One of the more bizarre (and that’s saying something) debates I witness online is over the subject of “body positivity”. Mostly because body positivity is one of those bizarre phrases that can mean different things to different people and therefore doesn’t really mean anything.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing. When I was growing up, body positivity was a little different. For starters we didn’t call it that back then, since that was a time of less Internet and more sanity, which seemed to produce far fewer trendy neologisms. But whatever it was called, it was all about making sure people, particularly young women, didn’t starve themselves or make themselves throw up in an attempt to have a supermodel’s body. The message was that not everyone can have a body like that, and they should be happy with the body they have.
I’m on board with the idea of not demanding that all women look like supermodels. Women who are of average or better than average condition can also be shown in magazines. Besides, 20-40% of models have an eating disorder, so when even women who can look like models have to hurt themselves, it makes sense to dial it back. But these days, some people have gone completely the other way, and are celebrating “fat bodies” and even saying that it’s healthy.
So now they’ve avoided two relatively rare conditions (anorexia and bulimia) that are really bad for you, and replaced it with a far more common condition that is also really bad for you. I’m pretty sure replacing two bad habits that might kill you with an even worse habit that is very likely to kill you was not what we had in mind back in the day.
Now, I know that the measurement of obesity can be a bit problematic. The BMI scale is an extremely reductive way of looking at things. There are probably people in the “overweight” range who are still perfectly healthy. But people who are in the obese range probably aren’t. Okay, John Cena, Dwayne Johnson and Terry Crews are technically in the obese range. They’ll be okay. Unless they have a roid overdose. But for non freaks of nature, 30 plus BMI is not healthy. It’s just not.
Now I’m sure we’ve all seen those irritating reality shows (redundant, I know) or news interviews of young fat people who insist that their vitals are in the healthy range. They may be. When I was younger, I had great test results, even though I still had most of my old bad eating and exercise habits. But ten years later, even though my habits and weight were about the same (I was merely overweight back then and this was before my post-nuptial weight gain), my various vitals were much worse, earning stern lectures from my doctor. You may appear healthy when young and overweight, but these bad habits catch up over time. Hence the term “chronic disease”.
Now before I sound like I’m trashing every bit of the body positivity movement, there is one thing they talk about that I agree with. And that is that “fat shaming” is awful. This is not something decent people should do. Besides, you’re not going to convince someone to lose weight by calling them names from across the street. Or on Twitter or other online cesspools of bad behavior. It doesn’t work. At least for the most part.
Having said that, there is one circumstance where fat shaming does work. And that’s when it’s someone close to you. Right around the time I started losing weight I was visiting with my parents and dozed off and started snoring rather obnoxiously. My dad bellowed (he’s ex-military so he does that a lot) “You’re snoring like a damned animal! You need to lose weight.”. This actually did motivate me, but he’s my dad not some douche yelling from down the street. You should never shame a stranger. It’s a waste of time, and probably counterproductive. And for God’s sake don’t ever make fun of a fat guy in the gym. The last thing you want to do is chase him off as he’s making his first steps in the right direction.
But there is one thing more insufferable and more nefarious than fat shaming. And that is “fat acceptance”. People engaged in “fat acceptance” (a condition we used to call “denial” when I was younger) insist that they are perfectly healthy in their “fat body”. Or call themselves “larger bodied” or “big boned”. And they’ll routinely pontificate (frequently in online brain power reduction services like Twitter or TikTok) about how they “Love their fat body.”
You shouldn’t be happy with being fat any more than they should be happy with high blood pressure or heart disease or diabetes. Which is definitely what will happen if you don’t get your act together. I’m not saying don’t “love your body”. But you should love your body like you love children. Well, not in a creepy way. I’m not trying to encourage pederasty.
For example, I have great love for my niece and nephew. But that doesn’t mean I accept it when they misbehave. Which is disturbingly common. Especially with the nephew. He’s a bit of a rascal. I’m highly critical of them when they misbehave, and I (or one of the other adults) will dispense a little discipline when this happens.
For those without children or nieces or nephews, think about the reactions you’d get when you were a kid if you got bad grades. There was no “F” acceptance or “D” acceptance. These resulted in groundings, loss of privileges, or hours and hours of manual labor (Colonel Dad liked to make me dig ditches) as punishment. If your parents were the hardcore “Tiger Mom” types, this might even happen if you got a “B” or “A-“. But regardless of how strict your parents were, they didn’t do these things because they hated you. Quite the opposite.
I decided I needed the same sort of healthy criticism for my body two years ago. And as far as my diet went, I was getting an “F”. Unless “F” is dead, in which case I was getting a “D”. I didn’t hate my body, but I knew I needed to be critical of it (and my habits) and have better discipline. And this healthy self-criticism and self-discipline eventually produced much better results, and I’m healthier than I’ve ever been.
So it’s fine to love your body. But don’t delude yourself that you’re healthy when you’re not. Don’t just accept your body if you’re unhealthy. Be critical of it and your various bad habits. Subject it to proper discipline. Okay, now that just sounds like S&M. This post has way more kink than I planned. What I mean is have some discipline when eating and force yourself to exercise. Anyway, the point is, lack of discipline and criticism can spoil your body the same way it can spoil kids. So give it the same tough love that parents give children, so you don’t die of a heart attack in your thirties or forties.