Re “But it wasn’t...”
I think you’re missing (or I’m failing to explain well) two points: First, when I use “fat” in this article, I am using it tongue-in-cheek to define even the normal realms of healthy bodies that don’t look like runway models. Second, “normal” can mean average, yes, but It can also mean accepted or desirable. I mean it both ways, but mostly the latter.
In some cultures (ancient Hawaii, for instance) and in some stints of time (like the early 1900’s) it was indeed more desirable to have a good amount of cushion on one’s body than to be overly thin. I recall as a child reading a book set in that era (the Betsy Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace) and learning with surprise that I would have been considered pretty ugly back then, being that I have always been underweight for my height (and still am).
I do not in any way mean to promote obesity or heart problems or diabetes or death with this post. That is not the point. The point is that we have told ourselves for a very long time that only one body type (one which is healthy for some, but would actually be unhealthy for many others) is best. And that is a lie. Unfortunately, too many of us now wield that lie as a weapon to harm ourselves and those around us emotionally. Often unwittingly. It’s just time we be more mindful of it.
Re “Words aren’t dangerous. Words are just words.”
This is excrutiatingly ignorant. Words are the foundation of all communication, good or bad (and everything inbetween). Words are everything from the lead of every bully’s arsenal and the ammunition behind every verbal abuser all the way to the lure of cult-inflicted genocide and the impetus of every world war.
Re Indeed…consumerism and our inability to be smart about what we consume has resulted in fully two-thirds of all US adults being either obese or overweight.
I agree that this is a problem. We want our fellow humans to be healthy and happy: physically and emotionally. Sometimes we forget how closely those two are connected. Addictions, including food addictions, for instance, start in the mind. And having the entire culture wrapped in both ease of access to unhealthy foods and in symbols of unattainable “perfection” on every advertisement is a recipe for physical and emotional disaster. Yes, let’s work on both. This post is simply about the latter.
To make matters worse, I think we are still behind in our understanding of how our physical bodies work. My husband and I, for instance, can eat the same healthy diet (whole grains, proteins, lots of fruits and veggies, low sugar), with similar percentages of caloric intake, and I will lose weight and he will gain. His body produces more insulin than mine does. If he wants to lose weight, he has to drastically reduce carbs (including almost all of the fruits I eat and most of the veggies). We are different people with different bodies. We all are. And that makes health a little trickier than just what the Standard American Diet suggests.
Too often, we look at someone who is healthy and call them overweight because we have been conditioned to think health looks a certain way or we have been taught that we can call someone “fat” to hurt them (even if they aren’t actually “fat”). Of all the insults I heard as a DA working exclusively on domestic violence cases, this is the one I heard the most.
Too often, we look at someone who is indeed overweight and we make assumptions about them: about their bodies and how they work, about their schedules and whether they should make time for more physical activity, about their mental health and their mental ability to be physically healthy, about their situation as a whole. And the reality is that we just don’t know. We don’t know what it is that makes them look that way. It could be a hundred different things. We can do better, I think, at promoting health without adding to the mind games we inflict through our ever-present worship of thin, tall, smooth, tan, men and women. *Which is only the pinnacle of health for some body types*
I agree that we should be able to have both body love/positivity and health, even if that happens to mean a thigh-gap (it does for me as well). BUT, we can also have every other look of health along with it. We can make room for loving our bodies even when they are “imperfect” AND even when we don’t have the time to make them as healthy as they could be at the moment AND even if they just happen to be wrinkled or scarred AND even if our natural way of things is to have cellulite that shows through or veins that pop out AND even if our natural healthy look is much bigger and heftier than a prima ballerina’s.
There are so many looks on the healthy spectrum. Yet only one of them is represented in our media. That is the problem.