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Body Shaming

Do you let others determine how you feel?
Do you let others determine how you feel?

How we feel about our bodies is complicated. We’re bombarded with hundreds of images daily, selling a notion of the ideal. We look at pictures, and then we look at ourselves and judge. Even slight variations from the perceived ideal can leave us feeling upset, depressed and diminished.

Constantly being made to feel bad about our appearance is referred to as “body shaming.” There are two primary ways it happens. 

  1. Criticizing ourselves by comparing our bodies with someone else. “I’m so fat compared to…” or “I wish I was as skinny as…”

  2. Criticizing the appearance of others, whether it’s in person or without their knowledge. “He’s too fat to wear that…” or “She’s not thin enough to try that…”

In those examples, people are being compared to a perceived “ideal” that focuses exclusively on physical appearance. Then they’re made to feel bad about themselves, because they don’t meet that definition of ideal.

To combat those feelings, people have started a movement that celebrates the whole range of body types out there. Body positive images and comments are shared so people can get comfortable with who they are and how they appear. But that can be a problem.

66% of Americans are either overweight or obese. All that excess weight is creating skyrocketing cases of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Dr. Garth Davis, a weight loss surgeon with the Davis Clinic said, “Obesity, it’s a death sentence.” “No one wants to fat shame and we all want everybody to be comfortable with our bodies. But this movement to be comfortable with our bodies has made us comfortable with being sick.”

My job as a personal trainer is to help people improve their health. That means dropping fat, building muscle and making healthier choices in daily living. When a client comes to me weighing 400 pounds, I’m not going to say that’s a good thing. It’s incredibly unhealthy and if left alone, that excess weight will take years off their life. What I’m going to focus on is what steps need to be taken, to get someone to a healthier outcome.

Nobody should be teased, taunted or made to feel bad about himself or herself as a person because of how they look. We need to reach out and offer our help. If you saw someone trying to jump off a bridge, hopefully you would try to talk them back from the edge. You would call for help and get professionals involved.

The same should be done when someone you love is carrying too much weight. Offer to help them make healthier food choices. Suggest you set up an exercise routine together. See if they need to talk to a mental health professional or look for meetings of Overeaters Anonymous. Just doing something as simple as walking, can be the small step that leads to healthy change.

A person that started at 400 pounds will be extremely excited when they get down to 300 pounds. Now that’s still an unhealthy weight, but it’s an amazing achievement. Posting pictures of the change and being excited about their healthier body is something I encourage, as long as they don’t stop there. Even if they never reach their ideal weight, just making the effort by eating better and the benefit of exercise will give them several more years of healthier living.

Celebrate the effort. Celebrate the changes. Celebrate even if the ultimate goal is never achieved. What’s harmful is people who celebrate STAYING in an unhealthy state. If you’re happy living a life at 350 pounds, great! But don’t pretend it’s an OK place to be. That’s like a smoker who goes out and tells everyone that smoking is all right. It’s not, it’s a health hazard. Statistics say you will die sooner and the life you live will include more time dealing with illness and infirmity.

Your value as a human being is not determined by your physical appearance. But if you’re carrying around too much fat, your health will be affected. Do something about it and be proud of your accomplishments.

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