A post from our Mind Waves Project Assistant Marie on fighting against our society’s harmful culture of body shaming And weight stigma.
There is a social misconception that if you’re plus size, overweight, fat – whatever term you want to use – that you’ve ‘let yourself go’, that you must avoid exercise or eat all the wrong types of food. Larger people are often put in positions where we’re pressured to justify our appearance, to prove that we do take care of ourselves, or that there is some underlying biological reason for our weight.
I am overweight. I exercise. I eat mostly healthy foods but overeat a bit when I’m stressed or busy. I like running, swimming and climbing but I’m no fitness fanatic. I’ve got normal blood pressure, cholesterol and a very healthy low resting pulse rate, probably more down to genetics than anything else. I’m sure there are lots of thin people who have similar habits, attitudes and biological make-up to mine, yet they probably don’t have to justify them to the same extent.
Body shaming sometimes goes under the guise of concern for people’s health, when actually it is just an excuse to put them down. There’s also an assumption that if you’re fat then you are desperate to lose weight, or that you must be that way because you are unhappy. I know all about that assumption because I used to make it about other people. I used to be so ashamed of my weight and looks that, deep down, I couldn’t believe anyone else who wasn’t thin could genuinely be accepting of themselves. I assumed they must be either miserable, or dieting, or both. But how can someone infer anything about another person’s health, or how they feel about themselves, by simply looking at them?
Our level of wellbeing is not in direct proportion to our thinness. We all deserve to enjoy our bodies, to define what healthy means to us and have social and emotional fulfilment. Now in my late 30s, I weight more than I ever have and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, because I’m no longer attaching my worth to my size. Not aspiring to lose weight doesn’t mean I don’t care about my health or appearance, it just means I don’t care about being thin. Maybe some people do consider this as ‘letting myself go’ when, in fact, it’s the opposite. I’m accepting and valuing myself. I’m taking care of my body rather than punishing it like I did when I was younger. I’ve finally let go of external value judgements about what is physically acceptable or unacceptable. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the only weight I need to drop.