I have stayed away from controversial topics on my blog and mostly shared insights into my personal life, fitness journey, and general musings. Much to my surprise (and pleasure), the musings section of my blog has been my most popular (thank you for that!). As such, I decided to provide less of a one dimensional look into my thought process and share an opinion that may be unpopular. I hope not, but this post has been circling around in my mind for weeks and I really feel like it needs to be written.
To me, body positivity means feeling good about yourself and the skin you’re in. I have written in the past about how I firmly believe that a positive outlook on life can make a big difference to overall well-being. I’ve also written that, even if you’re on a fitness journey, you need to enjoy your life, have new experiences, and not let your current size stop you from actually living. I still work really hard at being mindful of this.
For me, body positivity does not mean that people should embrace being fat, obese, or unhealthy. Full disclosure: I’m currently fat. I have had a hard time adjusting to this as I spent the majority of my life being slim. I also can have a hard time following my own advice and viewing my current fitness journey in a positive light. Sometimes I struggle to enjoy experiences in my life despite being fat. In theory, I should love the body positivity movement because it is targeted to women like me. But I don’t.
The Body Positivity Movement
The body positivity movement touts that women of all sizes are beautiful and that no one should be shamed over how they look. I agree with those statements. What I don’t agree with is the “fat-positive” culture that is developing as a result because I feel like it promotes and celebrates obesity, which is incredibly unhealthy. Our bodies are not designed to be carrying around extra weight. It’s a lot of unnecessary stress on our organs and it can cause a whole slew of health problems.
So why on earth would we seek to justify being fat? Why do we get so angry when anyone mentions something negative about obesity? I don’t think a doctor is fat shaming you when he tells you that you have diabetes or heart disease as a direct result of your weight, so when people are resistant to accepting fat as the new status quo, it does not mean that they are bullies.
Obesity being seen as the negative thing that it is goes beyond conventional beauty standards. It’s not sustainable to be fat if you want to have a long, healthy life. It’s also not sustainable for our health care system to take care of the issues people give themselves through poor weight management (there are enough issues people get that they have no control over).
Some people have health issues that cause weight gain. I get that. My underactive thyroid contributes to my current weight, so I fully understand how that feels (hint: awful). However, we have an obesity epidemic in North America and it’s unreasonable to say that every one of those people have a health problem that directly made them fat (it’s also very unlikely). A lot of the problem circles back to a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, which I can be guilty of at times too.
I am not going to tell overweight people, myself included, that what they have done to their bodies is beautiful because I don’t think that it is. That does not mean that I think everyone needs to look like a runway model or even like a fitness model. I just firmly believe that healthy is beautiful and that even though healthy looks different for everyone (for example, I’m never going to have a six-pack), I can’t think of any instance where obesity is healthy and therefore it is not beautiful.
Statements I’ve heard or read that I have trouble with:
Fat is the same as every other adjective.
No, it isn’t. Fat has a lot of health implications that other adjectives don’t carry.
Fat girls can do anything skinny girls can.
Sure we can. But should we? For example, when I was at my fittest, I climbed the stairs at the CN Tower in under 20 minutes. I could still climb the stairs now, but it would take me a lot longer, it would be a lot harder on my body, and it would not be a good experience like it was when I did it the first time. Just because I can force my body to do something doesn’t mean that I should or that it will be easy for me.
If you are fat and want to wear a bikini, I applaud you. I would never feel comfortable doing that at my current size, but I recognize that’s the headspace I personally occupy. However, if you want to be fat, wear a bikini, and stay fat by choice because you think everyone should find an obese person just as attractive as a fit person, I have a problem with that.
We don’t celebrate anything else that can kill us. In fact, most of us fear those things and avoid them. So why is being fat suddenly an acceptable lifestyle choice? I think it’s okay in the interim on your way to becoming healthy again but not as a permanent state of being. We need to respect our bodies and how they are meant to function, not respect them regardless of what we choose to put them through. I think feeling beautiful while you’re on your fitness journey is a wonderful thing and something I wish for myself. I just don’t agree that people should use “fat shaming” as an excuse to stay fat.
I’m 700 pounds and counting.
I am not going to let this woman have any more publicity than she’s already gotten by listing her name or her link, but there is an individual who is “700 pounds and counting.” She has many male followers who have a BBW fetish and they send her junk food. She doesn’t want to lose weight, she wants to gain it, and she thinks that everyone should embrace her for it. This is an extreme case and I acknowledge that, but there are others out there who use this movement to maintain their personal status quo and even to become larger (maybe not 700 pounds, but any class of obesity is dangerous).
Some fat people don’t want to change their lifestyles or be shamed into doing so. They don’t want to be judged for their choices either. How is that fair when people judge alcoholics for causing cirrhosis of the liver and smokers for giving themselves lung cancer? Food is not seen as a poison in the same way that alcohol and cigarettes are, but I firmly believe that it can be. Our food choices can either fuel or damage our bodies and it’s about time we took accountability for those choices.
I don’t believe that anyone should be made to feel badly about themselves on their fitness journeys, but I also don’t believe that the body positivity movement should be an excuse not to start your journey towards good health. Justifying being fat by saying that everyone must accept you exactly how you are is a cop out to yourself. It won’t impact my life if you choose to be obese, but it will impact yours.
I can’t think of any other health concern that people get so defensive about. It’s about time we started to have hard discussions about the obesity epidemic and not dress it up in rainbows and butterflies. I understand that being fat is tied with how we look and so it can be really hard to hear critical comments about our weight and health. However, it’s a proven fact that obesity kills and yet we overlook it. I’d rather risk offending someone than see that person eat themselves into an early grave.
I think a better approach is being positive and celebrating our journeys towards good health, but not celebrating the status quo because it’s way too dangerous to sustain. I would not have been okay with Grams saying to me, “Scarlet, you’re disgusting and you really need to lose weight,” but I had no issues with her saying, “I am really glad that you’ve decided to get healthy. I was worried about you.”
Grams never mentioned anything about my size to me because she feared offending me. Why? If she told me to put on sunscreen when we were outside because I was going to give myself skin cancer, I wouldn’t have been upset. Why is it that fat gets a free pass not to be mentioned and that anyone who dares to mention it is called a bully or fat shamer? People can live with their heads in the clouds and say that being obese is positive, but it’s absolutely not.
Body positivity encourages our appearance-obsessed culture but in the other direction. Does it matter whether we are celebrating being fat or being rail thin? There is a lot more to life than how we look, and the first focus needs to be on our health regardless of how that manifests itself on the outside. If people spent as much time focused on their own health journeys as they did worrying about how people perceived them, then we would all be the best versions of ourselves that we could be.
People are not second class citizens because they’re fat and it’s possible for a heavier person to be healthier than a skinny person (though I question how common that really is). However, we can’t ignore the obesity epidemic and people need to start taking accountability for their physical fitness rather than worrying about whether or not society accepts their “fatness” as part of the beauty spectrum. Let’s forget the “body” part of the movement, stop our obsession over finding a concrete definition of beautiful, and start focusing on living healthy lifestyles. Without our health, we have nothing regardless of whether or not anyone accepts our weight.
How do you feel about the body positivity movement? I encourage positive and constructive dialogue!