Friday, July 15, 2011

On the Subject of Weight

Weight is a very personal subject matter. Whatever you do or don't do to your body is a highly individual decision that shouldn't be influenced by society. Friends and/or family are the only ones that I believe have some say on the matter, particularly if you are in a dangerous situation caused by your weight. But, other than that, I don't think anyone should intervene.

My problem is that many blogs/people/media outlets feel it's their business to go around policing people's bodies, in particular, their weight, shape, and size. Apparently, being a certain size is only acceptable in certain situations. And most of these situations are hypersexualized or highly fetishized. In the end, you're not being loved or accepted for yourself. You're being tentatively welcomed in by molding into their notions of what is acceptable in weight, shape, and size. If you don't concede, fit in, you can ship out.

I think I am particularly sensitive to this because my teenage years were spent with a couple of extra pounds on. While I am tall and many people would argue that the weight wasn't that visible, it was visible enough for some people to poke fun at. I didn't enjoy it, but I didn't give the matter much thought, as I honestly considered high school just a pit stop for a greater time in life. What really annoyed me, in the years to come, were the concepts attached to people who carry extra weight and the way that weight loss/gain/etc. was approached.

This all came to a head during a conversation with a good friend of mine. We began talking about a thread on social media that she started innocently enough. A short while ago, there was a "No Fat Talk" week, and she posted about that on Google Buzz. The conversation went well until some people started reacting negatively to the concepts of fat and no fat talk. That is where our dialogue started.

A summary: the article discussed how a "No Fat Talk" week was implemented to avoid negative body image and to reinforce the idea that beauty was not tied to fat. They interviewed people who worked in dance, an area that is rife with heavy pressure to conform to a body beauty ideal. The concept seemed to work well, but there are still body image issues.

While I understand what "No Fat Talk" week is about, I can also see why people were lashing back. Eliminating the word "fat" from our conversation isn't going to eliminate body issues. Oh no. They are still there. If we did not work with positive reconditioning and self-acceptance, the word fat will have an effect, whether or not it is used in conversation. I understand that people use weight as an arbiter of health and attractiveness. For example, "You look great! Did you lose weight!" or "Wow, you've come into your shape." Things like that always point towards weight gain or loss. And we cannot use weight as an arbiter of health, happiness, or style.

My biggest gripe comes from the fact that people focus on weight so much as an issue of fashion or image. Nobody discusses the dangers of weight loss or gain. Done radically or unnecessarily, you put yourself in dangerous situations. Perhaps we should talk about weight in regards to health: physical, emotional, and psychological. After all, you could be skinny, but if you do not work out and keep your body healthy, you could have a plethora of health problems that a person that could be considered overweight (but works out) has.

Weight should not be a measure of happiness. For some, weight loss or gain will come with happiness, but I believe it is derived from the changes we see, not just because we are subjecting ourselves to roles. Happiness comes from accepting yourself and achieving things that make you feel good. My own weight loss brought me happiness not only because I found myself better in a physical image sense, but because my health was very much improved. My back problems got better, my knee pain subsided.

Perhaps this is my biggest problem with fashion lately. With magazines like Vogue Curvy, that feature one type of "curvy" and it is a highly fetishized and sexualized sort. When you have people like Karl Lagerfeld saying things like "Narrow ribcages are the chicest thing." or "The body has to be impeccable. If it's not, buy small sizes and eat less food."

Yes, the body has to be impeccable. Impeccably healthy, impeccably loved, no matter what. You can be the most fantastic looking person on the outside, but if you are emotionally, psychologically, and physically ill, you're not achieving anything.

Remember: your body is your own. You should be healthy, inside and out. There is beauty in all of us, don't let anybody police you into destroying yourself.


Celeste said...

I love this. As my "teenage years" have come and gone, I wish I'd focused more on being healthy rather than aiming for a specific size. Right now, I don't remember the last time I stepped on a scale but I feel really good because I just try to eat/live healthily. That's what it's all about, right?


Stella said...

I'm glad you enjoy the post! I think we all pay too much attention to the scale. I'm not going to lie, I try to avoid it because, honestly, the point is to be healthy and love my own body. Depending on scales is dangerous! The number there is no indicator of health or happiness!