Why Being Body Positive Doesn’t Mean You’re Pro Obesity

Author and plus-size model Tess Holidday appeared (beautifully, I might add) on the October cover of Cosmopolitan UK in a swimsuit, and people had a lot to say about it.

Good Morning Britain brought on Editor-In-Chief Farrah Storr to discuss the cover, and she and Piers Morgan had quite the disagreement. Piers explained that with the growing obesity crisis in the UK showcasing someone who is “5 foot 3 and 300 pounds” is dangerous and promotes “morbid obesity.”

His thoughts, unfortunately, weren’t unique, as a writer for The Daily Wire discussed (what she assumed to be) Tess’s health stats and ended her piece saying Tess’s #EffYourBeautyStandards campaign won’t “shield [her] from heart disease.” I’ve also seen tweets that say she is “inspiring young women to be unhealthy.” Aside from Tess Holliday’s situation, I see weight stigma and shaming constantly by people who assume that just because someone is happy with their body means that they’re promoting being overweight.

Sigh. Just because a woman is comfortable with herself and loves her body the way it is (fat or not!) doesn’t mean she’s unhealthy. Showcasing women who aren’t straight-sized or look different from our idea of the norm isn’t promoting obesity. Thinner women on the cover of (literally every single) magazine aren’t there to tell women to lose 30 pounds. They’re just promoting their new movie, a new album, or the start of their business. So, why is a woman promoting body positivity, her book, and her own social movement telling everyone to get fat? Hint: she’s not! Here’s why you can be body positive without being pro-obesity:

 

Health isn’t all on the outside

A 5’2″, 90-pound woman could easily have as many health issues as a 5’2″, 200-pound woman. Someone’s outer appearance isn’t a gateway to their health, and anyone with an invisible disability should understand that. Health At Every Size, originally a book by Linda Bacon and now an entire movement to promote body positivity, shows women that regardless of outer appearances, women who seem overweight or obese can still be “healthy.” There is more to health than weight, just as there is more to being overweight than not eating enough veggies and sitting on the couch all day.

Instead of calling out a woman for being unhealthy just based on her appearance, understand that someone else’s health, whether it’s a model, your co-worker, your favorite celebrity, or your best friend, is none of your business. Yeah, we want to see our loved ones happy and healthy, but assuming someone’s health is unnecessary and honestly just really irrelevant to your life.

 

Instead of calling out a woman for being unhealthy just based on her appearance, understand that someone else’s health, whether it’s a model, your co-worker, your favorite celebrity, or your best friend, is none of your business.

 

 

“Glorifying obesity” is nearly impossible

No one wants to sit next to a larger person on the bus or an airplane. Clothing stores stop making clothes at an extra-large (large some of the time). Children (as young as 8 or 7 years old) are bullied and ridiculed for not looking like everyone else. Why in the world would anyone want to have that?

Seeing an overweight woman on the cover of a magazine or on Instagram or talked about on The Everygirl (!) is not going to inspire someone to gain a hundred pounds and stop going to the gym. What it will do is show them that all bodies are beautiful, regardless of the biases and negativity we’ve been taught the last century. What’s so bad about women feeling good about themselves?!

 

Your health care isn’t affected (and shouldn’t matter)

I genuinely cannot imagine being concerned about someone else’s weight as a result of my own health care costs, but here we are. Yes, there are costs associated with preventing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease; however, just because someone is overweight doesn’t mean he or she is automatically forcing your health care coverage to go up every time he or she eats a bag of Cheetos.

More importantly than your health care costs, discussing how you’re negatively affected by the weight of others is damaging to mental health, which also costs about $89 billion a year. Discussing someone’s health in terms of cost is discriminatory and promotes weight-based stereotypes that are detrimental to the mental health of both people in larger bodies and says that this type of judgment is okay. It’s dehumanizing and absolutely unacceptable.

 

 

Weight isn’t a behavior

Weight-based stereotypes promote weight as a behavior and that people who weigh more are lazy and gluttonous. These stereotypes, in turn, show people that it’s okay to think that everyone who weighs over 200 pounds isn’t as fit for society as everyone else.

It’s also important to recognize that weight doesn’t make up who a person is. Just because someone is healthy doesn’t mean they’re a good person, so why should our focus be on that? People who are “unhealthy” should be respected just as much as someone who drinks green juice all day and goes running five days a week. We can respect someone for being healthy, but we also shouldn’t be tearing people down who make different choices.

 

Instead of paying attention to what someone weighs and wondering if they’re healthy or not, we should be ending weight stigma and pushing body positivity. Just because someone loves their larger body doesn’t mean that they think everyone should have that body. It’s about showing women out there that being plus-sized is okay. If 16-year-old me saw a plus-sized woman on the cover of a magazine or on my favorite websites, I would have gone through a lot less self-loathing and maybe have started loving my body a little earlier.

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