In 2004, when Dove release its first Real Beauty campaign, everyone embraced it. It was the ad every woman out there was waiting for. Whether heavier or skinny, with a little saggy skin here and there or those darn stretch marks, everyone felt heard and understood. Interestingly enough, around the same time, Dove Men came out with a campaign that featured a statuesque Adonis-like man in the shower with ripped abs and chiseled arms. Somehow the body-positivity movement was only targeting women, which begs the question “was it really body-positivity or was it yet another marketing ploy that took flight?”
While Dove may have had the right idea celebrating beauty in all shapes and forms, over the past 13 years there has been a push towards not only accepting, but also celebrating curvier forms to the extend where the so-called “fat-shaming” has actually turned to “skinny-shaming” or even “fat-glorifying”.
But lets look at the statistics out there. 8 percent of people who are obese believe they are healthy and don't need to lose weight (even though 35 percent of them have high blood pressure, 15 percent high cholesterol, and 14 percent diabetes), according to a study of nearly 6,000 people. It is estimated that more than 60 percent of American adults are obese or overweight and our ideas of “healthy weight” are getting more skewed by the minute.
According to Stephen Nicholls, M.D., the clinical director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention "As a population, we have moved the yardstick ourselves as what we consider to be a problem and what we don't consider to be a problem." According to him the body diversity and fat acceptance easily sends the message that being overweight is not a health issue, but simply a matter of body type or preference. "Obesity is the single greatest public health problem we face in the U.S. today and is now spreading beyond the developed world into developing countries."
There’s clearly a disconnect here. While BMI is and the image in the mirror shouldn’t be the only indicators and there is no place for vanity when it comes to health, the reality is that while we were so busy celebrating body diversity, we somehow also encouraged an increase in the acceptance of being overweight as a standard. Furthermore, it has become completely acceptable to call someone who is 10lbs underweight “unhealthy” or even “disgusting”, however it has become taboo to talk about the damage those extra 30, 40, 50 or even more pounds have on the body.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States with approximately 35 percent of women and 31 percent of men are considered seriously overweight and 15 percent of children between the ages of six and 19 are overweight. Here are just a few issues that affect overweight and obese people
High blood pressure - Excessive fat tissue in the body needs oxygen and nutrients in order to live, which requires the blood vessels to circulate more blood to the fat tissue. The extra weight can also raise the heart rate and reduce the body's ability to transport blood through the vessels.
Diabetes - Obesity is the major cause of type 2 diabetes. Even moderate obesity dramatically increases the risk of diabetes.
Heart disease – Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is present 10 times more often in obese people compared to those who are not obese.
Joint problems, including osteoarthritis - Obesity can affect the knees and hips because of the stress placed on the joints by extra weight.
Sleep apnea and respiratory problems - Respiratory problems associated with obesity occur when added weight of the chest wall squeezes the lungs and causes restricted breathing.
Cancer - In women, being overweight contributes to an increased risk for a variety of cancers including breast cancer, colon, gallbladder, and uterus. Men who are overweight have a higher risk of colon cancer and prostate cancers.
Metabolic syndrome - Metabolic syndrome consists of six major components: abdominal obesity, elevated blood cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance with or without glucose intolerance, elevation of certain blood components that indicate inflammation, and elevation of certain clotting factors in the blood. In the US, approximately one-third of overweight or obese persons exhibit metabolic syndrome.
Maybe instead of going on the bandwagon of slamming down anyone who doesn’t seem to support body diversity and shutting down everyone who makes a legitimate comment about health risks of overweight people, maybe we should just support body health no matter which form it comes in. Muscular women should not automatically be called manly and unfeminine, skinny women should not be sent out to grab a burger, and heavier women shouldn’t be shamed for it either. Everyone who makes an effort to be healthy should be acknowledged and everyone who doesn’t should be allowed to learn better habits. Until then, let’s all collectively stop supporting an unhealthy culture. If we lived in a house that was falling apart, we would do everything needed to rebuild it, to make sure the structure is sound and can support and protect us.
Body positivity should be about living in the best and healthiest body possible, not about embracing unhealthy standards.
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