Body Acceptance and Glorifying Obesity

| May 9, 2015 | 4 Comments

Body Acceptance, Concern Trolling & Glorifying Obesity

There are many definitions for the Internet phenomenon known as “concern trolling,” but it has a special meaning in terms of body shaming. Concern trolling is when a person expresses concern about health or offers health advice to someone they don’t know, just based on a photo of them online.

(For those who may not know what “trolling” is online, it generally means harassing people or trying to rile people up by making offensive remarks, just because you can.)

Concern trolling mostly occurs with large / fat (Disclaimer: I use fat as a neutral term, not an insult!) / “obese” people, but it happens with thin people, too. (Such as concerns that the person is “anorexic” or hasn’t been eating enough. Again, based only on a photo of someone they don’t know.)

In the case of fat people, the concern is that they aren’t eating well, exercising and / or are not at a “healthy” weight. And when it appears in the context of body acceptance or expressing body love, there is often the concern that the person is promoting an “unhealthy lifestyle,” also known as “glorifying obesity.”

People may think these sort of comments are acceptable, and some aren’t necessarily coming from a bad place. But there’s a reason it’s defined as “trolling” — because this is just another form of body-shaming masked as concern. It’s another way for people to say, “Your body is unacceptable.”

Here’s why concern trolling is an issue:

1. A person’s health is none of anyone else’s business.

Individual health markers, conditions, diseases, risk of diseases, and illnesses – these are all private, personal matters. A person has no obligation to share this information with strangers. When society considers you to be too fat or too skinny, that does not suddenly mean your health issues need to become public knowledge, or that you are obligated to justify your body to other people (or that you have health issues at all).

justify body health shaming judging body acceptance glorify obesity yna

From http://stophatingyourbody.tumblr.com

2. Even if you were entitled to comment on a stranger’s health, no one can diagnose conditions or evaluate health just by looking at someone. Unless you are their doctor, you don’t know anything with regards to their physical health.

All that’s accomplished by concern trolling is alerting the person to the fact that they are fat (as if they didn’t already know) and that society considers that to be a bad thing (as if they didn’t already know).

We still place so much importance on BMI – body mass index – as though it’s a magical all-encompassing health assessment tool (mostly because it’s cheap and easy to use). In reality it’s always been a deeply flawed system that was never meant to measure individual health or fatness. Still, today we send 6-year-old kids home with fat-shaming letters because their BMI is a little out of range. Then we wonder why young kids are dealing with body image issues and going on diets.

The fact is – there are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people (and visa versa). Some people eat lots of junk food, exercise very little and never get fat. Some fat people exercise 5 days a week and eat a healthy vegan diet.

The idea that fat people are all lazy, compulsive junk food eaters who don’t “take care of themselves” and lack self-control is a harmful, inaccurate stereotype that needs to go away.

Even when someone does fit that stereotype to whatever degree, it’s still none of your business and does not justify body-shaming.

Many studies have shown that physical fitness level is far more indicative of health than the number on the scale. This is yet another health characteristic that you cannot assess by simply looking at someone.

3. “But that obese person obviously doesn’t exercise!” – For starters, you have no way of knowing if they do or don’t! How is it any of your business how much they exercise or why they are the size they are? Why do they need to justify their body to you? Again, you are not their doctor!

4. “But obesity is a real public health issue, and something needs to be done!” You know what ISN’T a solution to the “obesity problem”? Fat shaming and size discrimination. A study from the University College London last year found that discrimination did not make fat people healthier or encourage them to lose weight, and was in fact associated with weight gain.

5. This is the most important point: A person’s weight, size or health does not and should not determine their worth as a human being. It should never be a source of shame, and nobody should be denied acceptance or respect because of their appearance or health status.

weight worth health fat shaming discrimination glorifying obesity yna

By Redefining Body Image http://redefiningbodyimage.tumblr.com

Health is highly individual, complicated and changes from day to day / year to year. People of all sizes may have all sorts of health conditions for all kinds of reasons.

We need to disassociate health from morality. Being in perfect health whether you’re fat or thin does not make you morally superior. Society has created this moral panic around fatness, as if fat / weight is an evil threat that needs to be eliminated. But fatness is on people. On unique, complex human beings who deserve the same level of care and respect as everyone else.

Body acceptance is not predicated on health and does not require you to justify your body first. It does not ask you what you ate for dinner, what your vitals are, if your sugar intake is too high, or how often you go to the gym, and then tell you whether or not you’re allowed to accept yourself as you are.

body positivity acceptance all bodies yna

Self-loathing and stress over body image don’t lead to better health. People who embrace their bodies are more likely to want to pursue a healthy lifestyle, which means doing what’s best for their body.

Denying fat people visibility and promoting one body type as valid is obviously not helping to create positive body image and self-esteem. What we have instead, is a huge weight loss industry and a nation of people obsessed with losing weight – often at the cost of their own personal health!

Body acceptance needs to be open to everyone and include people of all shapes and sizes. Concern trolling, shaming, bullying and discrimination need to end for the good of all.

Young Naturists & Nudists America

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Category: Felicity's Nudist Blog, Body Image Blogs, Social Activism

About the Author ()

Author of Felicity's Blog. Co-founder of Young Naturists America. 3rd-generation nudie. Avid reader. Feminist. 70% vegan, 30% vegetarian. When I'm not busy eating, I'm writing about naturism, censorship, topfree equality, body image and other fun topics. I like feedback, so plz leave a comment when you've got something to say!
  • IsisPhoenix

    FelicityJones hontouniheart I’m loving this conversation and the raw real dialogue that is happening here. Shaming is never the answer and only breeds self-loathing that leads to more disorders. The only thing that has worked for me is having a healthy model of eating and being around people who have the lifestyle and most importantly the self-love practices I would like to incorporate into my life and align myself with.

  • jasenj1

    I really have trouble with the whole “being fat is fine” mind set. No, it’s not. It’s bad for the obese person, it’s bad for the people around them, and it’s bad for society at large.
    I think of it like smoking. In the 40s & 50s “everybody” smoked. It was even pushed as being healthy. Then in the 60s & 70s we learned that smoking is REALLY bad. We went through a transition in the 80s & 90s we had the giant law suits against the tobacco companies and the places people could smoke got more and more restricted. Nowadays if you smoke, you are very aware that you are damaging your body and doing something very stupid.

    With obesity, I think in the 80s & 90s it really started to take off. Our food supply, diet & life style were basically designed to make fat people (high carbs, low fat, lots of sitting in offices). In the 90s & 00s we really started to understand the impact of obesity – rampant diabetes, heart disease, etc. Now we seem to be at a point where we (meaning as a general society) readily recognize that being obese is bad. But we haven’t changed our diets & lifestyles to stop making fat people. And many people who have already been made fat may never be able to shed the weight. The mainstream diet & food supply is still designed to make people fat, but places like Whole Foods are rising up and different diets are being advocated that counter the previous conventional wisdom (paleo, nutritarian, etc.) I suspect in 10-20 years the standard American diet will be quite different.

    I will fully agree that “healthy” weight varies greatly from person to person. Some people have genes that keep them rail thin (Keira Knightley may be one). Other people are far plumper (Kim Kardashian). But there are boundaries. And today, far too many people are over the line and it is going to hurt them, their loved ones, and society.

  • hontouniheart Wow, thank you for this! Thank you for sharing your struggles here. It’s not an easy subject. Unfortunately it seems so many people spend years in yo-yo dieting that easily turns into disordered eating and they don’t discover what’s healthy / good for them til later on.
    When that study about shaming came out, I think a lot of people were like “duh.” It seems so obvious that shaming is not the answer and would just lead to more issues! There must be many, many others who can attest that shaming did not improve their health and well-being.
    It totally irks me too, to see beauty ideals being further promoted in the naturist world. Naturists are supposed to be all about beauty in diversity and body acceptance for all bodies. There will probably always be the types who just want to look at “pretty” women, but we’ve got some work to do in bringing more body positivity into nudism.
    Yeah, unhealthy / processed food is the stuff that’s cheap and readily available! The connection between weight and socioeconomic status is too often ignored.
    It’s interesting to consider American values around work ethic too. Not only do people work too many hours, but they’re stressed out, and stress has a huge influence on mental / physical health.
    Totally agree with you. Shaming doesn’t solve anything and just draws attention away from the bigger issues.
    It’s so ingrained in our culture, but fat shaming / body shaming is getting more attention and becoming less acceptable now..hope we can start to really end it and move onto the important issues!

  • hontouniheart

    This is a really important topic, and definitely a touchy one. I’ve had eating disorders up and down my life. Like many others, I’ve struggled with how I look, beauty standards, and so forth. You know what never helped? Body shaming. Because then I’d just go home and eat my feelings. (shock, awe). 

    I’ve personally had that experience of working out a lot and still being obese. I’ve done binging & purging. I’ve done drastic weight loss in small periods of time and screwed up my menstrual cycle and created digestive conditions for myself from eating disorders and trying to be “pretty” and “acceptable.” I’ve destroyed my hair to fit in. I’ve literally hit and slapped and cut myself from “trolling” and shaming. Because trolling and shaming never worked for me. It only exacerbated the condition.

    What did help? People leaving me alone and me exploring different kinds of foods and learning what felt good in my body, what gave me good poops, what made my skin shine, what made me feel light and free. I had to discover and explore that for myself. Shaming always, always only ever made my conditions worse, whether it came from family, friends, or complete strangers. 

    Here’s the other issue I have with shaming individuals: it completely takes the focus off of systemic issues. There are all the beauty standards promoted for all genders, which people seem happy to ignore. They’re like, “No…you’re beautiful as you are, you need to accept yourself.” Yeah, but the people in the clothing catalogs are always skinny. I even see it in the clothes free world. Most comments on “beauty” of either a picture or about the lifestyle are of young, thinner girls. Never bigger ones. Hardly racially diverse, Never guys. Never older people. “beauty” is assigned to a small range of women. Comments on photos support it. And lack of comments on other photos support it. Not that comments should mean anything, but  to shine a light on that trend.

    Anyway, other system issues here in the States. Like…if people are so concerned about my health, why is there SO MUCH FAKE FOOD with fake ingredients and artificial this and that everywhere?! Why are these the cheapest things that are easiest to access? If you gave a crap about my health, then why couldn’t I access any good food when I was growing up in poor areas? Everything “affordable” thing came in either a box or a can. But it was all one person’s fault and shaming was promoted. Access to good food is hard. 

    And how about work/life balance? Where I work, people put in 60 hours of work a week regularly at the least. Why is that OK? Why is that promoted? When are they supposed to make time to exercise, get good fresh food and then prepare it and eat it. When are they supposed to sleep? No , because “above and beyond” is the new norm, and people who sacrifice their health are championed for their “sacrifices” and “commitment.” Climb the latter. Lose your health. Die at 50.

    There is soooooo much more that gets overlooked when things come down to individual body shaming. We miss the whole point. We just take to tossing our opinions onto people. Because that solves everything. We throw our ideas out there and never get real about who we are or what we’re doing in our own lives. 

    We’re happy to sit back and throw opinions and theories onto others. Because that will save lives, apparently. 

    I’m done. 

    Thank you for shining light on this.