Today, I want to talk about weight.
Actually, If I’m being completely honest, I really don’t want to talk about weight. But I have to. We have to.
In this current social climate, I have noticed more and more how so many people feel not only an active entitlement, but a need, to judge and victimise people based on their appearance. More specifically, by their weight.
As I’ve watched people in the media call out body shaming and fight the encouragement of an extremely thin ideal, I have wondered how I too have been subconsciously effected by the way we are encouraged to look. As I considered my own experiences and spoke to others about theirs, a frightening trend came to light. That trend was the correlation between a number on a scale, and the way that we feel about ourselves. This toxic relationship that has been bred, in which our self esteem is dictated by an idea that somebody else created for us, is nothing short of horrendous. It is a social structure in which we are influenced to feel either right or wrong in the way we inhabit our bodies. Any you know what? I call bullshit.
I’ve had enough. This is an issue that I have been able to observe throughout my whole life, and one that has been perpetuated by both other people and the media. I want you to think of all the ways in which we are bombarded with images of “goal bodies” on a daily basis. Think about all of the products you see advertised, on television, on facebook, on the radio, on magazine covers and billboards. Think of the weight loss pills, the shakes, the diets, the slimming jeans, the fat blasters, the ‘no effort’ exercise machines, the spanx, the wafer thin models who are supposed to represent the ‘norm’. Think of all of these images, and consider how they are used to perpetuate the idea that you can’t possibly be complete unless you look a certain way.
Now you may be able to spot these in your day to day life, and see them as ultimately benign. Maybe you feel that they don’t have an influence on you or the way that you see yourself? Or on how you see others? But consider how these images work to create a structure. A structure in which there are accepted and non accepted ways of being you. Of being in your own body.
Now try to identify the times in which this structure has worked in quietly malignant ways. Think about the times that you may have seen someone on the street and had a nasty thought about how they looked. Consider when you may have commented about someones weight, either to them or behind their back. Remember how you may have equated someone losing weight to them being a ‘better’ version of themselves, how you may have complimented them, validated them for looking more akin to the way society accepts. Consider how you feel when you step on the scale. Think about how you feel when you so badly want to indulge in dessert at the restaurant, but because no one else is, you feel guilty, and you say no. Think about the ‘transformation’ photos you see online, and how the before photograph is associated with being ‘less’ than your ideal self, and how the after somehow means more. As if taking up less space gives someone more of a right to be there than the person beside them. This strange and abusive relationship that so many of us have with ourselves needs to change. The relationship that fosters negative self talk, hatred for what you see in the mirror and an unhealthy relationship with food. It’s time for that to change.
If you still can’t think of any of the ways in which society so heavily influences the link between weight and worth-take a look at the images below. Consider the fact that these headlines are able to exist and that they are seen by young men and women- by children whose identity and self esteem is in the most fragile state of growth and development- and think about how they add to a structure of insecurity, judgement, body shaming and low self esteem:
Look, I am 100% not judging people who enjoy using certain products to maintain their health, and those who feel better within themselves for becoming healthier- whether that implies any loss of weight or not. I just think that our journey to wellness needs to be a well rounded one- not one that is solely based on a numbers game. I know people who are incredibly thin that are ultimately miserable, and I believe that this is due to a singularly focussed idea of wellness that is perpetuated by the media. The idea that weight is a direct indicator of health and happiness.
I am deeply saddened and really quite pissed off by the realisation that we have been programmed to correlate a number on a scale with how much shame we should be cloaked in. And the sickening thing is that we so often we learn this at home, and of those small understandings are then reinforced by society and the media on a daily basis. It’s a scarily effective form of brainwashing. I can think of many times whilst I was growing up that my sisters and I’s weight was commented on by various people. These comments were sometimes meant as compliments, and many other times were meant as judgement, thinly disguised as ‘concern’. As if somehow we were blind to our appearances, that people felt the need to inform us, because goodness gracious, thighs are getting a bit big aren’t they?
If you are reading this and it is resonating with you, either as someone who has been at the receiving end of this, or at the giving, let make an agreement to stop. To stop offering and accepting unsolicited, unwelcome and impolite comments about the way someone exists in their wonderful body. Instead, let’s recognise the beautiful and complex ways in which our bodies work to hold our lives, day in and day out. How the mesmerising rhythm of a beating heart allows the person in front of you to dance, to laugh, and to live their unique and totally valid life.
All in all, I want to encourage people to celebrate diversity, confidence, intellect, joy, and self worth that exists outside of unhealthy social binaries. I want us to compliment each other on a witty remark, on our successes in the workplace, over our ability to have a quiet night in when we really need it. I want people to actively join and support networks such as Jameela Jamil’s iWeigh, in which complexity and diversity is celebrated, and we laugh in the face of the scale, overcome with joy that is no longer a prison that holds our self esteem.
I just want you all to know how gosh darn great you are, and that you don’t have to change a damn well thing if you don’t want to. Do what feels good and right for you, and you’ll never be able to regret a thing. Who you are is so much more than what you see in the mirror. And I can guarantee that you are more incredible than you realise.
(To conclude this post on a positive note, I’ve included a few of my favourite images and posts of women who are passionate about simply being who they are. These are the women to look up to in a world that tries to tell you that you aren’t enough.)