The internet freaked out this week after Youtube (not-so-funny) comedian Nicole Arbour posted a video shaming fat people and claiming that, by doing so, she was doing them a favour. Grace Helbig, another Youtube comedian, then posted a video in response and briefly made reference to her own past struggles with her body image, as well as defending comedy. Whitney, TLC star of ‘My Big Fat Fabulous Life’, then posted her video in response, offering her own advice to fat people, which was quite simple; “Love Yourself.” On top of this huge pavlova of fat shaming, some idiot (not-so-clever) writer at the Daily Mail posted this article shaming Jennifer Aniston about her alleged “post-marriage weight gain,” accompanied by unflattering photos of her in athletic clothing. And the Huffington Post responded with an article, scolding the Daily Mail for such blatant, irresponsible body shaming. The cherry on the cake was a move by Cheryl Cole, who has been scrutinised relentlessly in the media for her fluctuations in weight, who stated an interview that she believes Body Shaming should be illegal.
Wow. That is a LOT of body shaming and fat shaming in one week. Are you surprised? I’m not. In fact, I stopped reading the Daily Mail a long time ago because it was making me feel really down. Why? Every other article seemed to be either written in praise of a female celebrity for being super-thin, size zero and beautiful (or a male celebrity for having less than 10% body fat), or in criticism of a celebrity who had exposed a little cellulite whilst being photographed on their yacht. Are people reading this content and actually benefitting from it or enjoying it? Are we seriously sending out a message that our bodies should be completely flawless? Have we descended into such a dark place that we actually feel better about our own bodies when we read about the struggles of other people with theirs? I seriously hope this is not at trend that will continue. In fact, I spend a lot of my time praising other people on social media for their aesthetics, their progress, and their achievements, in an attempt to counteract the negative, painful feelings of self-criticism that many people go through on a daily basis.
As an advocate of weight loss, health and fitness, I am fully in support of staying in shape and taking care of your body. I do not make excuses for obesity, as I firmly believe that if you make an effort to educate yourself about nutrition and eat a balanced diet, that even with a medical condition, you can still maintain a healthy weight (keyword: healthy). However, I am not okay with shaming and attacking people for being overweight. And I am definitely, definitely, definitely not okay with pointing out flaws in other people, or bringing attention to their imperfections. This further enforces the notion that our bodies should be ‘perfect,’ which is not a healthy goal or objective for anyone. The idea, of Nicole Arbour, that shaming fat people is a good idea to help them lose weight is so incredibly misinformed. Here are a few reasons why people may be overweight:
- Lack of Nutrition Education: People generally do not understand what a ‘carb’ is and what ratio of fat/carbs/protein their body needs based on how physically active they are. Most people eat far too many carbs, and should instead be getting their carbohydrates from plant-based sources (i.e. sweet potato, chickpeas, cabbage, carrots, etc.) rather than the highly-processed breads, pastas, and sweets that are heavily marketed at the general public. Most diets do not contain nearly enough vegetables either. My blog is all about eating more green food and I firmly believe that a little bit of nutrition education could quite literally change the world, and put an end to the obesity epidemic that is plaguing our nation!
- Health-related Challenges: Injuries, diabetes, heart conditions, hormonal issues, thyroid issues, and the list goes on. All of these health-related challenges are probably caused by poor nutrition and lack of proper exercise in the first place, but that’s just my opinion. However, they do all cause problems for their sufferers. People with PCOS and thyroid issues can find it difficult to lose weight, and a lot of the above health complications limit the amount of physical activity that is possible.
- Emotional Issues: Many of us are emotional eaters. We take emotional pleasure from food. Chocolate and candy makes us feel happy and good. They release those feel-good chemicals (i.e. dopamine) in our brain. We take comfort in comfort foods, and turn to food to fill that ’empty space’ inside of us. Whether it is loneliness, the loss of a loved one, insecurity, anxiety, or depression, some of us use junk food to make us feel better. The feeling, however, is only temporary and usually, we end up feeling worse as we enter a vicious cycle of comfort eating and weight gain. There are ways to overcome this habit, such as CBT, meditation, mindful eating, and hypnosis. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to break the cycle of emotional eating.
- Eating Disorders: Eating disorders range from anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, and some more obscure eating disorders such as food phobias and obsessive-compulsive eating behaviours. Binge-eating disorder is one of the more common disorders in the UK, and is more common in women than men. Even after overcoming an eating disorder, some individuals put on weight due to metabolic damage. Essentially, their bodies store more fat because months or years of restriction has slowed down their metabolism and put their body in starvation mode. It takes a lot of hard work to reverse this damage, so as you can imagine, the last thing these people need is to be shamed after winning a battle with an eating disorder.
If there is one message I want you to take away from this, it is this: “YOUR WEIGHT DOES NOT DEFINE YOU AS A PERSON.” Your weight, your body, your looks; they do not define you or who you have to be. You can be whoever you want to be, and it is you who is in control of your own personal pursuit of happiness. It has taken me years to realise this. Recently, after much reflecting on my past, the bullies who taunted me for my weight, and how much I have changed, I am finally realising that I spent far too long focusing on changing my looks to try and fit in, and forgot to focus on improving the real me; the “Emma on the inside” if you will. Thank goodness, I met some incredible people during my time at university and during the time I have lived in Belfast, who have helped me grow as a person. You all know who you are, and I thank you for being there for me, through the good times and the bad.
To the rest of you, join me and stand up against body shaming. Stop reading articles about what size dress Taylor Swift wore to her birthday party, or what circumference Kylie Jenner’s thigh is, or how Jennifer Lawrence put on 1kg after her last movie. Who cares?! Why are we doing this to ourselves? It certainly doesn’t make me feel good, and it shouldn’t make you feel good either. We need to put a stop to body shaming and fat shaming, and start loving each other more, so that we can truly start loving ourselves.