Yeah, I totally suck at this “break from blogging” thing, huh?
So there’s an article in Marie Claire that’s making the rounds and stirring up all kinds of emotions. The central question in it is, is a tv show about obese people living ordinary lives ok? The answer to that question is yes. Absolutely. But the author raises two very interesting points that need to be addressed more thoroughly.
The first is the aesthetics of overweight or obesity. She finds it unappealing. Which is, I suppose, her right but she probably would have been better off not saying that in print. It made a lot of people really angry, and rightly so. We think of overweight and obesity as primarily aesthetic issues and there’s a real movement for people, especially women and girls, to accept their bodies and treat them well no matter their size. And that impulse is healthy and good.
But she also raises another point: being significantly overweight or obese is not a healthy condition. It is highly likely that being significantly overweight or obese will cause other health problems over time and can be the underlying factor in premature death. It is, in effect, an illness.
Perhaps it is time to stop addressing weight as primarily an aesthetic issue and address is primarily as a health issue.
I’m going to use an analogy here that has some flaws but bear with me. Imagine if you were seeing a doctor over a cancer diagnosis. You wouldn’t respond to the news of cancer by saying “But I’m beautiful the way I am!” It’s entirely irrelevant to the conversation. And even if the treatment for cancer is potentially disfiguring, you would (I hope) eventually come around to the understanding that the look of things is not nearly as important as the treatment of the underlying condition. For example, I would happily lose a breast to save my life because looks are not that important in the grand scheme. And I would refuse reconstruction if it was going to make detecting future cancer more difficult. I value my life far more than I value cleavage.
So if your doctor says to you “You weigh too much.” your first response should not be to think he’s insulting your appearance; you should understand that you’ve just been handed a diagnosis and need to keep listening for your treatment options.
That is so much easier said than done. I know. The psychology of weight, health and appearance, is more complicated than that. But I also don’t think I’m wrong in saying we need to address the health of the matter more strongly than we need to address the looks of the matter.
We also need to school ourselves in not judging people by their weight or any other appearance related criterion. We need to school our kids in the same thing. Bullying and mocking over weight and appearance are cruel in the extreme and don’t solve anything. Acceptance of all kinds of appearances is a two way street.
You can be beautiful at any weight. Beauty is so subjective and so mutable. The perception of lacking beauty can lead to dangerous self-loathing. Changing one’s appearance, especially one’s weight is a vastly complicated process that is tangled up with emotions. I know. I know. I’m a woman in America. Trust me, I know. But I also know that thinking of your body only in terms of how it looks is the root cause of all sorts of behaviors that are detrimental to ensuring your body is in top operating condition. It leads to anorexia, bulimia, plastic surgery addiction, compulsive eating, compulsive exercising, and a host of other compulsive behaviors. Eventually the body shows the damage those behaviors create. And when the damage manifests, do looks matter? Do looks matter when you’re dying of malnutrition from bulimia? Do looks matter when you’ve had so many nose jobs that your breathing is permanently affected? Do looks mater when your organs can no longer support a body that has grown beyond their capacity? The answer should be no.
The solution should be to say “Health first, looks later” and take steps to avoid reaching the crisis point.
If it were only that easy.