I’ve been doing a lot of reading today, mostly about two topics: rape culture and body positivity. The variety of articles that I read on both topics made me think a lot, but some of the things I read about body shaming and body positivity really got me thinking, and even made me reassess some of my own unconscious thoughts.
As many of you know, I had a very long battle with anorexia, and I deal with body issues to this day. By the media, society and family alike, my mind was warped and twisted about beauty and weight. While I have made great strides as the years have gone by, it’s something that takes constant work, and I’m still growing and changing. From time to time, things come into my experience that really make me take a step back. Some of what I’ve encountered today hurts, but I’m trying to see it as a chance to grow.
So, what were these ideas that so moved me? Well, let’s break it down.
Fitspo: First, I read an article that brought up the idea that fitspo, something I have promoted and engaged in, is actually not as great a thing as many of us well-intentioned people might think. Promoting health is a good thing, but promoting a particular level of fitness isn’t. It never occurred to me until I read it that not everyone wants to be sculpted or buff, and that’s okay. I did realize that it’s hard to get that kind of body, but I never thought about the damage that striving for that body could do to me or others. It didn’t click until today that pushing the idea, to ourselves or anyone else, that a “fit” body was the way to go, is just as bad as thinspo. It’s fine if you’ve made a conscious choice and that’s what you actually and truly want for yourself, but it can be just as unattainable and shaming as thinspo. It even made me think, “Is that the body I really want? Am I just trying to emulate what I find to be physically appealing? Could my body ever even look like that?” I may have to do some serious rearranging and deleting of things on my Pinterest boards because of this.
Fat shaming is fat fear: I suppose I kind of knew this in a way, but I didn’t give it much thought until today. Fat shaming is based on fear. Society has told us that fat = unhealthy, unhealthy = bad. Well, the second part is true, but the first isn’t always. (but more on that in a minute) We’re taught to be afraid of fat because it’s supposedly a sign of bad health, lack of self worth, lack of self control, it will impede our love lives, our interactions in society… It goes on and on. Not many people are afraid of being skinny. Not too many people give people shit for being skinny. People are terrified of getting fat, being seen with fat people, shit, a few ounces on the scale can send a person into a full-blown panic attack. It’s crazy. Yes, some overweight people are unhealthy and need to get healthier. Yes, too much weight can cause health issues. The thing is, we don’t need to be afraid of it. It’s not the plague. Some people are bigger than others. It doesn’t have to be such a source of terror.
I feel bad for heavy people: Okay, I’ve got to say there was some shame in this realization. It never really occurred to me that I typically associate bigger people with being unhealthy and therefore I feel bad for them and think they need help. Granted, there may be many instances where the person I’m looking at is that stereotype of someone who eats too much, is horribly unhealthy, and could benefit from diet, exercise and weight loss. However, they might be pretty healthy. Hell, they may be healthier than me. They may be happy the way they are. And not the too-lazy-to-give-a-shit kind of false happy, but actually in love with their body, fully accepting it happy. This really should have stuck with me long ago due to having known a handful of big-but-healthy folks, but somehow I guess I still had some beliefs that needed to be cleared out. What’s more, I realized that I tend to think all extremely skinny people probably have an eating disorder and need help. Again, having known some naturally rail-thin people, I should have known better. Alas, I’m human and humans screw up. I’ll be working on these mindsets even more.
***I think there was more, unfortunately, focusing on writing about it kind of closed out some of it. it’s okay though, I’m sure that the new ideas and realizations are still rattling around in my head and doing some good. I’ve got to say, it does quite a bit of good to read, learn, and have your ways of thinking challenged, and even changed.