Most of you may know that I have been on a very long journey with my body over the past few years. I have experienced both sides of the spectrum when it comes to my size. I've been a plus sized gal and I've been all the way to a size 1 and back up to a comfortable 8.
It is this that gives me the courage to present to you an idea I actually had when I was a much heavier girl. This idea is VERY taboo to speak about because people are very quick to point out when you may be 'fat shaming' or being overly critical of someones weight. This blogs purpose is neither of those things. The purpose of this blog is to educate women on one simple fact. You can be big and beautiful, yes, but a beautiful exterior DOES not give you a free pass from the extremely dangerous health complications associated with obesity.
While a positive body image is important, this attitude makes some professionals think that the BBW world's attitude toward fat can be seriously damaging to health. Because I help people with their nutrition and I look at these things from a human health perspective, I have to be extremely concerned when someone is celebrating being overweight or obese. The list of risks that come with being overweight or obese is quite extensive and incredibly serious. From infertility to joint pain to life-threatening issues, such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, celebrating obesity is risky.
What we’re talking about here is not just physical appearance. We want to celebrate how everyone looks and never want to make someone feel bad about the way they look. But, being overweight or obese isn’t something that is handed to you that you have no control over. Numerous studies have found that though some people are more likely to be overweight thanks to their genes, it is possible to exercise away the gene's negative effects.
Now you may look at me and have a hard time believing that I was ever a card carrying member of the BBW community, but you're wrong. From my late teens to early twenties I embraced the plus sized world and lived my days out dressing as a pin-up model. My curvacious body got me pretty much anywhere I wanted to go. I absolutely was made to feel fabulous about myself because that's the persona I had taken on. I am big, I am beautiful, hear me roar!!! But, at the same time, I was taking medications for Fibromyalgia; Irritable Bowel Syndrome; G.E.R.D.; Chronic Migraines; Vitamin Deficiencies; and severe kidney issues. So, although I was having a wonderful time and being showered with compliments about how wide my hips were and how wonderfully hourglass I was......I was dying.
So here's the next question we must ask ourselves. Can we be overweight and fit?
Expert opinion is pretty much unanimous: Being overweight is bad for your health, particularly for your heart. Obesity is probably the only risk factor that has such a global negative impact on so many risk factors for the heart. Obesity's heart disease risk factors include high blood pressure, inflammation, metabolic syndrome, and trouble with blood-fat levels, such as higher triglycerides, low HDL (good cholesterol), and high LDL (bad cholesterol). Obesity is also associated with sleep apnea.
It is easy to use a BMI and place everyone in the same box, but it is too simplistic and is not always an accurate description of someone's health. Studies have indeed shown that fit overweight or obese people have cardiovascular mortality rates that are lower than thin, unfit people. But are such studies just an excuse for overweight people -- most of whom aren't fit -- to remain complacent about excess weight? There remains concern on the part of physicians that the rise in fat acceptance is an unhealthy trend.
So then, is body image as important as health?
I feel it is important to balance a healthy body image with a healthy body. Everyone at any size can take care of the body they have and support their well-being. Part of the problem is that even when people -- or their kids -- are overweight or obese, they don't think they are. In fact, 8 percent of obese people think they are healthy and don't need to lose weight(even though 35 percent of those people have high blood pressure, 15 percent high cholesterol, and 14 percent diabetes), according to a study of nearly 6,000 people presented in November 2009 at the American Heart Association meeting.
It's not clear why there's a disconnect. But with the rise in obesity, people may have a skewed perception of a "normal" weight. Right now, more than 60 percent of American adults are obese or overweight. I never looked at myself during those younger years and thought, 'I am obese and unhealthy', because I was within a culture that accepted my size and promoted it as something to be desired.
What then are we to do if we feel we fall into this category? Ask yourself, 'Am I as healthy as I've ever been?' 'Do I have chronic illnesses and diseases that are closely related to or caused by obesity?' 'Am I eating a nutritious, whole foods diet?' 'Am I getting adequate daily exercise?'
When we look at our health in terms of these questions, it's much easier to make a solid decision about the actions we should be taking. We can't rely completely on your weight, the BMI scale, or your size. Your healthiest may be a size 12, 8, 6, or 2. There is so much more that goes into what makes us healthy than just that number. As long as you are making a daily conscious effort to put yourself as far away from the risks that obesity can cause, you are doing the best thing possible.
There will always be fat shaming, fit shaming, skinny shaming, tall shaming, black, yellow, white, girl, boy, and any other kind of shaming we can think of. What's important is that we grow beyond that thought and become humans focused on helping one another to be the best, healthiest versions of ourselves.