Isn’t it time to address body size diversity?!
Diversity and inclusion have been identified as fundamental pillars for the 21st century as the world becomes increasingly interconnected. Diversity recognizes the different characteristics we all have which make us so unique – race, age, religion, sexual orientation, skill sets, personality traits while inclusion ensures that everyone is valued, respected and exposed to equal opportunities. We have made incredible progress in embracing diversity and inclusion in order to ensure our communities are balanced, cohesive and healthy.
And yet. Let’s think about body weight. Hands up those of you lucky enough not to have received comments on their weight?! I am not seeing many hands! Have you ever been told that you are fat or too “chubby”, “large” or “big”? Who has memories that still linger of a family member making a clumsy observation about your shape during your teenage years? Or worse, received a comment about your size that was so cruel it took your breath away? These remarks however they are delivered, oh how they hurt. They bite, they burn, they sting and they stain.
Why is there so little diversity and acceptance when it comes to body weight?
Why is the ideal promoted, and which we see everywhere, one of slenderness? Why can’t we celebrate our wonderful bodies in all their forms for simply being the machines they are which allow us to move, breathe and live?
Body weight is not always under our control
There’s a hugely ignorant assumption that weight is all about self-control and motivation. This is despite the science clearly showing that weight control is incredibly complex. A blend of internal factors are involved, such as genetics, hormones, neurotransmitters, and satiety-signaling which, when added to other factors such as environment and circumstances (stress, financial, familial, divorce, loss…), makes weight no easier to control than the color of your skin or the shape of your eyes.
Body weight and health
Is a slim body truly a healthier one? While excess weight is linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases, so too is lack of exercise, excessive stress, a high alcohol intake, smoking, a poor-quality diet, lack of sleep and loneliness. Why don’t we address these factors? Why do we excessively focus on weight when there are so many other positive changes we can make to ensure we stay healthy? We need to stop associating “health” with weight and focus instead on simple healthy habits which are easy and achievable to put in place.
This is where we are truly are our own worse critics. We judge ourselves so very harshly. The French have a wonderful expression “bien dans sa peau”, feeling good in your skin. We all deserve to feel good about ourselves regardless of how we feel about our weight. This is much harder to do when we live in a world that promotes slimness and caters to really only one body shape.
And our response? Instead of roaring with outrage at the sheer injustice of all it, we put our lives on hold, begin punishing diets and hardcore exercise regimes. We promise ourselves that we will buy new clothes and begin “living” again once we have achieved our weight loss goals. A cycle that sets us up for failure and even more self-loathing as well as establishing a foundation for an unhealthy relationship with ourselves, our food and the scales.
Meet Charlotte Debeugny, Nutritionist in Paris. Click here to learn more about her health and wellness philosophy and practice.
Cultivating body neutrality!
So, what is the solution? I’m a fan of the body neutrality movement, which is slightly different to body positivity as it really involves detaching yourself from your body image – there’s no judgment involved. Your body is only one of the parts which make up the wonderful and unique “you,” so let me throw out some thoughts to make you smile: Do you ever worry about your personality being too “big”?! Or spend sleepless nights worrying that your brain has gained weight? Now you get the idea! Your body is simply one of many parts of the puzzle and should not be allowed to dominate your life. You do not have to love every aspect of your body, but you can accept it and appreciate all the amazing things your body allows you to do on a regular basis!
Calling out body shaming
I’ll add that we should be relentless in calling out body-shaming comments in all their forms. Making comments about size is not acceptable. Friends, families, work, social networks, even health professionals – no one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable about your body.
I had a patient, a mother of twins who both had cognitive and physical disabilities. Her husband was worried about her weight and had suggested she “lose a few kilos”. I pointed out that she actually had the body composition of a professional athlete from all the lifting and carrying of the children and that she was perfect exactly as she was. I also suggested she ask her husband to help her more (which was a politer and more professional response than some of the other things I wanted to suggest she ask her husband to do!)
Let’s celebrate body diversity!
Let’s continue to demand a diverse range of body shapes across our societies – in film, TV and across other media channels. This should be the norm, not the exception.
I’m loving some of the campaigns from Nike, Dove and Marks & Spencer, not to mention other companies who use a range of different sized models. A special shout out to Lucy and Yak whom my daughters got me into for the sheer color, exuberance and fun of their clothing (Note: Zagdig et Voltaire, Maje, Sandro and Berenice, you have some serious work to do!). And for all you budding fashionistas out there – please, please focus on designing clothing that is suitable for all shapes and sizes so that everyone can wear them and feel fabulous!