Health · inspiration

Does Body Acceptance Lead to Obesity?

The September issue of Glamour magazine has a story about Jess Weiner, prominent body acceptance proponent and author of Life Doesn’t Begin 5 Pounds From Now, and her realization that her weight was negatively impacting her health.

I gave a speech I’d given before, telling the audience that it was important for every woman of every size to love her body, no matter what. And that’s when a woman in the front row raised her hand and changed my life forever.

“How can you honestly tell us that you love your body?” she asked. “You are obese.”

My face flushed at her rudeness. I was shocked and embarrassed, but responded firmly: “My body is none of your business.” The audience erupted into cheers.

But the woman continued. “What about health?” she asked me. “How can you be healthy looking like that?”

Again I had an answer ready. “You can’t tell someone’s health just by looking at them,” I told her. “So don’t assume that just because someone is overweight that he or she is unhealthy.” And again the crowd cheered, and that was that. Friends asked the woman to leave, and I finished up my talk, forcing a phony smile.

This incident causes her to second guess herself.  She goes on to explain that she has had a change of heart about accepting herself as is after visiting a doctor and finding out that she had several negative health symptoms related to her weight.  Then she goes on to explain herself and apologize to her readers for her change of heart.

Obesity does cause many health problems, like it or not.  In this fascinating post on Diary of a Mad Fat Woman, we learn about the issues that can be seen in this MRI comparison that’s been floating around the internet for some time.  The conclusion?  The human body is simply not meant to carry so much extra weight.

Note the fat around the internal organs

But does that mean we should hate ourselves if we are overweight?  Does body acceptance, saying “I love myself the way I am,” mean we accept obesity?  In order to be healthy, do we have to be un-accepting and feel negatively about our bodies?

Of course not!  When you love something, you take care of it.  When you hate something you punish it.  Feeling bad about our weight, feeling like our weight defines us and makes us failures or not good enough or just plain bad people- those feelings lead to obesity, not away.  That’s what kind of baffled me about Jess Weiner’s story.  Body acceptance and weight loss are not mutually exclusive.

It was only when I started to feel like I was okay the way I was that I was able to decide to change it.  To me, self acceptance doesn’t mean you stop growing, changing, and evolving into the best you you can be.  It just means you forgive yourself your short-comings, you relinquish guilt and blame.  You accept that you are human and humans make mistakes.  You accept imperfection.

And when you let go of all the negativity, you take responsibility for your own self care.  Part of that is change.  Accepting yourself and loving yourself means making better choices and reversing mistakes.  But accepting yourself doesn’t mean you stop improving your life- quite the contrary.  When you care about yourself, you have to realize that overeating and being sedentary are not nice things to do to your body.  When you really care about yourself, you want to change.  This isn’t about looks or living up to impossible social ideals.

Having been obese, that will always be a part of who I am.  I know people who lose weight and then make every effort to forget they were ever bigger.  They delete old photos from Facebook.  When they do see a photo of their past self or think about how they used to be, their reaction is disgust and revulsion.  To me this signals that they have not accepted themselves.  That heavy me, the one in the picture, that’s still me.  And I have to love her too because she’s the one who put her foot on the path to making these wonderful changes.  When I look at a picture of fat me, I am proud of her more than anything else.  She did the hardest part, she got started.

She wasn’t a bad person or unworthy of love.  We all deserve love.  Size is irrelevant in that department.  She just made some mistakes along the way.  She dealt with some problems the only way she knew how and it led to obesity.  That doesn’t make her disgusting to me.  It makes her beautiful, just as I am now.

I don’t want to forget her.  I need to always remember what it feels like when you don’t take care of yourself.  It helps me feel grateful every single day for my current body, still flawed, still imperfect, and still worthy and wonderful.

I don’t think body acceptance leads to obesity.  There are so many mistakes we make over the course of life.  Weight does not define a person’s worth or make her less than anyone else.  Society might try to tell us that, but I’m sure we all have someone in our life who we care about deeply who is overweight or obese.  Maybe it’s our best friend, our mother, our uncle, or our child.  Does your best friend deserve less love because she is overweight?  Then you don’t either.  But that doesn’t mean giving up on ourselves.

It’s only when we love ourselves that we can truly change.

 

9 thoughts on “Does Body Acceptance Lead to Obesity?

  1. hi there! this is Amanda of Diary of a Mad Fat Woman. I wanted to point out that it is NOT a radiologist who commented on the image – as stated it my post. It is someone who works in radiology and nuclear medicine. If you could please correct your post I would appreciate it! Thanks for the link! You might also care to read my “fat and happy” post as well – it kind of touched on the same topic you’re covering here!

    😀

  2. It’s not just that being over weight leads to weight related diseases and conditions, being over weight can impact affect your options if you ever come down with a serious disease that requires surgery or are in a accident. I posted a long version of my story on Amanda’s (Diary of a Mad Fat Woman) site, but briefly I have always taken really good care of myself, eat pure and clean, exercise a lot, but I had a case of rheumatic fever as a child (unknown to me) that damaged my mitral heart valve and I had to have open heart surgery to replace it.
    There are a lot of tests involved with getting ready for heart surgery and at EVERY single test the technicians went and on and on about how easy it was to do the test and how clear the pictures were because I wasn’t over weight. These very clear pictures allowed my surgeon to see what was wrong with me and have a solid ‘get in-fix-get out- plan in place before my surgery which reduced overall risk and time. Also, because I was not heavy he was able to do a new minimally invasive (in through ribs, no chest cutting) surgery on me which took less than 1/2 the normal time and the overall risk was 1/2 that of traditional open heart surgery. Additionally, being fit and healthy going into the situation made my recovery easier – no other conditions or pre-existing medications to worry about or slow me down. I was up and walking around in less than 48 hours, walking miles a day in a few weeks. I always tell people “open heart surgery really isn’t that bad, not what you would think from hearing about it” but my surgeon and cardiologist tell me that I only feel that way because of how healthy I was going in and the type of surgery that allowed me to have. Today I live a normal life…no one would guess that I have a piece of a pig in my heart and most days I forget too :-).

  3. Hi. I really love what you posted. I just read that Glamour issue, and to be honest it did leave a bad taste in my mouth. I am one who does not care if an overweight type “role model” loses weight- though I know this upsets some people. Nor do I find this woman who wrote the article a “role model”. I think that people should love and accept themselves as they are- because as you said, that is the only way to make change. If you hate yourself are you going to stop engaging in self harming behaviors (i.e. eating, drinking, drugs)? I also have to doubt where she stands with that she loved herself yet she avoids the doctors and the like. Thhat is not caring for yourself. She barely touches on why perhaps there is such a very strong self acceptance act for the obese– or just accepting yourself in general– that is because there is such blatant discrimination and hate towards the obese. Personally, I think if body acceptance started earlier on there would be lesss obesity, because when you feel your body is different you feel hateful instead of accepting, yeah I am an 8 not a 0 but that is my body type- instead you feel like you are a cow and it doesn’t matter if you eat like one- and that can lead to obesity. I think the title is also false- “self acceptance / love lead almost “killed me”- it was not her self love (if she ever really had this) it was her lack thereof because she neglected her body and she neglected to go to the doctors and take care of herself. I am sure with the medical prejudice this is frightening for the overweight- but if you accept yourself and love yourself you would not let this phase you. Anyway, sorry for the disorganized rant. I am just appalled by this article and feel that it is Glamour’s attempt at shaming women, yet again, in order to fit societal ideals the writer supposedly is against. To make sure I am clear: I do not advocate obesity but I do advocate loving yourself. Life is too short not to. And if you love yourself then you treat yourself better. Thanks for the thoughtful post on this cringe worthy article.

  4. Sorry for the typos but the little twitter, facebook, and other icons at the bottom of this reply box blocked me from seeing what I was writing a bit. 😛

    That*
    less*

    (only one’s I caught but there are probably more :P)

  5. I love you Kate! I absolutlely resonate with every word you write. So much appreciation for all you do and all you are. Lisa TOWANDA!!!!

  6. This post really resonated with me, though my “shame” is more about drinking, that person I was, than the body image issue. When I see pictures of myself from back then, I do wish I could delete them. Thank you for this:

    “That heavy me, the one in the picture, that’s still me. And I have to love her too because she’s the one who put her foot on the path to making these wonderful changes. When I look at a picture of fat me, I am proud of her more than anything else. She did the hardest part, she got started.”

    Because it reminds me that it is true – self-acceptance is key. I need to dig deep to find acceptance and love for her too. She did do the hard part.

  7. I think it’s important to point out that more than 60 studies have looked at the relationship between weight and health for women. None show an improvement in mortality rate from losing weight, and most find that the healthiest (as in longest lived) populations have a BMI between 25-29, which is “overweight” per the weight charts. (Stats taken from the very interesting book _Why Women Need Fat_.)

    None of which is to say that being overweight does not create health problems, because it definitely can. Exercise greatly reduces many but not all of those problems. There are issues that just come from having a greater mass, especially issues with joints, and I realize that’s no picnic.

    I am super, super pro weight loss the way that Kate did it, which is moderately, slowly, and without caloric “crashing.” Weight loss through a modest calorie deficit isn’t studied much (which is where you get the many headlines that say “diets don’t work”), and I’m not sure why. It would be expensive, but there have been a number of multi-year weight loss studies that weren’t funded by any diet guru. I believe that weight loss scientists really do want to help people, for the most part, and not just get rich or support a particular clinic or program.

    But even if greatly improving the quality of your food, getting plenty of healthy movement, and keeping calories at an appropriate level for your body weight doesn’t result in much weight loss, it will greatly improve your health, and offsets many of the health issues that do come up more often in heavier people.

    I should probably say it again, because i know this is a very emotional issue, *I recognize that excess weight does cause health problems for many people*. I’m not saying everyone should go out and gain 20 pounds for their health. But statistically, study after study shows “overweight” people outliving “normal weight” people.

    To me, what that’s meant in my life is that my focus is on health-promoting behavior (getting lots of exercise, sitting less, eating more fruits and vegetables, getting more sleep, managing my stress) rather than weight-loss behavior (going into strong calorie deficit).

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