When I first started hearing about body positivity, I thought it was a good thing. The saying above, “Your worth is not measured by the size of your waist” is a very important concept related to body positivity. There are many reasons for people to feel positive about themselves no matter where they are in their health journey. However, I think that we are beginning to cross a line when it comes to acceptance of obesity.
The lines are starting to blur between accepting yourself for where you are now on your journey, and the reality that the journey should continue in order to improve your health and longevity potential. With the advent of thousands of junk health sites, it is very easy to find information that either favors or opposes your opinion when it comes to weight and food. For example, if you are in favor of a Paleo lifestyle, you will be able to find plenty of websites that either elevate its status to the best way of eating that has ever existed, or another site that will tell you that if you continue down that path that you will die. Researching health within an oversaturated Internet it’s very difficult today.
Internet food quarterbacks like the Food “Babe” would have you believe she is an authority in nutrition and not an affiliate laden micro-empire based on someone with a computer science degree and a penchant for enticing fear. The same can be said for David Wolfe, who openly admits that “chocolate is aligned with the sun”. Okay then. People actually believe this stuff and click and it’s hard to pull them back to reality, fact and science.
Unfortunately, there is a reality when it comes to being overweight. Our bodies were not meant to be obese, and we are now seeing serious illnesses and diseases emerge in younger and younger populations. The rise of type II diabetes, difficulty conceiving, severe joint issues, just to mention a few skyrocketing problems, is flooding the healthcare system with an overabundance of need. When society starts to celebrate obesity, and make it seem like something that is okay, we are starting to lose sight of the prize; which is our health.
When I read this quote, I can fully understand the emotional concept behind it because it is rooted in truth. These days, you can be shamed online for being too skinny, too fat, or any other physical difference that sets you apart from the cultural “elite” so to speak. It’s like the schoolyard bully now has a much wider audience to troll. I don’t think that saying that life is better if you were skinny is the right thing to say. What we need to understand is that life is better when you are healthy. That is something that we are starting to miss with this body positivity movement. I have been both very skinny and very obese in my life. I have also been at my ideal weight. The way that I have been treated during all of those different weights is very different.
When I was underweight, I was regularly told that I was a very unhealthy. People asked me if I had an eating disorder. I did not. When I was very obese, I became virtually invisible. Although there were plenty of times when my weight was brought up as a topic, as an older adult I wasn’t subjected to the same type of peer bullying that a younger person might be, in my personal case. One thing that sometimes never goes away, is the notion of a poor body image. In my case, no matter how great I felt at my “normal” weight, or how I looked, I retained that “I look fat” thought process in my head. Even with how much I have recently lost, I am still thinking as an obese person. That may never go away. So, it is a daily struggle to keep oneself positive no matter where you are on the journey…even if your journey is on hold for now.
Over the years, we’ve all seen the advertisements for diet and fitness programs that use slogans like “Summertime is coming! Time to get your beach body ready”. There are 1000 different reasons why someone may be carrying extra weight on their body. Espousing body positivity is a great thing to make people aware of this fact. You don’t know if someone is on a specific medication that is adding weight to their frame, or any other number of reasons. Assuming that every single person who was over their ideal body weight is sitting inside eating themselves to death is extremely judgmental. Although it may be true in many cases, we cannot assume this by looking at a person. But at the same time, we have got to stop normalizing obesity. It is not normal. It is not safe. It is not healthy.
While you are on a journey to better health, I believe that this is where body positivity can be very helpful for your emotional well-being. No one wants to be made aware on a continuous basis that they are overweight. I can assure you that the person already knows that they are not where they should be on the scale according to official health standards and perhaps their doctor’s advice. Allowing someone to feel comfortable in their own skin no matter where they are on their journey is extremely beneficial. Allowing body positivity to be something to celebrate to the point where people feel no need to make changes is where it concerns me the most.
We do need to remind ourselves of what this is saying above. Beauty does come in all shapes and sizes. There is no one-size-fits-all, or perfect weight for every person. The reality is that we should be working to improve our health, so we can avoid serious illness, retain mobility for as long as we can, and enjoy life without debilitating illnesses that could be avoided. There is no perfect diet, there is no perfect way, and there never will be. Due to a vast amount of misinformation, false advertising, fake promises, and paths to health that are short-lived and inefficient, the struggle will always be there for millions.
I have daughters, (and a son) and I want all of them to be proud of who they are no matter what they look like or what they weigh. So I get body positivity. There is a crisis in this country and around the world where young girls (and I’m sure boys as well) are concerned about their weight and appearance at a younger and younger age. I completely agree with wanting children to feel positive about who they are. I also want them to understand the reality of putting their health first. In a world filled with processed food and junk, this is not easy.
As I inch ever closer to a 40 pound weight loss (or 2.8 stones) I can celebrate the wonderful victories that I’m achieving along the way. I’m already dropping medications that I thought I would take forever and along with that the health risks that come with taking them. I have an incredible amount of energy, and a renewed source of optimism. I am just a few points away from putting my type II Diabetes in complete remission. I know that I will never “get rid of it” but I can put it in its place and keep it hiding forever. It is a slow, tedious journey that is filled with a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it to me. I’m giving myself the gift of health. I truly do wish that for everyone.