I often hear people get antsy when larger people start loving their bodies. “But aren’t we glorifying obesity? Aren’t we encouraging people to be unhealthy?” But here are some of the problems with this mentality:
1.Skinny doesn’t mean healthy. Some thin people just have a fast metabolism, but they don’t work out and eat only junk food. I’ve seen some very thin people who are much less healthy than some larger people I know. Plus, anorexia and other eating disorders are major problems that cause people to be thin. Stress can also cause people to drop a lot of weight, but in a very unhealthy way. My point: You can’t really tell how healthy someone is just based on their size. Extreme obesity is a tougher area, since being so large that they cannot move obviously prevents them from being able to exercise, but even then we’re really in no place to judge.
“Active obese individuals actually have lower morbidity and mortality than normal weight individuals who are sedentary … the health risks of obesity are largely controlled if a person is physically active and physically fit.”
-The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 2000
At a size 14-16 I am considered a bit overweight, but I can also bike 10 miles in a day. I’m sore as hell and exhausted afterwards because there’s lots of hills on the route I take and I don’t do it often enough, but I can do it. How many people do you know that can (or are willing to) bike 10 miles? I may not be a fitness enthusiast, and yes I could stand to be active more often, but I’m certainly not a couch potato either.
2. Who defines healthy? It’s such a vague category. What if you have a severe medical condition but you eat veggies and exercise, are you still healthy despite your condition? And what if you have no medical conditions, your body works just fine and you are active, but you eat mostly junk food? What defines a healthy individual, what makes one person healthy and the other person unhealthy? It’s based on the individual. What’s healthy for one person may not be healthy for another.
3. Even unhealthy people need to love their bodies. If you’re unhealthy- so what? It doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to love your body as it is! People smoke and drink too much or they use unhealthy crash diets to lose weight, and we don’t shame them like we do larger people. People who exercise or do sports so much that they regularly injure themselves are not really taking care of their bodies either, but we don’t see athletes and fitness enthusiasts being shamed for overdoing it all the time. Also, what about people with medical conditions or disabilities? They may not be very healthy, but they can’t really help it. Are they ugly, should we police their bodies and tell them they can’t love themselves too?
Bottom line: Unless it’s an extreme situation, it’s none of our business if someone is “healthy” or not. And we certainly have no right to tell them that they cannot love their bodies.
If you’re very concerned about your family member or close friend, make sure you address it in a respectful manner, and only if you’re concerned that they are going to cause themselves significant harm. Otherwise, why intrude on their personal lifestyle choices? We all do some unhealthy things; it doesn’t mean it’s ok for other people to judge us for them. There’s a fine line between looking out for the well-being of your loved ones and making unnecessary judgments on their personal choices. You may think soda is liquid poison, but that doesn’t mean you should rail on your friend who loves her Pepsi. And we all know “that person” that gives you a withering look anytime they see you eating processed sugars or carbs. (Really?) However, if your loved one is a raging alcoholic and they’re destroying their life because of it, then that would be an extreme situation and you should probably say something and offer to help. If your loved one has an eating disorder, obviously that’s also an extreme situation that needs immediate attention. But see the difference? Life threatening and severe health risk behavior vs. “I don’t think you should be eating that doughnut because it’ll make you fat!”
4. Eating junk food doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy. “She eats chocolate and drinks soda, she must be sooo unhealthy!” Sure, if you come to my house at certain times of the week, you’d think I binge on junk food all the time- because sometimes I certainly do! Especially during Netflix marathons. 😉 But what you don’t see are the super healthy fruit and kale and protein powder smoothies I try to have every morning, which are packed with nutrients and protein. You don’t see me adding extra veggies and fresh meat to boxed meals when I’m in too much of a hurry to make homemade, or the countless homemade healthy meals I prepare in my slow cooker. You don’t see my entire eating routine, so it’s easy to judge me based on the few things you do see. Bottom line: Don’t assume someone doesn’t eat healthy just because you see them eating a burger or some junk food. It’s the whole picture of their diet that’s important. (And it’s not your place to judge anyways!)
We all deserve to love our bodies.
Thin people are allowed to love their bodies whether they are healthy or not. Their bodies are praised as beautiful on glossy magazine covers even if the model has an eating disorder or starves herself to fit into her clothes. Health is obviously not a concern in many cases where skinny bodies are glorified. So why can’t larger people love themselves as they are too? The double standard is frustrating and unfair. We have to stop making it our business to judge other people’s bodies, and stop making them feel like they can’t love themselves just as they are. We don’t live in their bodies; they do. And you don’t live in my body. I cherish my body; I take good care of it, even if I don’t fit your narrow idea of what my “healthy body” should look like on the outside.
If your friend or loved one wants to get more active or change their eating habits, then by all means be there for them and support them. I’m not saying that we should not work out or improve our eating habits; improving our health is a wonderful goal that I personally ascribe to. I’m just saying that we need to stop assuming that skinny means healthy, fat means unhealthy, and that unhealthy means we’re not allowed to love ourselves.