For many, “summer pleasure” is defined by a trip to the beach, BBQs in the yard and other activities which require bathing suits, shorts or skin-revealing outfits.
For this reason, it’s a “pleasure” often tainted by crippling self-consciousness. Knowing they’ll be wearing less, people who perceive themselves to be overweight embrace “quick fix” diets and detoxes to try and attain an increasingly unattainable physical beauty.
Some on the more extreme end of the dieting community even look to “thinspiration” to motivate them. An Internet trend created by the “pro-ana” community (online groups who condone and encourage anorexia, bulimia and eating disorders), “thinspiration” pictures feature dangerously skinny models who represent a twisted “ideal” (if potentially lethal) height/weight ratio.
Fortunately, many of the social media sites that were former repositories of “thinspiration” pictures have started to police themselves – with sites like Pinterest and Tumblr banning content from “self harm” sites that encourage eating disorders.
But while “thinspiration” and its ilk are clearly repellent and dangerous, is the opposite any better? Just as the “pro-ana” community represents the extreme fringe of the online dieting community, certain elements within the “fat acceptance” movement might be pushing an agenda no less dangerous.
For those unfamiliar with the term, “fat acceptance” combats prejudice and discrimination against the overweight. I fully support and embrace “fat acceptance” because to my mind, fat people and gingers are about the only two marginalized groups that it’s still socially acceptable to bully, discriminate against and generally abuse.
But that support is mitigated by the fact that I’m a “former fatty” who has struggled to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle for a number of years.
While I support all attempts to stop discrimination and abuse, I am deeply concerned by voices within the “fat acceptance” community who seem to be pushing the idea that obesity is not as dangerous as we’re told it is. I disagree.
First off, “fat acceptance” is a fallacy.
Just like gay acceptance, or black acceptance, or acceptance sought by any marginalized group, we seem to have a mental block in America in which we embrace the victim rather than the crime.
Instead of seeking “acceptance” for everybody, we seek it for one marginalized group, and then another. In reality, there shouldn’t be “fat acceptance” – or “gay acceptance” or “ginger acceptance” or any other isolated “acceptance” advocacy. Instead, we should simply be striving for “acceptance” of everyone.
But semantics aside, there are fringe elements of the “fat acceptance” movement who are advocating a lifestyle that isn’t safe, smart or healthy.
An increasing number of blogs – possibly enough to rival or even eclipse the number of “pro-ana” blogs – argue that “obesity is a myth,” and that it’s perfectly possible to be healthy even at a weight that would be defined as “morbidly obese.”
Now from a personal perspective, I’m cool with that. I support the “fat acceptance” mantra that you shouldn't discriminate or marginalize anybody because of their weight; and if somebody is happy weighing in at 400lbs, I say “good for them.”
But don’t tell me it’s a healthy choice for everybody. because that dog won’t hunt, monsignor.
The fringes of the “fat acceptance” movement argue that “obesity is a myth” and tout some great examples of people who weigh in at 300lbs or more and run marathons, or do other incredible things that prove you can be “fat and fit.”
But the fact is – and it is a fact – that most of the people who are overweight or obese in America are not “fat and fit.” They’re just fat, and fat is rapidly becoming the biggest killer in America.
Obesity has been linked to a litany of lethal health issues, from heart disease and stroke, to cancer and diabetes. Many people who are overweight or obese have a myriad of health issues to contend with, from asthma and acid reflux, to sleep apnea and impotence. It’s certainly not true of every overweight person – but if you look at the statistics, it’s certainly prevalent amongst most of them.
So while I’ll admit that fat affects every individual differently – there are some people who are technically obese, but who live healthier, more active lives than any thin person could – most people are not the healthy examples of fatness that the fringes of the “fat acceptance” movement would have you believe.
I speak from experience.
When I was bordering on obesity, and before I embraced the fitness trend I live by now, I had a host of health issues to contend with. I didn’t sleep at night. I had a crippling bad back. I had acid reflux that was so bad, I went through a hundred dollars worth of Prilosec a month.
More alarmingly, I got winded and out of breath clambering the three flights of stairs to my office job, and in bed I wasn’t “rising to attention” as firmly or reliably as I’d have liked.
When I eventually got my act together and dropped the weight (and gained the muscle, and the physical endurance) all of my health issues disappeared. I literally cured all of my major health issues, simply by losing weight. I haven’t taken a Prilosec in three years.
So when the fringe elements of the “fat acceptance” movement tell me that the health implications of being overweight are over-exaggerated, I have to call bullshit.
The fact is, being sedentary and fat is pretty much the worst thing you can possibly do to your body; and the fact that this fringe movement is trying to tell people that it’s not is, as far as I’m concerned, just as dangerous as any “pro-ana” or “thinspiration” propaganda.
But I will give them this: It’s not “fat” or “thin” that’s the enemy.
If somebody lives a sedentary lifestyle and eats crappy food, it doesn’t matter whether they’re 100lbs or 400lbs – they’ll be risking their lives as a result. What “thinspiration” and “fat acceptance” fail to acknowledge is that fitness, rather than an arbitrary weight or dress size, should be the ultimate goal for body image advocates.
One great mantra the “fat acceptance” movement came up with is: Fit is the new skinny.
If we lived by that expectation, rather than fixating on somebody’s size, we’d all be able to have a happier, healthier summer – and if we accepted everybody, regardless of their size, shape, color, sexuality or nationality, we wouldn’t need these “acceptance” movements either.