I got triggered today, when I was listening to a podcast today (not going to name it because I don’t like them enough to give free promo) and the topic of body shaming came up in regards to Lizzo. She posts a lot of half naked photos and people say she’s doing too much, but that’s not said nearly as often when it’s a smaller girl doing the same thing. People consistently troll her about her health despite the fact that she’s vegan, and works out all the time. Her cardio is on another level because she can sing, dance and PLAY THE FLUTE for HOURS at a time! Anyway, the guest host on the podcast made a statement to the effect of, “I’m all for people loving themselves but let’s face it, being big is not healthy. It’s hard on your heart and that’s a fact.”
I was instantly pissed off and had to put on some music to calm down. Nobody cares about health when they’re having unprotected sex, popping pills, binge drinking, vaping and smoking hookah, or partying maskless at the club and traveling during a worldwide pandemic. There are plenty of smaller people taking medication for blood pressure and high cholesterol. There are plenty of smaller people who can’t go up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath. There are plenty of smaller people who only have a bowel movement once a week because they don’t eat fruit or veggies and have no idea what “dietary fiber” is. It’s true that being larger is correlated with many health concerns, but the studies also show that an overweight or obese person who exercises regularly has nearly the same risk of a heart attack as a normal weight person who is sedentary. There’s been a big outcry about Black maternal health outcomes–women who receive differing medical treatment based on their color. We know that fatphobia is a real thing, so is it possible that a significant portion of the worse health outcomes for big people is based on their differing treatment as well?
I know that it’s easy for folks to shame fat people becuase we all know how simple it is to lose weight. Eat less, move more. But it’s actually not that simple. I know this because I’m a big girl, and I’ve been working at being smaller on and off, basically my whole life. But even at my lowest weight, I wasn’t small and still wore a size XL or 12/14– the lower end of plus size. And to be honest, I reached and maintained that weight only by severely restricting my food intake and veering into disordered eating territory.
During the pandemic I decided to use my extra time at home to commit to a lifestyle change. Aside from any health concerns, I just plain wanted to feel better about how I looked. I subscribed to Noom and it’s the first program that has made a concrete difference for me. It’s basically weight loss therapy. You get a private coach, a group coach, and daily homework. Sometimes it’s just reading an article, other times you do an activity like journaling or meditation. You also learn about the science of weight loss. For instance: Your body creates fat cells but never destroys them, they just shrink as you lose weight. The weight and volume of food determines how full you are, not just calories. There are about half a dozen hormones that control your hunger, fullness and cravings and they are easily thrown out of whack. Not to mention the fact that food is emotional and cultural, and that the hormones, pesticides, and other contaminants in our food supply can throw you off track even if you’re doing everything right.
It took all of this for me to get to a place of acceptance where I have adjusted my expectations about how fast I can realistically lose weight, and that I’m not a failure because I’m not thin. I’m getting to the point where I can enjoy junk food without feeling guilty, and make a healthier choice without feeling punished or deprived. I exercise because it makes me feel strong and gives me energy. I know that my protein and fiber intake are key, because if I eat all carbs, all the time my appetite gets out of whack. I also learned that my metabolism isn’t slow, it’s just extremely adaptable to my activity level. (I have a theory that comes from being a descendant of enslaved persons, so at least I have the comfort of blaming my love handles on the colonizers.)
TL;DR: Fat shaming is stupid. Don’t do it.