and then mental health issues made me not care and I just ate junk. It happens. Life happens. Based on family history, I know that I am predisposed to weight problems and diseases such as diabetes, making it even more important that I establish a healthy lifestyle. That is where I am at right now. I’m not going to glamorize my weight problem under the guise of body positivity and self-love. I guarantee that there are things I love about my body now that I won’t love once I lose weight and vice versa. And there is nothing wrong with that!
However, it has amazed me how many people will say that I don’t have a weight problem. I guess my first question is, why are we commenting on others’ weight when we don’t see the scale? If someone says they want to lose weight, why do we almost reflexively tell them they don’t need to? Why don’t we instead – get this – ask if there is any way we can help and offer a helping hand? Or, even better, congratulate them on taking the first step (acknowledging the issue) to living a healthy lifestyle? If I say I (or anyone) want to lose weight and become healthier, why do we insist on saying how we think they should feel about their body? It just doesn’t make sense to me. We talk about body positivity, but we don’t help people get there. Trying to make someone feel better about their body does not equate to body positivity. At least, that’s not how I define it. To me, being comfortable in your own skin is more than just being happy with your looks. Some of this might be an unpopular opinion, but I think we need to consider health in the picture of body positivity too.
I know being healthy is a pain in the ass. But let me tell you – so is being overweight. I’ve noticed I can’t do as much without certain pains or even move certain ways. My stomach constantly gets in my way. I hate it. And it is because I’m not healthy. Or rather, I could be doing a lot better on the healthy lifestyle side of things. I don’t believe that saying I am perfectly content with my body is promoting a positive body image. I need to get healthier. Diabetes could pop up within pounds. These are things that will limit my quality of life. I can do better.
Healthy looks different on different people, too. Frankly, I can’t believe that this is a conversation we even have because it should be one between patient and doctor. What looks healthy on me might not look healthy on you. And even if you look healthy, that doesn’t mean you are. I love the saying Be-YOU-tiful. You might be thinking I’m an asshole right now, because I just kind of said that body positivity isn’t about just being comfortable in your skin, but there’s more that goes to it like actual health. I don’t think body positivity and beauty necessarily go hand-in-hand either. I definitely think I’d be better looking if I lost weight, but I don’t think that I look like an ogre right now. Beauty is more than the number on the scale. And if I’m being honest, I’m hoping to ignore the number on the scale because I’m hoping to get stronger through weight lifting. So my body might change, but who knows what the numbers will do? I think we can promote body positivity and beauty separately. They intersect, but one doesn’t necessarily follow the other. Both can mean different things. And just because you aren’t happy with your body doesn’t mean you have a negative self-image, either. I see mine as being body positive because I’m recognizing that there is a problem (weight) to be fixed (lose weight) with a solution (live a healthier lifestyle). Just because it sounds negative doesn’t mean it is negative in nature. I’m trying to get healthy – if that isn’t positive, what is?
But when we are talking body positivity and beauty? That means we really need to represent the people. A plus size model is considered around a size 8. Are you kidding me? Hell, I would love to be a size 8. But I probably wouldn’t be shopping in plus-size then. I’d love to see a model who looked like me for once. And I’d love to see a model who looked strong, like see her muscles strong. Women don’t fit into the little classifications the and beauty industries like to set for us. There is no reason why there can’t be curvy models. Or skinny ones. Or strong ones. Short. Tall. I wonder why all models tend to be tall, anyways? Maybe that’ll promote true body positivity – I want to see people who make changes. I want to see women of all types walking the runway so we can relate to what we see to who we are. Maybe someone who is self-conscious will gain confidence by seeing a model like her. We make this all more difficult than it needs to be.
I’m all for a positive body-outlook, man. But it starts at being healthy. At least, in my book it does. Your book might start somewhere different. Your individual version of healthy might be completely different. So, let’s leave the judgements behind. We aren’t accomplishing anything. If anything, we’re going backwards. If we want to promote more positivity, we’ll do better to bring each other up. And I’m not talking about how saying what people want to hear. We’ll do better to help each other in our wellness journeys. We’ll learn from each other. How do you define body positivity and beauty?