Body Blog

The F-Word

Identifying as Fat in an Overweight World

by Kyra Craig

 

Fat. The word holds a lot of weight and has connections deep down in many people in many different ways. People are big-boned, larger, bigger, stocky, but not fat. You’re not fat, you’re beautiful. You are anything but fat. But why? If you told someone that you were tall, they would not correct you saying “You’re not tall, you’re beautiful” because we all know that you can be tall and be attractive. You can be short - the literal opposite of being tall - and still be attractive. It’s acceptable to be the muscular mesomorph, the slender ectomorph, but the fat endomorph?  

From a young age we are taught that it is inappropriate to tell others that they are fat; that it is a dirty word. So why is it that we have created this false dichotomy of fat and attractive, that we do not see with most other characteristics that we use to describe others? History shows that it has not always been this way. Take, for example, the Baroque Period. In the 17th century, one of the most prolific artists of history, Sir Peter Paul Rubens, found great success from painting full-figured women. His artistic portrayal of fat women led to the creation of the descriptor of “Rubenesque” to describe bodies like in Sir Rubens art. The image of these women were understood to represent happiness, prosperity, and pleasure. Today, Rubenesque art refers to a wide range of art celebrating the beauty in the fat femme form.  

One of the words most use to describe a “big-boned” friend is overweight. This word comes from the dated practice of using the BMI scale. BMI stands for body mass index and was created with the idea that by comparing height to weight ratios, a doctor could then recommend you exercise more, eat differently, etc. However, more recently it has been documented by several sources that the BMI scale is actually false. Take for example, a muscular mesomorph basketball player like Lebron James. At 6’8 and 250 lbs he is the poster child for the world of sports. That being said, according to the BMI scale, Lebron James is overweight on the cusp of obesity - something not commonly associated with professional athletes. One of the most obvious reasons for gross miscalculations such as this is that the equation for BMI uses an exponent of 2 which is illogical as human beings exist as three dimensional objects. That being said, the word “overweight” in many ways can be more harmful than “fat”. By using the term “overweight” we perpetuate the false idea that there is a universal normal weight and that people are either within or outside of the zone of healthy living.  

It is not uncommon now to see body empowerment activists identify as fat, and their reasoning really is simple. Everybody has fat. Everybody also has muscles, bones, and blood. Fat does not have to be a bad word. Some bodies are fat. Some are tall and some short and some thin. Fat is a descriptor that reflects the character of the one who uses it. That being said many people have deeply personal feelings and differing relationships with the word. So while it may be wise not to label others without consent, it is a word to work on reintroducing ourselves to. A word to befriend after being taught to believe it was the enemy.

 

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

What Is Health at Every Size?

by Greta Hammer

“If you are fat, then you are unhealthy.” This quote is probably quite familiar. It has been ingrained into our brains ever since we were children; it is reinforced by mothers, doctors, and even friends. Everyone agrees without a twinge of doubt that chronic physical and mental ailments are caused by one major factor: being fat. Collectively we were all taught that if we could shed a few pounds, then all our problems would go away. But what if everything we have been taught about health is wrong? What if everything we think we know about being obese is merely an effect of deeply rooted biases and weight stigma in our culture? 

The typical approach to weight loss only yields short term results; most people tend to gain back the weight they lost, making them feel like a failure. Losing weight creates even more problems, such as lower self-esteem, eating disorders, weight cycling, and chronic stress. 

Health at Every Size (HAES) chooses to challenge these narrow values of health in today’s society, and recognizes that health encompasses so much more than the number on the scale. Instead of fixating on weight loss as a determinant of health, HAES is an evidence-based approach that focuses on weight inclusivity, joyful movement, and intuitive eating. HAES encourages you to eat what you crave when you are hungry, allowing yourself to enjoy the food. HAES promotes respect for all body types; just because your body looks differently than someone else’s does not mean it is unhealthy. And lastly, HAES strives to end weight discrimination and support physical activity of all types for all body types. 

It almost sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it isn’t! Clinical trials have shown time and time again that following a HAES lifestyle improves self-image, self-esteem, and even medical issues. 

If you are having trouble understanding how to incorporate HAES into your lifestyle, think about caring for your body the same way a mother cares for her children. She feeds them when they cry out in hunger, she lets them crawl around when it becomes restless, and she allows them to rest when they're tired. Love your body, show compassion for it, and you will eventually learn its wants and needs. Your body can do amazing things if you just listen to what it has to say.

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Joyful Movement

Joyful MovementWhy exercise is not the answer—loving your body is

by Emma Jaques

By now, most of us have heard that physical activity is one of the key components in maintaining good health. However, the way physical activity is marketed to us is often under harsh and intense conditions. Our culture often emphasizes the "no pain, no gain" approach to exercise, explaining that if it didn't hurt, it probably wasn't effective. Well, I am here to dispel that myth with one term: Joyful movement. 

Joyful movement places an emphasis on moving your body in ways that feel good to you, which may look different for everyone. Further, it encourages checking in with your body and asking what it needs: Does it need to walk? Does it need to rest? Does it need to stretch? Does it need to dance? Any and all movement is good, no matter what shape or form it comes in. In addition, it is likely going to be more beneficial on your physical and mental health to perform activity that makes you happy! 

You don't need to go on a 5-mile run or push yourself in unhealthy ways in order to be healthy, you just need to move and more importantly, move in ways that bring you joy. My personal favorite is Yin yoga, which is a slow-paced stye of yoga with postures that are held for longer periods of time. Find a way that you like to move, at your own pace, on your own time.

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