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Fat shaming, beach bodies and thigh gaps…

Fat shaming, plus size models, beach bodies and the thigh gap - why are we even having these conversations?

I wrote this a while back, when the singer Lady Gaga came in for some so-called ‘fat shaming’ criticism after her performance at the Super Bowl a couple of months ago. Take a look at the pictures of her performing, here in this news article, and see what you think.

First off, anyone who thinks that what they see in these pictures is somehow overweight, or some kind of ‘jelly belly’ or ‘muffin top’ then they have some serious issues around body image perception and they need to get educated on what is a healthy level of body fat. Let me put this in plain English - if you think that is ‘fat’, then you’re part of the problem. Seriously, no wonder so many young people, especially girls, have body image problems and develop eating disorders, when people seem unable to differentiate between ‘slim‘ and ‘muffin top‘.

Time and again, long-term epidemiological studies show that ‘overweight’ is just as healthy, or often healthier, than ‘normal’ weight when it comes to longevity and all-cause mortality. As I have said many times in my live seminars, the truth is that ‘pinch an inch’ is actually healthier than a rippling 6-pack. That’s not to deny that many of us covet low enough body fat to have visible abs, and as such it’s fair to say that ‘vanity goals’ are not without merit - they can support strong self esteem, body confidence and so on, but there is no evidence that ‘washboard abs lean’ is particularly any healthier than ‘normal’.

So what am I saying? I’m saying that the obsession with being thin is entirely about vanity (often caused by social pressure) and not about taking a sensible scientific look at what it means to be healthy.

Vanity not health

We have seen a lot of this fat shaming and thin-obsession in recent times. We have seen people driven to eating disorders in an obsession to attain ‘the thigh gap’ and a year or so ago there was a lot of controversy over an ad campaign for protein shakes that promoted a certain image as being ‘beach body ready’.

I have written about these issues before. Even the models apparently don’t look enough like models these days, so we airbrush them in the pursuit of perfection (so in fact, what you see in magazines just isn’t real.) For movie stars, it seems the transformations are even more misleading!

Frankly, it’s no wonder we have a serious problem, placing a further burden on our health services, with rising rates of eating disorders - particularly among young girls, rather unsurprisingly.

On the flip side of all this, we have also seen a rise in popularity and exposure for plus size models, and there seems to be increasing awareness of the harms of driving people to eating disorders. Today, I saw a trailer for this movie - ‘Embrace’ the documentary.

It looks interesting, I’d certainly like to see it, and there’s no doubt that the motivation and goodwill behind it are spot on, but I have mixed feelings about this. All the attention we (as a society) pay to looks, image, size, shape…I just think “If only people would pay that much attention to HEALTH!”

If people would just focus on being healthy…and stop even thinking about shape, size and looks, then I think we could make better progress.

Personally, I spent 20 years trying to lose weight (driven by a desire to look ‘better’) and failed. But then when I focussed on being healthy, my body sorted itself out and found my healthy weight.
I appreciate the message this film is promoting…but in some respects it’s just perpetuating the discussion about looks…when we (all) should be pushing the agenda of health. That’s just my opinion!

I wish we would all just set a goal of being healthy, as our primary aim, then once we feel great and our weight is in the ‘healthy range’ and we have high vitality and energy, then ‘vanity goals’ can be ‘minor tweaks’ after that, just ‘the icing on the cake’ so to speak.

Well, that’s what I think. what do you think?

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