I spent my entire life up until my early thirties overweight and eventually obese. With that body came quite a bit of body shaming. Mostly by kids in the school yard calling me names like fatty or whale. Being an overweight figure skater was also no walk in the park. I was often compared to other girls and just being so blatantly in the minority was a hard thing for a teen girl to deal with.
However, once I became an adult things changed. No one in university ever critiqued my weight. My family never mentioned it. My friends never said anything. The only real place I felt judged was the mall. The fact I was limited to plus size clothing stores and had a hard time shopping with my thin friends was always a stark reminder that my body was outside the “norm”. Not to mention girls above a size 8 were rarely depicted in media.
But my how things have changed.
I am no longer obese. I’m still curvy but I have lost over 100lbs.
I workout a minimum of 5 times per week, eat vegetables like I might never see one again, and have become a personal trainer who works with exclusively with women.
Plus size model Ashley Graham is now a regular on the cover of magazines that even 5 years ago would have never featured her. Most fashion brands are offering plus size lines and Tess Holiday, a morbidly obese women became the largest plus-size model to be signed to a mainstream modelling agency.
I lost weight at a time when the tide was turning.
Today I see women who look like the old me staring back at me from media at an increasing rate.
The old me can shop almost anywhere now.
The old me is being told to love her self at any size and that being proud of my body is something to be applauded.
So how is the new me experiencing this?
Part of me is thrilled to see representation of women at different sizes because I think it is important for young girls to see themselves in media. I think it is important for them to hear that they can embrace their so called “flaws” and love their body despite the opinion of others.
The other part of me is alarmed.
Over the past three years I have experienced more fit shaming then I had body shaming in the previous 10. I am not exaggerating.
I have been told more times then I can count to “not lose too much weight”.
I have been accused of starving myself. I have been accused of working out to much.
I have been told that I can’t love my body while losing weight.
I have been told that I am wasting precious hours of my life working out and meal prepping.
When I was morbidly obese, no one ever commented on what I ate or if I exercised. I was literally killing myself slowly. I was headed for a host of health problems and no one said anything. Saying something would have been considered rude. It would be considered body shaming.
Now I want to reiterate before I go any further that I do not condone body shaming. However I do think there is a difference between calling someone a name based on their appearance and speaking to a loved one because you are concerned about their health.
I mean we are living in a time when the word obese is considered derogatory. Obese is simply a medical term. It’s science not bullying.
Daily I see posts on social media that perpetuate the idea that you can not love your body while feeling the need to change it, as if losing weight can solely be for aesthetic reasons.
Maybe this is true for women of a healthy weight but for women like me, finally feeling the need to change my body was the first time I showed my body love in my entire life.
Frequent binging on nutritionally void food was my form of self harm. Avoiding movement like the plague was me depriving myself of something my body requires to live a long and healthy life.
Neither of these actions should be applauded or embraced. They should be seen as signs of the serious mental health issue they are. My body was not something I should have been proud of. My obese body was a sign of how much I didn’t like myself. It was the visible truth of the mental health issues I was struggling with.
What myself and so many other people in the fitness industry are saying is that there is a world wide obesity epidemic and we must be clear to decipher the difference between losing weight to obtain an unrealistic beauty ideal and losing weight in order to save ones life.
According to the World Health Organization, at least 2.8 million people will die this year as a result of being overweight or obese. This number does not include how many of the 650 million people classified as obese world wide will face health issues such as cardiovascular events, complications from type 2 diabetes, reduced mobility and so on.
As a formerly overweight woman and now fitness professional, I believe the movements that promote health at any size are just as damaging to our collective health as the diet industry they demonize have been over the last few decades.
Diet culture has for too long perpetuated weight loss as a way to measure attractiveness while not emphasizing its health benefits. We have been sold lies and gimmicks about losing weight and now we seem to be unable to distinguish between functional fitness goals and fad diets and fitness challenges that focus on 6 packs abs and buns of steel.
We are discussing weight loss as if it can only be pursued by women who don’t love themselves and are giving into societal pressure. I do believe we can be fit at a variety of sizes, however fit at any size is just another dangerous lie being sold to us with no regard for the long term health consequences it has on the its audience.
I would like to end this post by sharing an alarming comment made to me that I believe sums up our societies current distorted view of fitness.
While on vacation, with family no less, I was questioned and made to feel bad about working out. “You shouldn’t be working out on vacation. Don’t you feel you are starting to waste your life”?
Would you tell a person who takes medication for a mental health issue to skip their meds on vacation?
Would you tell someone who is diabetic to eat all the treats they like because it’s the weekend?
Our bodies don’t take a day off.
My mental health issues NEVER take a day off.
Fitness and healthy eating is not only about thinness and beauty.Fitness and healthy eating are how we manage our mental health. They are how we keep our bodies mobility into our later years and lower our likely hood of acquiring medical issues that run in our families. They are tools to help us live healthy full lives.
For me they are the best way I have found to express my love, respect and appreciation for myself.
We should be encouraging each other to be as healthy as possible.
Anything less and we are no better than the diet industry we are rallying against.