There’s a meme/picture going around Facebook about Choosing Your Hard. It’s starts off with “Marriage is hard, divorce is hard. Choose your hard.” The next line is “Obesity is hard. Being fit is hard. Choose your hard.” Implying that “obesity” is a choice, and at odds with being fit, shames and discriminates against people in larger bodies. This is where I choose to educate.
First of all, the only reason this line exists is because we are submerged in diet culture. The diet industry profits more than $65 billion a year, bombarding us daily with ads, products and lies that we are only worthy if we are thin. That is more than $178 million EVERY DAY! More than $7 million an HOUR! The diet industry is VERY motivated to keep us hating our bodies and striving for unattainable outcomes. Diet culture and weight stigma have become so engrained in us that most of us don’t even realize when we are perpetuating them.
The word itself, obesity, is mired in shame, fat phobia, weight stigma and discrimination. The word pathologizes weighing over a certain amount, and it affects all of us. Either we are fat, or we fear becoming fat. “Obesity” is calculated from BMI (Body Mass Index), which only accounts for weight relative to height, and is based on white males 200 years ago. BMI does nothing to measure health status. Did you know that the “overweight” and “obese” classifications of the BMI were set to lower numbers in the late 1990s when two pharmaceutical companies, with the only weight loss drugs on the market, were the biggest funders of the International Obesity Task Force, and that 7 of the 9 members of the task force were directors of weight loss clinics? As a result, 29 million more Americans were suddenly too fat. Things that make you go hmmm...
Being fit and being fat are not exclusive of one another and are not opposites. People can be fit AND fat. In fact, studies have shown that unfit thin people have much shorter life spans than their fit, fat counterparts.
Fitness and fatness are also not entirely within our control. Hello, Genetics! We accept that our eye color, hair texture, skin color, height and handedness are all genetic. Yet when it comes to our body shape, we have been brainwashed to believe that we can manipulate our body into something that is genetically impossible. We could all do the same workout, eat the same foods, and we would all (gloriously!) have different shapes and sizes.
Discrimination, stress, food and health inequities, poverty, environmental stressors, living conditions and social inequalities are much more detrimental to health than fatness. Peer reviewed research has proved this over and over again.
You know what’s hard?
Living in a larger body in our fat phobic society. Being discriminated against because of your size. Being told you don’t have a right to exist in your body. Being told that there is a war against your body type. Being shamed for your appearance. Being told you are a disease that must be eradicated. Being told to diet, even though well-established facts show over 97% of diets (not dieters!) fail, and weight gain is the most likely result of dieting in the long run.
You know what else is hard, but so worth it?
Breaking free from the lies of diet culture. Not wasting your money on something designed to keep you oppressed. Not judging yourself or others on appearance. Learning that your body is not the problem. Learning to accept yourself. Learning to respect your body, and all bodies. Engaging in activities that bring you joy. Honoring yourself. Loving yourself. Choose your hard. Choose wisely.
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