Often people on the internet feel the need to comment on issues when they have no place or information to do so. Being overweight is unhealthy, very few people argue that. Rather, the body positivity movement asks people to rethink their assumptions about what healthy bodies look like. The movement exposes the abuse that heavy set people face, especially online. Negative questions often asked surrounding their health do not take into consideration the psychological impact of their words. It is as simple as Lizzo appearing in a TikTok wearing leggings and a sports bra. Sure enough, people will call her fat as if they convey something she does not already know. They will ask her why she does not work out or take this supplement or get surgery or take medications to manage her weight.
Of course, Lizzo is not the only celebrity to deal with these sorts of comments, they are all over social media. However, these are conversations and advice that only a medical professional should have with their patients. People claim that a change of diet or a walk in the park once a day could be the cure for obesity or other weight-related issues. No one should suggest weight-loss trends, cleanses, or dieting products that often do more harm. People get to express their opinions, ask their questions, or simply insult someone who is overweight. Meanwhile, skinny people, even when their weight is unhealthy, receive praise for their appearance. It is a double-edged sword effect. The promotion of skinny culture often causes eating disorders and other health problems. Simultaneously, policing the bodies of overweight or heavyset folks is inherently wrong. That judgment reveals ignorance and ignores reality.
What Do Healthy Bodies Look Like?
Genetically, people are born with different bodies and body types. They cannot do much to change that without extensive and expensive surgeries. However, people rarely consider the whys or the hows when judging peoples’ bodies. The result is always judgment instead of understanding, learning. Scientists did extensive studies on sumo wrestlers, Japanese men typically between 300 and 400 pounds eating 5,000 to 7,000 calories per day. The studies show no one can determine someone’s health based on appearance. A person has to look at overall fat distribution. Sumo wrestlers, despite their high caloric intake, are relatively healthy considering they do not consume not a lot of processed foods or food with high sugar content. It is also important to consider the amount of physical activity they do.
This is possible because their body stores abdominal fat under the skin as subcutaneous fat. There are very few health risks and some benefits to having subcutaneous fat. Fat around the organs, visceral fat, leads to increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart failure. For example, a person considered skinny could have more visceral fat than a sumo wrestler and they are less healthy because of the health risks. Excess weight has a negative impact on joint health, among other health concerns that are still relatively minor. Still, because of the amount of exercise sumo wrestlers must do to stay in condition, they are still healthy. In a nutshell, it is not a person’s body that determines how healthy they are, the fat distribution within their body matters more.
The Economics of Health
Telling people how or what they can do to change their weight ignores the realities of people’s lives. Their socioeconomic status, the barriers they may have that make it difficult to self-regulate weight, where they live, and their jobs or lifestyles. That often has a lot more to do with diagnoses like obesity and diabetes than people think. Not everyone has the insurance to afford potentially helpful medications, and often treatments come at a high price (i.e. insulin except people with diabetes need insulin or they will die) or with side effects. Also, they may not have easy access to healthy food depending on where they live.
For example, grocery stores in affluent areas such as Greenwich, CT, or Newport Beach, CA have healthier but more expensive food options. They are food oases. Go to low-income areas of Philadelphia or Detroit where there are food deserts with little or no access to healthy or nutritious food within walking distance. In fact, even the brand names sold at the grocery stores in these areas are entirely different from the ones in affluent areas. When people do not have access to healthy food, this makes it hard to lose weight. That is why phrases like “eat healthy” are classist. People will also suggest joining a gym or trying the latest weight loss gimmick. These types of suggestions are not appropriate, especially for those with a low socioeconomic status or those with disabilities.
Stop The Toxic Takes
Toxic takes from the misinformed and fat-phobic online who do not know what they are talking about are what many heavy set folks have to deal with. Sure, a few people use body positivity as an excuse to be unhealthy, but again that is a conversation between that person and their doctors. That is not a reason to discount the entire body positivity movement. Weight is not a conversation for the dinner table or in the comment section after Lizzo appears in a TikTok video shirtless. These conversations should not take place in a public forum of any kind that is not a deliberately safe space. For example, a group where people can block those who bring negativity from their space.
Again, most conversations about weight should happen between a person and their doctors. Not every proposed solution is as simple as taking a pill or working out more or eating healthier. That is why policing people’s appearances is exactly what no one should do, ever. It is not appropriate that society gets to have a discussion about the healthiness or attractiveness of a person’s body. Some bodies receive praise, while scrutiny often comes from an opinionated and stereotypical discussion. The opponents of body positivity should care more about the socio-economic imbalance that contributes to the epidemic of obesity. They should be more sensitive to weight issues that are genetic or caused by various medical conditions. Regardless, what the body positive movement tries to promote is that everyone should feel good about themselves and their bodies. That message is one that everyone should get behind.