Most of the people I know, have at one time or another, expressed some sort of dissatisfaction with their bodies.
How many times have you heard someone complain that they are ‘fat’ or ‘they are on a diet’ or wish out loud for a thinner body?
When I was younger, I was a serious competitive swimmer. Even when my body was lean and fit from the hours I put in at the swimming pool, I was a little embarrassed of my curvy shape and figure (I have ALWAYS had a bum and boobs by the way, no matter how ‘thin’ i have gotten!).
I’ve seen various levels of discrimination against both fat & thin people on the internet and have even had people give me an once over up and down with raised eyebrows when I say I’m a dietitian – In my UK Size 10 frame (plus curves) i’m FAR from fat.
These days the western society clearly equates thinness with attractiveness…..but what actually is the link with health? Can you really tell how ‘healthy’ someone is by looking at them? Is a size 6 model ‘healthier’ than a size 14 new mum? Is that person you saw at the gym with a 6 pack ‘healthier’ than the slightly overweight guy that served you in the restaurant?
It’s pretty tricky to tell. There are people who are more genetically pre-disposed to being thin and those that have eating disorders which keep them that way. There are people who are of a ‘normal’ body weight but who do no exercise and also smoke 40 cigarettes a day. There are ‘overweight’ people that choose healthy foods and are active every day of the week. The reverse of these situations is also true.
But how do you know? Just by looking?
As a society, I think we are deeply ‘fattist’. Just this week I have read a number of articles which have labeled ‘fat’ people as smelly, lazy and a drain on society. I find it deeply unsettling. Especially as there is some evidence that weight discrimination can cause mental health issues and increase risk for obesity.
It’s true, if you eat less Calories than you burn and you will lose weight. But so far, this approach hasn’t really been very successful. Many people who try to lose weight regain the weight they have lost and some end up heavier than they were in the first place.
My view has always been that ‘healthy’ isn’t as black as white as the mainstream media would have you believe.
Perhaps the key is to focus more on healthy behaviours and less on the number on the scale? Maybe if we accepted body diversity and that people look different, it would help people find those behaviours which are likely to have positive effects on their health?
It’s a complex issue and one I haven’t quite finished looking into yet….
- What do you think?
- Do you think how you feel is more important than how you look?
- What do you think healthy looks like?
- Would you take advice from a dietitian if you deemed her to be ‘fat’?
Perceived Weight Discrimination & Obesity
Association of all-cause mortality with overweight and obesity using standard body mass index categories: a systematic review