I never heard the term ‘Fat-Shaming’ before starting Happy Exhaustion.
Unfortunately, I was introduced to the concept when this little blog of mine took a bit of fire from readers who accused me of contributing to fat-shaming culture.
Since positivity is the name of my game, I want to address this. Any reader who comes away from Happy Exhaustion feeling beaten down is a fail on my part.
Discussing the sensitive issues of health, size, and self-image requires something of a balancing act. It’s a technique I am familiar with as I endeavor (against all cultural odds) to raise confident, well-adjusted children who love and appreciate their bodies, regardless of shape and size. I’ve learned the importance of finding balance in what I teach.
I want to raise the kids not to fight, but I don’t want them to allow their peers to walk all over them.
I want to teach the importance of trust, but I want them to be wary when appropriate.
I want to make their dreams come true, but I don’t want them to be spoiled.
The balancing act goes on and on.
So, when I stress to my daughter how much we want to make Healthy & Strong choices, I try to be conscious of the flip side. I do not want my encouragement of fitness to communicate disapproval of less-than-fit bodies. We do not describe people in terms of their size nor assign value judgments based on physicality.
I understand how malignant fat-shaming can be.
When I was a size that my doctor referred to as ‘morbidly obese’, I felt like every corner of society was conspiring to make me feel bad about myself. The clothes I wanted to wear only came in way-too-small-for-me sizes. Fashion magazines said I was far from ideal. Even the way people looked at me made me feel judged. I felt as though there was something inherently shameful about being a heavy woman in America. It was a terribly dark feeling.
And here’s the infuriating thing about it… None of the modern American YAY, SKINNY! narrative communicated anything substantial about health. There was no ‘Aspire to look like Gisele because her body is the picture of health and longevity!’ Instead, it was ‘Every woman who wants to look beautiful should pay through the nose trying to look as skinny as Gisele in a bikini!’
Do this workout routine because it will make you skinny! Eat this diet and lose weight!
The underlying message all felt the same: ‘If you’re fat, you should want to be skinny.’
I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of ‘fat-shaming.’
Those messages made me swim in oceans of self-loathing, but they never motivated me to change.
I don’t advocate losing weight for superficial cosmetic reasons. I’m not blogging because I think you’d look better in a size double zero than you do in size 24. Lots of people look gorgeous in size 24!
But size 0 vs. size 24 is not what it’s about here. Happy Exhaustion is all about Healthy & Strong.
If you’re living a sedentary life and your doctor says you should lose weight for your health, then I’m here to be your cheerleader. I have no medical background, but I do know this: my active body is stronger and healthier than my ‘allergic to physical exertion’ body ever was.
I do not blame people who advocate Big Is Beautiful. When I was overweight, I would have loved to find a supportive ‘beautiful at any size’ community to build me up when I felt horribly broken down.
But at 243 lbs, I was neither happy nor healthy. Sweating my way to fitness turned it all around for me, and brought me a joyful confidence that I had never before experienced. THAT is the narrative I want to share. Eff the fat-shaming.
Fitness can banish deep-seated fears, and that is the fantastic relief I want everyone to find and enjoy for themselves.
When I was in high school, my grandmother suffered a major stroke. She has not been able to communicate clearly ever since. She is locked inside of her own brain. It’s hard to watch, and horrifying to imagine living through. But, such things can be hereditary, so I imagined it (*frequently*) with dread.
Know what helps to diminish stroke risk (according to the American Heart Association)? A healthy BMI and plenty of exercise. Spending 5-6 hours a week sweating gives me hope for a healthier lifetime, one that does not include strokes.
Does my active lifestyle mean that I have banished all health risks? Of course not. But, it’s a strong step in the right direction.
Into the light and out of the shadows, friends! It’s nice to feel thin, but feeling healthy and confident is nothing short of a triumph. Do not allow your body to make you feel ashamed. Your body is not your enemy, but your greatest ally and your most dynamic tool. Use it in as many ways as you can, and it will bring you joy, confidence & strength. Endorphins beat antidepressants every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
Take care of your bodies, take care of your hearts. I’m on your team and your body can be, too.