Fat Shaming vs Body Acceptance: Is it okay to be fat?

Love who you are! But don’t settle!

That person must be vain. They’re way too in shape.

Get that girl a burger! She’s too skinny!

I’m full-figured and proud of it! Strong is the new skinny!

You can’t go five minutes these days without everybody chiming in on body acceptance, fat-shaming, or just expressing their opinion about what a human body should look like. (Not to mention the recent controversy surrounding /r/fatpeoplehate on Reddit.)

Today, we’re gonna dig into some of the tension between those supporting body acceptance, those actively engaged in fat shaming, and those looking to simply improve their health and the health of their loved ones.

Regardless of your current physique and situation, I bet you’ve contributed to this problem without even noticing it.

Let’s get after it.

You should look like this

kirby

Regardless of what you look like currently, or how you want to look, there will always be detractors everywhere, letting you know you should look different.

Ultimately, they’re saying one of two things:

  1. I am interested in this type of person, and you look different; therefore, you should change.
  2. I look a certain way and you look different, thus I need to challenge your look to feel better about my look. (Sometimes this is also, “I want to look like you do, but I don’t, so I’m going to challenge it to feel better.)

About a week ago, Nerd Fitness was featured in an Imgur article that made it to #1. In it, they referenced the before and after photos of Team NF member Staci and her incredible transformation.

A quick trip to the comments reveals plenty of dudes who decided it was their place to let Staci know they liked her better in the before picture.

Staci

Staci gets this quite frequently (thank you Internet), and her response is always the best:

“Why do I care what they think? I was unhealthy, my doctor told me I was unhealthy, and I was miserable. Now I’m happy and healthy. Thanks for the input though.”

I’m sure this isn’t the first you’ve seen of this. People want to let others know they liked them better when they were bigger, or smaller, or whatever. It will come from random internet trolls, or even from our own family and friends!

Throw in this “Dad bod” nonsense (I weep for the future of humanity that I even have to acknowledge this) and you got yourself plenty of situations where we have a group of people who are unhealthy justifying their unhealthy lifestyles by putting down people who choose to live healthy.

It’s ridiculous, and it needs to stop.

Things we need to stop saying

words dictionary

Be honest, I bet you’ve said one of the following phrases or saw somebody else saying it and agreed. If we’re gonna elevate ourselves above all of this, the following phrases should be put out to pasture:

“Strong is the new skinny!” This phrase is often accompanied by a picture of a smokin’ hot woman in minimal clothing who is thin and (maybe) strong. You now have two things to feel bad about: you’re neither strong nor skinny! Not only that, but there are a ton of skinny folks trying their hardest to gain weight. Which brings us to…

“That person needs to eat.” This is essentially “skinny-shaming.” Many people have no problem saying “that girl should eat something!” when the same person would probably never say “that girl should eat less!” about someone who is overweight. We all have different body types, and yes, some people are naturally very thin. Guys or girls!

“Real women have curves.” Real women have a heartbeat. If you qualify, then you’re in! Real women have curves, or they’re skinny, or they’re big, or they’re tall, or they’re short. Just because you don’t look like the woman next to you doesn’t mean she’s not a real woman.

“That person is WAY too fit. Soooo vain.” It’s easy to make fun of the really really big guy at the gym, or the “too strong” girl, and make fun of them for being really vain or “scary” for having a bodybuilder body. We don’t make fun of people for being great at football, drawing, or cooking – fitness is a hobby, too (and weightlifting / powerlifting is a SPORT just like football).

Apparently the world has determined it’s okay to get in shape, but not too in shape. If you’re a dude, you can get big… but not too big. If you’re a woman getting strong is cool, until you’re too strong and then it’s “manly” and you need to stop because it’s gross.

As the comedian Jim Gaffigan quipped in a way that’s all too real: 

Jim Gaffigan

We all want to feel good about ourselves, and it’s easier to indirectly put down others who don’t look like us instead of taking a look in the mirror and asking ourselves “am I healthy, happy, and comfortable and confident in my skin? Cool, I’ll do me, and you do you.”

After all, who gets to determine what somebody should look like? And whether he or she should gain weight or lose weight, get bigger or get smaller? Only THAT PERSON!

Body acceptance vs shaming

measuring tape bellyNow, we’re all created differently. 

Where do we draw the line between telling people “love who you are, no matter what” and “you are killing yourself with your lifestyle choices, and you need to change?”

It’s certainly not always tied to our physical appearance. Some women have a gap between their thighs, while some men can put on muscle quickly and easily. Some women are naturally more big boned, and some men are super skinny. Regardless of where we are: big or small, thick or thin, we can all work towards a healthier existence.

That’s probably why you’re visiting a site called Nerd Fitness!

On top of that, you might look at somebody and say “that person is unhealthy,” not knowing that they are on their journey, down 100+ pounds already, and working daily to improve themselves. You never know.

In this game of life, it’s like somebody hit the random button when it came to our genetics and that’s the character we must play…but from there it’s 100% up to us to play the game however we want. Once you accept your starting point, you can also accept personal responsibility and start leveling up from there.

Regardless of what you look like, all I care about is the following:

  • Do you get a clean bill of health from your doctor? You can be “damn proud” of your body, but if you’re overweight and unhealthy, or skinny and unhealthy…something needs to change.
  • Are you working to get better? For some that might mean a bigger deadlift, or a slimmer waistline, or 10 lbs lost or gained. Again, the specific goal is less important than having one! What I care about is that you only compare yourself to you from the day before, and work on making improvements.

If we’re going to survive as a society, we need to stop putting down other people, fit or unfit, and realize its a waste of our time, energy, and effort. It’s never okay to shame or bully people.

Body acceptance and health

lego pullup

The truth can hurt sometimes, but we need to accept it: we are bigger as a nation than we’ve ever been. 

In fact, women’s clothing has had size inflation for the past 40 years. It’s clear that as a society, we might not be doing so well.

And yup, things need to change. 

I’m all for body acceptance, but if we are in an unhealthy place, it should be accompanied by a commitment to getting healthier. The truth is, many people are unhealthy and eating themselves to an early grave.

Insulting people who are unhealthy is certainly not helping; it’s cruel, unhelpful, and can make things worse.

We have a personal responsibility to ourselves to be happy. We have a responsibility to play the hand we’re dealt, challenge ourselves to be better and take action on improving our lives. Nowhere is there a place for insulting others.

My challenge to you today is to start thinking about a few key things:

1) Are you using any of the phrases that put down others to make yourself feel better?

2) Are you getting a clean bill of health from your doctor, or are you using the “I am proud of my body” as an excuse to live an unhealthy lifestyle?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this controversial subject: 

How should we navigate this space of not wanting to offend, but help the people in our lives get healthy? What about people who proudly don’t want to change?

Conversely, have you noticed yourself putting down others because they were simply different?

Let’s hear it in the comments!

-Steve

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photo source: Paul Boxley: Kirby, caleb roenigk: hostility, Koisny: Lego

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