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Body Positive or Health Ignorant?

More and more the media tells us to respect body positivity. The message broadcast from the pages of lifestyle magazines, talk show airwaves and social media “influencers” is that each body, no matter its shape or size, is beautiful. A noble sentiment that is worth considering, but not at the expense of our health.

“Feel comfortable in your skin, live your truth and don’t apologise for who you are.” is the mantra chanted from the hallowed halls of Instagram. Pictures of “body confident” goddesses adorn the covers and feature pages of magazines like Cosmopolitan and Vogue, teaching us what shameful creatures we are for even the slightest question about why someone who is medically obese can be put forward as an icon of a positive lifestyle.

It has only been a few years since the fashion industry was made to rethink its practices of using models that were clearly entrenched in the perils of extreme dieting, a myriad of eating disorders and pressured to be as thin as possible. Collectively, we recognised this as unrealistic, unattainable and most importantly, unhealthy. Why? Because it was extreme. Brands sent the message to impressionable young people, girls specifically, that thin equalled beautiful. Not reserved for fashion, we witnessed similar practises in the performing arts, as well as the t.v. and film industries for decades.

Fashion houses, production studios and networks were rightfully shamed into rethinking their policy of stardom by starvation; although it hasn’t eradicated the issue, rather banished it behind closed doors. The rebuke by some towards these negative beauty standards is body positivity.

As a message, it’s wonderful.

Be comfortable in your skin, be proud when you catch your reflection in the shop window, ignore those that claim beauty is derived from one set of fixed parameters and do you. Everyone can agree, this is a positive way to live.

The problem resides with those that see an opportunity to capitalise on laziness. Then, like many other issues, a once sensible idea of individualism is perverted into something that does more harm than help. Case in point; body positivity has been coopted by the woke, social justice crowd who have proclaimed that being severely obese is a state of health to be happy with, and proud of. Anyone who speaks to the contrary is fat shaming, a bully and has an antiquated opinion of beauty and health.

Speaking from experience, being overweight is not a happy place to reside. Ask a pregnant lady if she’s comfortable walking up stairs in her third trimester.

Obviously, pregnancy and obesity are not the same things, I only provide the example as an easily decipherable comparison to what someone is feeling in their joints, bones and muscles under stress for a prolonged period of time. Pregnancy is a beautiful thing. Overeating, lack of exercise, and poor dietary choices are the antithesis of beauty.

To take no pride in maintaining one’s health is not beautiful, it’s lazy and unattractive. Encouraging this behaviour to impressionable people is irresponsible and dangerous.

Being overweight is as dangerous. It degrades the quality of life, reduces life expectancy and is responsible for a litany of health issues, as are other eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. And that is the point so many in the media choose to ignore; for a person to inflict unnecessary damage upon themselves, there has to be a psychological reason that stems from an earlier trauma.

All of the images in this article conjure up the same thought.

“Are they okay?”

A fractured mental state has to be factored when witnessing the behaviour of someone actively sabotaging their health in spite of the obviously dangerous warning signs.

Someone who only functions normally after having a drink of alcohol in the morning, someone who can’t make it up a flight of stairs without coughing up a lung because they smoke 20 cigarettes a day or someone who is attracted to abusive relationships, all require intervention in the same way as someone eating themselves into an early grave.

There is no enjoyment in the first shot of the day for the alcoholic; it is a means to stop the shaking and to cloud the thoughts of what really pains them. The smoker doesn’t enjoy the feeling of their lungs ceasing up or the black residue that follows an all too common coughing fit; they’re addicted to the habit. And the person who subjugates themselves by staying with abusive partners isn’t doing so because they enjoy being mistreated but rather because of trauma that originated in childhood.

Why then, do we pretend that someone who overeats, refuses to exercise or show any signs of caring about their health is mentally well? It takes a considerable amount of abuse to get your body to look like those featured in this piece, so to say this was a pursuit of happiness is entirely disingenuous.

There are addiction, psychological trauma and self-confidence issues that perpetuate the actions necessary to reach these levels of obesity; yet increasingly we are told this is nothing more than body confidence. A positive expression of non-conformity to society’s oppressive patriarchal structure, designed to marginalise women and minorities.


Lizzo recently posted an “All Angles” video on Instagram where she posed in a white bikini showing off her natural self.

A video watched over 4 million times shows the singer shaking her thighs and grabbing the stomach fat and biting her lip with the caption “Wild to see the body positive movement come so far. Proud of the big girls who gave it wings. My body is changing but I’m gonna keep appreciating it from every angle.”

At a time when obesity-related deaths total 300,000 per year in the U.S. alone, how can “LizzoBeEating” (her screen name) be the idol we put on a pedestal? A symbol of the second leading cause of preventable death, a drain on our health services and a state of mind that promotes, “Not giving a fuck.”, is what we hold up as idyllic?

The funny thing about this body positivity movement is how it all changes when the doctors come knocking at your door saying, “It’s all over if you don’t make drastic changes to your health and lifestyle, NOW!”. If you follow Lizzo, you’ll notice the odd workout video scattered amongst the many half-naked, twerking videos, so perhaps the calls from her doctor have already begun.

Do you know what she likes more than being a symbol for fat people? Being alive and making money. When you’re told that your cholesterol is through the roof, you have plaque build-up in the arteries of your heart and you have 10 years max if you keep it up, tunes change. And what do you know? she’s now gone on a detox and has proclaimed she’s trying to eat less. Queue the haters.

We’ve seen it before. Adele famously lost a load of weight and received an endless amount of body shaming from her fans. Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson slimmed down for health reasons, and people questioned their ability to be funny. Action Bronson has been documenting his weight loss. A once proud over-indulger that lived excessively, now promotes why that lifestyle was a one-way ticket to the graveyard, as well as the benefits of putting in hard work to improve your health. He looks great, they all do.

Yet celebrities who go from fat to healthy receive the same treatment from people who claim to be against body shaming but engage in that exact behaviour when their idols want to improve their health and elevate their quality of life. Lizzo herself is now experiencing this for daring to do a juice cleanse.

You see, the truth is these people know obesity isn’t a positive lifestyle choice, but they aren’t looking for real change, that takes too much work.

What they seek is approval and to be let off the hook.

Alignment with someone notable validates their lack of effort as a positive choice to live life on their own terms. They’re part of a team.

However, when said notable person realises they have more to lose than a few followers, perspectives change drastically.

As a matter of course, social media facilitates the outcry of wrongdoings carried out by this once “champion”.

“You were the leader and you let us down!”.

Lifting the curtain of loyalty to reveal that love only lasts as long as it reinforces something we need to feel okay about. If a famous person champions your cause, there is something to latch on to. Something to let you off the hook. “We’re happy to support you as long as you make us feel good about us, and we don’t have to try too hard.”.

In situations that require accountability and self-awareness, for those not willing to exhibit the required skills, the team is what matters. The institution that keeps everyone safe in their delusion that everything is right with them, and it’s the world outside needs to change. The echo chamber. If you just stay within these walls, nothing bad can touch you.

When the leader breaks loose, another piece of the chamber wall comes tumbling down and the foundation that supports them becomes unstable, one of two things happen.

Either the necessary behaviours are developed, practised and made permanent, or another echo chamber with a new leader is sought out. And you had better believe there will always be someone to take your money by making you believe they’re just like you.

That’s marketing.

And, where’s there’s insecurity or self-loathing, there will be an idol to sell you a product or an idea that makes you feel better about something you have within your own grasp to change.

If you have the courage to admit that what you’ve been telling yourself may be wrong, the way you view yourself may stem from something other than an Instagram trend and the people you put your trust in are nothing more than snake oil salesmen looking to cash in on your engagement; the journey of healing, meaningful self-reflection and care for ones well-being can begin.

Be well.

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