Recently, there has been a media resurgence of the body positivity debate. For some, accepting ourselves for the way we are has become a mantra and a war cry. For others, it sparks anger and brings out a painful and toxic viciousness.
The sad reality is that fat shaming and body shaming have taken an unfortunate turn and have had detrimental effects on our bodies, minds and conversations alike.
As a society, not only are we ashamed of our bodies, but we are ashamed to admit being ashamed.
At my highest weight, I wasn’t able to “accept myself” the way I was. With my genetic history and deteriorating health, self-acceptance and continuing with the habits that were putting me there would have led me to an early grave.
Unfortunately, health seems to have taken a backseat to appearance, combined with the flawed concept of what health should look like. Spoiler alert: looks can be deceiving. Health isn’t just weight.
Celebrities like Jillian Michaels and Victoria’s Secret model, Kelly Gale have made headlines for their opinions about the overweight and obese. Their harsh criticisms have left people hurt and reeling.
Meanwhile, singer Lizzo has been a beacon of light and hope for those struggling to accept themselves and dealing with weight related and self-esteem issues.
Body shamers have done a serious disservice to those of us that are proponents of health and fitness. Soon after Jillian Michael’s comments, a Twitter debate raged as people hurled judgements, opinions and experiences.
Some of the commenters had been overweight themselves and some of them had never struggled with weight related issues.
There were myriad judgments from all sides. People were unwilling (and maybe simply unable) to engage in a rational discussion.
No matter what someone’s opinion may be, shaming, berating and judging will NEVER be the answer.
Is it Really Body Positivity Versus Health?
One question that needs to be asked is: “Has the push for body positivity replaced actual deep-felt self-esteem?”
It is no secret that I spent a large majority of my life struggling with my weight. Those struggles were mental, emotional and physical. In an effort to look a certain way, I made choices that could have destroyed my physical health and taken my life. I didn’t care; my worth was in my weight and how I looked.
I’ve spoken candidly about how vanity was my initial motivator to get fit. In a recent Facebook post, I shared this photo and my very raw feelings:
Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but they can’t always tell the whole story.
Before I lost the outer weight… I thought it was the cure
Before I lost the inner weight… I thought it was too heavy to shed
Before I could love myself… I tried to get it from everyone else
Before I saw my worth… I was convinced of my worthlessness
Before I valued me (mind, body and spirit) … I only valued appearance
Before I gave into victimhood … I functioned as my own perpetrator
This topic is personal for me. In actuality, it is one of the reasons that I am dedicated to being a personal trainer and health coach.
- struggled with weight and self-esteem
- struggled with disordered eating
- lost an overweight father to diabetes and heart disease
- lost other family members to lifestyle choices
- watched family members suffer for years prior to their death
Weight struggles go so much further than what we are putting into our mouths and that needs to be discussed; however, when the topic of weight comes up, people tend to become defensive.
My concern is never their appearance, it is always what is happening within. Fat tissue, also called adipose tissue can begin to secrete inflammatory hormones. These hormones have been associated with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and heart disease.
Unfortunately, it has become common for people to use body acceptance to circumvent their weight and, in the process, neglect their health.
I challenge everyone to consider the following questions:
What is your blood pressure?
When is the last time you had it checked?
What is your blood glucose?
What is your A-1 C?
What are your cholesterol levels?
What is your resting heart rate?
How is your immune system functioning?
Do you have inflammation?
How are your kidneys and liver functioning?
The Heaviness of Inner Weight
“You want to look like those things and when you realize it’s a physical impossibility you start to think, ‘What the * is wrong with me?’,” she said. “I think that took a bigger toll on me, psychologically, growing up than what anyone could have said to me.”
Our inner weight is much harder to shed. There are no quick fixes, shakes or supplements. No 90-day transformation or plastic surgeon can remove the deep mental and emotional roots that lie within us.
Lizzo’s comment spoke volumes. Let’s take a closer look at what her interview reveals.
- “You want to look like those things”: Although we all have our own ideal body images, they can often be based on what we see in society and what is considered to be beautiful by external voices. We are constantly dictated to by the latest trends and fads. The younger we are, the more susceptible we are to these messages. Weight standards, beauty standards and even material possessions have, seemingly, become synonymous with worth. They are not.
- “You realize it’s a physical impossibility”: Outside of a disease process, weight loss is not a physical impossibility. Body shape is a bit more nuanced, but with proper training, it can be addressed as well. The concept of impossibility starts and stops with our mindset. Once we tell ourselves that something can’t be done, we don’t do it. We comfort ourselves with, “I can’t” rather than exploring what can be done.
- “What is wrong with me?”: This says, “I am flawed”. This inner dialogue is disheartening and prevents us from moving forward. It can cause us to label ourselves and identify with our choices, believing them to be our fixed personality instead of something that can change with effort. This mindset can quickly spiral into a self-victimizing and hopeless attitude. Rather than asking, “What is wrong with me?”, we can acknowledge that we need to make changes and identify the necessary steps to grow forward.
- “..that took a bigger toll on me, psychologically, growing up than what anyone could have said to me.”: Again, our inner critic, thought process, and mindset cannot be addressed through normal means. What we tell ourselves and think to ourselves come from what we actually believe. Shedding this weight and healing this pain takes time and patience. In the process, we grow and have the opportunity to become an ever evolving being. Health goes beyond appearance and weight. People can be thin and unhealthy. People can be overweight and have completely normal, healthy lab work.
As trainers and coaches, we MUST stop telling people to lose weight and put the fork down.
It’s time to advocate for understanding baseline health and going from there.
Originally published at https://charbdollfitness.com.