I’m too fat; I’m too thin, not muscular enough, too bulky, too hairy, too bald. How many times have you heard a person say one or more of these things to you? The answer is undoubtedly unquantifiable and more than likely any attempt at the arithmetic would result in a nosebleed. It seems like nobody is happy with their body these days, and with good reason.
The fact is that we live in a toxic environment where discussion of beauty is involved. Canada is more obese than it has ever been in its history. According to self-reporting studies done by health Canada approximately 20.2 per cent of Canadians are obese. Critics of these figures often point out that the body mass index(BMI) which is used to calculate obesity, has its flaws. BMI only takes into account weight and height, which means that a person can be sufficiently muscular to appear obese when their BMI is calculated. A simple look around however will show that the epidemic of obesity is not the result of a population of super buff gym rats.
The fact is that our nation is a little on the chubby side these days. It’s not a mystery how things got this way, we eat too much, we eat too poorly, and we don’t exercise. True there are contributing factors. Most people no longer have physical jobs, high-calorie food has become more abundant, and to top it all off we constantly beset by people that tell us we should just be happy with the way we look. These people no doubt think they are helping but there is no end to the trouble that they cause.
It is true that not everyone finds thinness to be attractive, in the same way, that many people are not attracted to large muscles. It would be one thing if this were just a matter of aesthetics, but it is not. Obesity is a contributing factor to a host of health problems including, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, certain types of cancer and osteoarthritis. When an obese person is told that they should be happy with their body the way it is they are being told that should continue to put their health at risk.
The negative impact of body positivity affects not just the obese but everyone who is overweight. If a person is eating enough extra calories to become overweight, given enough time they can become obese and are more likely to if everyone tells them that they look great just the way they are.
Unfortunately, concerns about how one looks are not limited to those who are overweight or obese. Thin people are often victims of body shaming. A particular skinny person may be called anorexic or bulimic, be told to “bulk up like a real man” or “that real women have curves.”
The solution to this problem is not simple; there is no magic bullet, no 30 day fast that will fix everything. For those that are overweight, there is a lot of hard work that needs to be done, not just for their sake but for everyone’s, we do after all share a public health system. We must also try to remain encouraging of those that are struggling with their weight. We don’t all need to look like fitness models, but we should all strive to be healthy.