On Being Plus Size and Healthy
There has been a great deal of controversy this past week surrounding the release of the Nike mannequins that display larger bodied women. When I first heard the news of the mannequin’s release, I was over joyed. It seemed to me to be an important step in the right direction, that is the direction of allowing fitness and fatness to be in the same sentence.
In my opinion, the backlash we’ve seen has also created a positive result. Thousands of Instagram posters and bloggers have come to the defense of the ‘plus-sized’ mannequin and championed the idea that health doesn’t look just one way.
Working for a Plus Size fitness company has been the highlight of my career so far. Seeing women and men accept their bodies where they are at while striving to become strong and empowered gives me so much joy, especially because I spent so many years hating my own body. I am a firm believer that we strive to teach what we are learning. This has been my experience in having the privilege of working with the plus-size demographic, which has allowed me to heal my own body dysmorphia and warped ideals of beauty. I have come to realize that the main contribution to sickness in our society is not actually being fat, but the shame and guilt we hold around the idea of it. Being fat or having fat is not something to be ashamed of. Let me tell you first hand that It does not indicate laziness or lack of reverence for exercise. The people I work with on a daily basis are some of the most driven and hardworking I have ever met, sometimes to a fault. Unfortunately, our genetic diversity in body shape and size is not something that is celebrated in our society. To be ‘healthy’ is to be thin. And this is a disgrace that is making us all sick, in the head and in the heart. That may sounds harsh but I truly believe we need a huge overhaul in our media and in our dialogue.
The Nike mannequins are an important beginning step; AND what can each of us do to start to change this harmful narrative?
1. Look at your own beliefs around what fatness means to you? Do you use this word often? In what ways? What thoughts go through your head when you come across a person you consider fat? Are these thoughts helpful or harmful to you? To others?
2. Start to shift your dialogue. If you notice that your thoughts and beliefs are tending toward looking at fatness as bad or un-healthiness, do your best to notice those thoughts and then shift them. How do you want to define the term ‘fat’ for yourself? How do you want to interact with calling yourself or others fat? It’s up to you.
3. Be aware of the words that come out of your mouth and the mouths of others. Some of the things we say out loud about ourselves can be the most detrimental to our mental health, and can more deeply ingrain beliefs into our systems. What we hear and see in the media or from others (especially ones close to us) do NOT have to be our beliefs too. We are individuals who get to choose what we are influenced by. It is difficult to grasp this with so many mixed messages coming at us all day every day, but even beginning to be aware can start a huge and important shift. Ask yourself, how does this image or dialogue affect me? Does it make me feel good or bad? Do I want to believe what it is saying? What do I want to believe instead?
We are all blessed with varying body types. Some of us are not meant to be skinny and some of us can’t gain a pound. I find myself right in the middle, and still I feel immense amounts of pressure to be different than I am. We all do. The important thing is to keep questioning why you feel the need to change. Is it because some nameless entity told you, you must not be fat in order to be accepted. Fuck that. Let’s change the narrative together.