If you spend any time on the internet, and I'm guessing you do if you're reading this blog, then you have seen countless images with words across them such as, "Strong is the New Skinny" and "What's Your Excuse," and then there are the Pinterest pins and boards dedicated to "Thinspiration." The more progressive posts and sites have moved on to "Healthy is the new Skinny" and "Health at Every Size."
We Don't Need a New Skinny! We also don't need to be strong or healthy. What we do need is acceptance that people come in all shapes and sizes. People also come in a wide spectrum of ability. And, we live with many different levels of health. People are worthy of love and acceptance, no expectations to be met, no size requirements, no conditions. We need to put the "Un" in Unconditional love!
We do not get to decide for someone else how thin, fat, strong, fit, or healthy they need to be. The truth is that fat people can be healthy and skinny people can be very sick. I know this from person experience. I have Grave's Disease. When I was first diagnosed I lost 30 pounds, in a few months! People would tell me how great I looked, and yet my pulse could be 120 while I was resting, my digestive system was working so quickly that I wasn't absorbing nutrients, my hair was falling out, and I was at risk for a heart attack or thyroid storm, both of which could be fatal. I was living proof that you can be skinny and be terribly sick.
We do not get to decide for someone else how fit they need to be. Some people choose to dedicate hours each day to exercise, some people do not. My sneaking suspicion is that many of those people who are pounding their bodies into a certain shape, a shape that they can be proud of, have a serious lack of body acceptance. Yes, I've been there and done that, too. But, if anyone wants to put in those hours that's their choice, and if it's what they love to do I'm going to support them in following their passion. However, the choice to exercise doesn't make them better or more worthy of admiration than a person who chooses to spend their time playing video games, or knitting, or reading books.
We do not get to decide how healthy another person needs to be. This is a big one for me because I've generally chosen to do things for my body that were considered "healthy." I'm a vegetarian who walks at least 20 minutes almost every day. And here I am with two medical conditions that aren't curable, the causes of which aren't really understood, that keep me from being "healthy." Once again I am my own case in point: not everyone gets to choose to be healthy.
Our society is still obsessed with thinness, but now we have added being fit and being healthy to the list of things that people *should* be. According to the media, the government, and most of our friends, thin, fit, and healthy, are the things that every person should aspire to. Those who have attained them are lauded, photographed, and invited to discuss their success on talk shows. Those who have not attained them are shamed, scorned, and given enemy status in the "war on obesity."
In my last post I talked about how bullying begins at home. Well, fat shaming begins at home, too. (Yes, I'm a case study for that, as well.) Learn to love yourself in the skin that you are in! Read articles, blog posts, and books about body acceptance. Surround yourself with friends who are working towards loving themselves just the way they are, support each other in self-love instead of in dieting. (Dieting doesn't work, as much as I may not like the title "Health At Every Size," is a book that will help you understand the science behind that assertion.)
Once you love yourself, and the body that you live in, you will be able to model self-love for your children. And yes, your child is amazing just they way they are. When we have a family culture of acceptance, one that truly embraces differences of all kinds including weight, ability, size, and health, we are no longer perpetuating the larger societal culture of "if only..." As in, "You'd be so pretty if only you'd lose 20 pounds." "You'd be much happier if only you'd stop eating _________ "(Fill in the blank with whatever food people around you villanize.)
I feel the need to note that losing weight, getting fit, or being skinny will not magically make anyone's life better. It won't cure clinical depression, guarantee a date on Friday night, or make you a shoe-in for that new job. It won't make everything better. There is a lot of magical thinking when it comes to weight loss. The real magic happens when a person is accepted for who they are, just the way they are, and when they are confident walking through the world in their own skin.
We are all going to grow older, we will all be sick at some point in our life, our skin is going to wrinkle and sag, our pace is going to slow. How much happier we'll be during the transition if we have practice accepting our bodies just they way they are, each step of the way. How much happier our children will be if they never have to suffer through self-hate or body shaming, but instead know that they are wonderful just the way they are!
What Is Me? a blog post from my blog With The Family about my own struggle with self-acceptance.
A response to Strong is the New Skinny.
"The message I want to hear, and what I want all women to hear, is that there is no right or wrong way to be a woman. Whether or not you have a gym membership, your experience and expression of womanhood will never be wrong. Tweet that."
21 Things to Stop Saying Unless You Hate Fat People
Throwing This Weight Around, from Dances With Fat.
"Let’s start here – mobility is not a measure of value or worth, there should be zero judgment of people based on their mobility. People have different levels of mobility for different reasons and none of those are anyone else’s business unless the person wants it to be someone’s business."
You Can't Undo Body Shame by Shaming Other Bodies, a fantastic post!
"Most people will experience loss and pain – none of us gets out alive. I wish people wouldn’t make it harder on other people – and then not realize it UNTIL they themselves need gentle acceptance."