Recently, I wrote a post deriding the positions of an advocate for “Fat-Positivism”… which is the belief that there is nothing wrong, ethically or medically, with being fat… Ethically, I agree. A fat body doesn’t make someone a good or a bad person. It doesn’t change their character. Medically? well, that’s been established by actual people with actual medical degrees.
At the end, I spoke briefly on Body Positivism, and have felt since that it deserved a better treatment. After reading this piece on Steph Guthry’s blog, I decided it needed that better treatment today.
For those of you who are unsure what Body Positivism means, it is basically the concept that everyone should feel comfortable in their own skin. No one should be shamed for how they look. Honestly, I don’t know why you’re reading my blog if you don’t already agree with that.
I’ve written before about the beauty mythos. In which people compare themselves to unrealistic figures, and feel depressed. In the first piece I linked above, I mentioned the health concerns with being fat.
I did not mention the health concerns with being depressed.
Being constantly harassed, either internally or externally, doesn’t make anyone happy. In fact, in pretty much always leads to Stress, Anxiety, and Depression. I’m not talking your normal “big test” stress, or new job anxiety, or being sad… But clinical Depression, and chronic stress/anxiety.
The medical issues associated with these things are just as dangerous as those associated with obesity. In fact, many are the exact same as those associated with obesity. Which brings me to my first point on how to be Body Positive:
- Don’t be a Concern Troll.
If you actually care about someones health, you would care enough to know that negative reinforcement does more harm than good. You would know that making someone Depressed, is just as dangerous for their health as being fat. You would care that this behaviour often leads to simply replacing one medical danger, with another. So stop it. If you want a great (and by “great” I mean, well written) read on what happens when someone is goes into extreme diet/training, check out Jen Comas Keck Blog Posts on Hormones and Metabolic Damage: Part 1 and Part 2.
Being body positive isn’t only about women however. They have, for generations, taken the brunt of the societal abuse on the chin. We cannot ignore that, nor should we moving forward. However, to be truly body positive, you have to remember that what you say affects all those around you. Even guys.
In a very different way, the patriarchy has built up this image of the stoic male. Unassailable in his self confidence. That’s simply not accurate. Let me tell you the story of me.
While reading the above work, the thing that struck me most is my own ease in forgetting. I can put behind me the years of being the “fat kid” as easily as I can put away an entire pizza. For me, growing up made it get better. Or, at least, convinced those random assholes to shut up. This isn’t because I’m thinner, even at my largest, I can count on a fist how many times random people stopped their car to call me fat, or randomly yelled at me walking down the street. I had that privilege, if for no other reason than no one was willing to risk pissing off the fat bearded guy.
Then again, they didn’t need to. Every day, I would look in the mirror, and feel more anger at the face looking back then at anyone else I would meet all day. Nothing anyone else said could be as bad as the voice inside my own head spewing self loathing. I cannot fathom how terrible it must be for those who have to deal with that voice as an external… the voice of society. Is it any wonder that Eating Disorders are hitting record highs among men now?
Rule 2: Remember, just because you don’t see someone has “fat” or “thin” doesn’t mean they don’t see themselves that way. Negative language about the body can have effects on even those you seen as “perfect”.
After the last post, I got another slew of hatemail about how I clearly hate fat people because I’m trying to lose weight. I’m sure that does offer me some bias. It does not fill me with hate.
The reason this comes up is because there is a slight issue between the ideas of “Happy” and “Content”. Body Positivism is about being HAPPY with yourself. About self-love, and self-care. About not letting the society in which we live dictate how we FEEL about our bodies.
But “CONTENTMENT” is something I never want to experience in any form. Well, maybe one moment, as I draw a final breath. To be content is to stop moving forward. To stop trying to be better. To stop improving.
To not be content with yourself, does not mean you cannot be happy with yourself. For example, one can still find great happiness in their accomplishments, while wanting to do more. In academia, this could be someone who is happy to have completed their Bachelors, but isn’t done school until they have a Doctorate.
It also doesn’t imply that my lack of contentment should in any way make OTHERS lack contentment.
Which really brings up the 3rd rule of being Body Positive:
Do not, EVER, judge another persons motives or feelings about their own body.
Seems simple eh? It’s not our job to police each other. It’s our job to be supportive of our friends, and really, everyone else. Just because one person is losing weight doesn’t mean others should feel like they have to. Just because one person is content to not lose, doesn’t mean another should feel bad for not sharing that contentment.
Being overweight isn’t healthy. That’s been established. But neither is being depressed. Or drinking heavily, or eating certain foods (even if at your “ideal” weight), or playing certain sports, or LIVING.
By losing weight, I’ve reduced my risk for certain ailments. Now if I only stopped drinking, playing rugby, and going outside, I should live forever.
And living forever wouldn’t be so bad, if I could only make that little voice in my head stop.