TW: Body image issues, eating disorders
There I am, bikini waxing*, knowing exactly what Beyoncé was on about when she said, “Pretty Hurts.” What hurts more are society’s expectations about women’s body hair, we’re at the point where women in razor commercials are already completely hairless, but I digress.
In an attempt to ease my pain, the esthetician tries to distract me with small talk, and surprisingly, it’s working. Then, she cheerfully states, “You’ve lost some weight, eh?”
For a nanosecond, I freeze.
“Yeah, I have.”
Assumptions around weight loss and gain
A similar exchange has taken place quite a few times recently, and it does usually make me wonder, but since I’m there, you know, butt-naked and vulnerable and all, I might as well dive deeper into the issue while I’m at it (no pun intended).
Why do people assume I should be happy I’ve lost weight?
I’ve never told my esthetician, or anyone for that matter, that I wanted to be thinner. I’m not obese, so it’s not a health-related concern.
Since we’re at it, that’s actually a common misconception.
You know what they say- and with they, I mean statistics professors all around the world- correlation doesn’t imply causation.
Because some overweight people are unhealthy, that doesn’t mean being overweight equals bad health.
Let’s talk qualitative research
People who are overweight have a 50/50 likelihood of having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or elevated blood sugar levels.¹
A study that examined data from 43,265 people, for a duration of 24 years, found that nearly half of the obese participants qualified as “metabolically fit,” they didn’t suffer from insulin resistance, diabetes, low levels of good cholesterol, high triglycerides or high blood pressure.²
In other words, they’re healthy. Among people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, those who were obese lived longer than their thinner peers.³
In a study of 65,000 patients with heart disease, findings showed that overweight and obese people had the lowest risk of early death, compared to normal-weight or underweight patients, the latter having the highest risk.4
Also, doctors have less respect for patients with higher body mass indexes, which can lower the quality of care they receive.5 Martina Donkers’s article ‘It’s Because You’re Fat’ — And Other Lies My Doctors Told Me, is a must-read on fat prejudice and how harmful it is.
Now, can we all agree that weight isn’t in and of itself a marker of good health?
Myth debunked ✓
A disclaimer is in order. I try to make sure everything I mention is well researched and coming from trustworthy sources, but I’m only human, after allll, I’m only human… Maybe I was fooled, bamboozled. Please do your research and don’t take my word (or 65000 + 43,265 participants’ results) for it.
My caption below tackles some of our other frustrating, harmful ideas around food and weight.
“It’s not a big deal”
Well, no big deal, my esthetician thinks weight loss is inherently a good thing. Plot twist, it is a big deal, though.
A report by the American Association of University Women indicated that for girls, “the way I look” is the most important indicator of self-worth.6 What the hell?!
Research has shown that more than half of girls and one-third of boys as young as 6-8 think their ideal weight is thinner than their current size. By age 7, one in four kids has engaged in some kind of dieting behavior.
Ages 15-17, more than 90 percent of girls want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance. Weight is the #1 aspect.
I repeat, what the hell?
Girls as young as 6 worrying about their physique should be a big deal.
With so many young girls developing eating disorders and having fucked up relationships with food and their bodies, it is.
Body love, the new mantra
I walked here. I’m surrounded by plants that smell like spring, enjoying the sun on my face and the keyboard’s warmth from said sunshine. My coffee’s good and the waiter remembered how I take it, all while the birds are singing.
My senses work, my legs run, my fine motor skills are fine AF.
To me, that’s proof my body loves me, and that it’s doing its best to keep me here, while I enjoy all the little and big things this world has to offer.
Start a revolution: love your body. It’s been in love with you for so long and always will be.
I hope this article helped you see beyond diet culture and harmful health ideas. You may also want to check out Meditation Misconceptions and Myths, Debunked and my guide on How to Not Get a Hangover, Even If You’re Binge-Watching Mad Men.
*A literal pain in the ass
**Editing this, I realize it sounds slightly ableist. I’m not saying your body doesn’t love you if you can’t walk, I’m just trying to put things in perspective regarding body image issues. Still sounds ableist. Can you just take my word for it, that I stand up to all kinds of ableism and ableist slurs IRL & try to educate as many people as humanly possible, in a country where most don’t know what the word means? You’re still fine AF, regardless of your motor skills!
¹R.P. Wildman, Ph.D.; P. Muntner, Ph.D.; K. Reynolds, Ph.D.; A. P. McGinn, Ph.D.; S. Rajpathak, MD, DrPH; Ju. Wylie-Rosett, EdD; M. R. Sowers, Ph.D.; “The Obese Without Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Clustering and the Normal Weight With Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Clustering.” Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(15):1617-1624.
²Ortega FB, Lee D, Katzmarzyk PT, et al. The intriguing metabolically healthy but obese phenotype: cardiovascular prognosis and role of fitness. European Heart Journal. Published online September 4, 2012.
³Florez H, Castillo-Florez S. Beyond the Obesity Paradox in DiabetesFitness, Fatness, and Mortality. JAMA. 2012;308(6):619-620. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.9776
4Oskar Angerås, Per Albertsson, Kristjan Karason, Truls Råmunddal, Göran Matejka, Stefan James, Bo Lagerqvist, Annika Rosengren, Elmir Omerovic; Evidence for the obesity paradox in patients with acute coronary syndromes: a report from the Swedish Coronary Angiography and Angioplasty Registry. Eur Heart J 2013; 34 (5): 345-353. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehs217
5J Gen Intern Med. 2009 Nov;24(11):1236-9. doi: 10.1007/s11606-009-1104-8. Epub 2009 Sep 18.
6How schools shortchange girls: The AAUW report. A study of major findings in education. Washington, DC: American Association of University Women Educational Foundation.