The story of the young man who risked everything to travel overseas for massive cosmetic surgery in the hope of making a new life for himself brings into the present the real dangers of the body-image cult that our culture is still part of.
The body image cult is reinforced everyday. From the idiots hanging out the side of cars yell at you when you’re walking, the ‘motivational’ posters in the women’s gym saying you too can lose weight if you sign up for this program, to the bombardment of sexist and woman-hating messages in “women’s” magazines that body shame celebrities.
But more insidious than these overt body-shaming activities, are the messages we send ourselves and each other every day
All of these images and words build up in our minds the idea that there is a perfect healthy body that we must strive for. When really, a healthy body can look like anything. A size 10 or 12 does not equal health automatically. Indeed there are many unhealthy bodies that ‘look’ healthy.
The focus on body image (ie. skinny = acceptable) also fails to understand that many people experience illnesses, sometimes visible but more often than not invisible, that prevent them from exercising and moving. Their mobility is limited so looking like you’ve just walked out of the gym is going to be near impossible. And to someone in that situation, I dare you to judge them to be healthy or not, just by looking at them.
|Screenshot of the ABC iView page to the documentary on ABC2 called Plus Sized Wars. Features a plus size model in underwear|
Since discovering body image and HAES writers over the past five years, I’ve managed to do a lot of positive work on the internalised shame and negativity I have always had about my body.
Despite being almost the largest (apart from when I was about to have baby number 4) I’ve ever been in my life, I feel better about myself in my forties than I ever did in my twenties and definitely my thirties. I’m bolder (incredibly tame compared to many fatshionistas) in the outfits I’m wearing and way more comfortable in my skin. And it’s all because of what’s going on in my head.
Accepting that I’m fat – yes, I’m fat – has given me a freedom I’ve never had before. I move more. I’m more in touch with what I eat. I’m proactive in working with my doctor and therapist, something I could never have done two decades ago while filled with shame and embarrassment. Of course, I still have my bad days (sometimes bad weeks) when I feel like I’m useless and disgusting and an embarrassment.
If you’ve never heard this type of talk before, you’re probably a little freaked out.
Are you thinking: OMG, why are you saying your fat? Well I am fat. It’s a fact. The difference is I’m acknowledging I’m fat but not making it mean that I’m a bad person, or lazy or that I’m in some way broken, or not good enough, or that I should be fixing myself.
And no before you ask it nor does it mean that I’m off saying ‘see ya, I’m fat so I’m off to eat as much KFC as I want‘. But if I do decide to have KFC it’s really no one else’s business.
What it means is that I refuse to subscribe to the belief that making someone feel crap about their body is going to help them become a healthier person.
I mess up all the time – I judge myself, I judge others. But learning to call myself fat and not hate myself while doing it is the first step in freeing myself from the shackles.
A bit about the images in this post:
The top image is of me in 1992. I was a size 10-12, and I honestly believed I was fat and thought I was gross and disgusting. My body was an embarrassment. It didn’t stop me from becoming the size 24 I am now. Now I am fat, and I love myself. Let’s see where this takes me.
The bottom image is of a plus sized model Tess Holliday. She featured in a show called Plus Size Wars. It’s about the Plus Size fashion industry. It was on ABC2 and was really interesting and I thought dealt with the topic in a really positive way. People assume that by accepting all sizes, that it’s about promoting bad health. It’s not. It’s about saying I’m this size and I want to look good. Accepting Plus Size (and the diversity of body shapes) means that everyone gets to dress up a bit and feel good about themselves if they choose to.