If you’re not aware, there is a ‘fat acceptance’ movement, advocating for more social acceptance of being ’fat’.
A concise description of the movement is provided on the Cherchez La Femme website, “Fat activists campaign for the right to reclaim the word “fat”, demand better “fatshion” and advocate for social acceptance of good health at any size”.
Cherchez La Femme is a Melbourne based, monthly talkshow of popular culture, news and current affairs from an unapologetically feminist angle who recently had an advert temporarily removed by Facebook administration. The advert in question featured a photograph of the plus sized model Tess Holliday. The ad was promoting an upcoming discussion focusing on fat acceptance, notably from the female perspective.
Facebook's logic behind removing the advert, was ”the image depicts a body or body parts in an undesirable manner" and ”Ads like these are not allowed since they make viewers feel bad about themselves”.
Facebook later backtracked and allowed the advert to be posted. But the damage was done. Social media went into discussion mode.
This photo of plus sized model Tess Holliday was used to promote the event.
The organiser of the event, Jessamy Gleeson was stunned by Facebook administration, later suggesting that Facebook "seemingly has no idea that plus-sized, self-describing fat women can feel great about themselves".
She urged followers on the platform to "rage hard at anyone who tries to tell us that some bodies are more 'desirable' than others".
I have previously written about the body positivity movement, ‘fat acceptance’ and ‘fat shaming’ revolving around complex issues exclusively restricted to privileged western cultures. Issues not solely, but overwhelmingly dominated by a female voice, this is not an opinion, this is just how it is, don't judge me, I just hold the mirror. Although I must mention from personal experience, that fat shaming is not restricted to a female social context, and although I’ve been obese for many years and subsequently fat shamed, I also understand and acknowledge that there is more pressure on females to fit within a ‘socially approved’ body form, although we must also recognise that there is significant pressure from various social platforms for males to look a certain way.
As important as the fat shaming issue may be, it’s not what I want to focus on at this point.
In our reasonably affluent western cultures, we have two social groups with two very different agendas.
One is the above mentioned, the fat acceptance, social activists fighting to feel better in a society that is used to seeing ‘slimmer’ bodies dominate various media, fashion and advertising platforms. These activists fight to not feel judged, to not be harassed, to feel happy in their body whilst also being fat. This is not a formalised social group, more so the agenda is driven by social media interactions and discussion events such as the one featured by Cherchez La Femme.
The second social group is highly organised and backed by scientific peer reviewed research, it’s the health care system. Every single wealthy western culture has one, and every single western country has a health care system currently under pressure dealing with high demand treating preventable lifestyle diseases, most notably those caused by dietary choices.
‘Fat’ can mean many different things to many different people. Describing oneself or another person as 'fat' can be both subjective and objective. You can look in the mirror and think yourself as ‘fat’, then you can visit your GP, have your vital statistics measured and be described as ‘healthy’.
From an emotional and psychological view, feeling horrible about being ‘fat’ (overweight, obese) is seriously draining on many levels. Being overweight is also seriously draining physically, with each day a struggle to get out of bed, tie your shoe laces, walk up stairs, its even difficult to hop into a car. Everything is physically harder when you’re fat. I know this, I’ve been overweight or obese for more adult years than not.
In the Australian context (which is similar to many other wealthy western countries) we have a serious problem with weight which subsequently impacts the health care system. According to 2014-15 Bureau of Statistics figures, 63.4% of Australian adults were overweight or obese. More alarmingly, the next generation is following the lead with one in four children being overweight or obese, (these figures have recently been reconsidered and the problem has been found to be much more dire).
We have a seriously unhealthy society, one that is statistically recorded to be placing immense pressure on an already burdened health care system.
Regardless of how we ‘look’ ‘feel’ or what ‘fatshion’ is available to us, from a strictly medical perspective, obesity is costing us billions, an estimated $14.6 billion on diabetes alone (not all types of diabetes are lifestyle influenced, but “many cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented, or the onset delayed, through positive lifestyle changes. It is estimated that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced by up to 58% by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and following a healthy eating plan" Diabetes Australia).
“The problem goes far beyond aesthetics. As described by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, excess weight, especially obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, some musculoskeletal conditions and some cancers. As the level of excess weight increases, so does the risk of developing these conditions. In addition, being overweight can hamper the ability to control or manage chronic disorders.” (Huffington Post)
It’s important to feel good about oneself, to not hate oneself. It’s also fair enough to expect one can walk down the street and not be judged based on anything, size, colour, sexuality or religion.
These are all psychological, emotional, cultural, societal based perspectives, but we shouldn’t discount or undervalue the importance of physiological health. Some would consider it a priority. There is a generally accepted thinking that physiological health directly influences mental wellbeing, and vice versa.
Personally I have journeyed from a healthy child to an obese young adult, to skinny but not healthy (ate processed food, drank and smoked excessively), back to obese (definitely not healthy), returning to skinny (same old habits) back to obese (super unhealthy and actually presenting with many chronic issues) now finally adopting a sensible lifestyle, eating mostly home grown food, mostly vegetables, little bit of fruit, less meat, exercising regularly, drinking less and as a result I’ve reduced a significant amount weight over 3 years, dealt with my chronic illness and removed myself from high risk category for many preventable lifestyle diseases.
Notice I mentioned that I was skinny but not healthy. The point I’m making is that I used to ’diet’ focusing solely on weight loss. I lost weight but ate poorly (nutritionally speaking) whilst maintained some naughty vices. Observing from the outside I appeared ‘skinny’. I had the appearance of ‘healthy’ but that wasn’t necessarily the case.
I wouldn’t call myself super slim now, but my changes in lifestyle have allowed me to shed a significant amount of weight, I have more energy, feel better about myself and most importantly I have addressed my hyper-tension, depression, anxiety, chronic pain and illness issues not to mention removing myself from many high risk categories for cancer, diabetes etc.
During the time of being obese I have been publicly fat shamed on social media, rather abusive I might add ("you fat cunt" was one of my favourites). I have been ridiculed by ‘friends’ to my face and behind my back (pre social media days). I know what it feels like to be obese, both from a ‘feelings’ perspective and from a physiological viewpoint. I also now know what healthy living is, how I achieved it and how to maintain it for life. (In a nutshell, the secret formula is as simple as eating more vegetables, and going for a walk!)
I know that the health and wellbeing and ’dieting’ industries are just that, INDUSTRIES. Business’s and individuals that capitalise on desperate people in need of help. People desperate to fit into the visual categories that are perpetuated by society. I’m aware of the powerful ’fitness’ industry, both companies and celebrity individuals also capitalising and perpetuating the visual concept of what a ’healthy’ body ‘should’ look like. It’s all very disappointing and what I’d describe as a “load of bullshit” (I’m literally quoting myself there).
There is NOTHING HEALTHY about obesity. Yes you can ‘feel’ good about yourself when obese (or you can certainly tell yourself that, as I did for many years, but was really self hating inside). You can tell yourself that everything is ok, as I did for years. But you're sealing your fate, your future, your wellbeing. Getting healthy is not an easy task, it takes mindfulness, dedication, discipline and an open mind. I can totally understand why an individual would prefer just to 'feel' good about the situation. But unfortunately 'feeling' doesn't address the cause, nor the impacts of obesity. Only hard work and action does. A complete lifestyle shift is daunting but will provide a completely different life.
There is also nothing healthy about perpetuating the idea that healthy comes in the form of a perfect shaped skinny person. We all have different frames, curves, bums, legs, boobs and faces. Deal with it. I drew the short straw, I have to accept what I look like. I'm no piece of art, that's a sure thing.
The reality of obesity is that, at some stage it will impact on an individuals health, potentially being a serious medical condition leading to premature death, chronic illness or lifelong pain, not to mention the mental health impacts (which also relies on the health care system to treat, mind you they tend to focus on treating symptoms not dealing with causation).
We must also remember the reality of living in large populations that function on individually contributed taxes, which governments collate and distribute for a health care systems that we all rely on.
Society is made up of many individuals.
Individuals make choices (Food and exercise).
Those choices impact on society (Impacts Health Care system).
Our personal choices not only effect us, they also impact the many. Regardless of how we ‘feel’ the reality is our actions as individuals impact on a greater society (i.e. other peoples lives) and most definitely impact the economic functionality of a health care system.
If you're offended by this article you need to take a long hard look at yourself and your personal agenda. But be careful, you may get offended by yourself in the process.