Dear Princess ‘Ishka,
Chicken wings, French fries and Coke are irresistible for some individuals, who often display a certain aversion to physical activity. But if they are happy, why bother?
Nowadays, there seem to be two very wide spread opinions on fat people: one is to consider being fat detrimental of the physical and psychological health of a person, and the other supports overweight people in loving themselves against a society of fat-shamers.
At a first glance, I don’t see why the former view should be discriminatory, or the latter crazy, nor why they should be incompatible. Indeed, under the right description, being fat can be a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle, whereas the social stigma on fat people is pervasive in (at least) western societies.
The easy way of solving this apparent opposition would be to say that being fat is ok for you insofar as you have a healthy lifestyle. Fat-shaming, on the other hand, is never ok, period. But what does count as a healthy lifestyle?
The body-positivity movement has emphasized in recent years the importance of loving your body no matter what and the total opposition to “unrealistic beauty standards”. But what does “no matter what” mean? Does it perhaps mean “independently of an active lifestyle and a healthy nutrition”?
The risk of the ideology behind the body-positivity movement is not really that having an unhealthy lifestyle becomes ok, but rather that taking care of one’s body is somehow less important than taking care of one’s own feelings. The most valuable thing in “love your body” is love, not your body.
In a society with such a heavy stigma on overweight people, what is this ideology leading to if not delusion that one is valuable independently of one’s body? I can love myself, even if I am led to hate myself for being fat. That means that I don’t really love my body, I rather love my personality or my intelligence. But what are we if not body and our understanding of it?
To love oneself truly, and without delusion or repression, one must seriously take care of one’s “materiality”. We are flesh and bones, and there is beauty in the way we cultivate the matter we are made of.
I would thence underline the strong individuality of this process in the face of social stigma or “beauty standards”. This individuality doesn’t mean “everything goes”, but it is regulated by a coherent, unified and consistent personal system of values, which poses the body at one of its focal points.
Can you be content with your body, given the attention with which you treat it? If the answer is yes according to your system, then you truly have nothing to worry about.
Essential for a body-positivity movement is then the focus on self-appreciation through self-cultivation and not on unconditioned self-love. You always need criteria to assess your own beauty, your own worth and your own essence. Without any such criteria, your judgment will remain arbitrary and unreliable, and you will be left to laziness and excessive self-indulgence. How can you trust your self-love if it is always present under the same motto and doesn’t tell you what to do to actually feel better?
I still think that the greatest health issue overweight people face is the discrimination they encounter on a daily base. That is a public battle for recognition and positivity to be fought in the media industry and in ordinary life, by means of supportive actions. But for an individual to feel better about his body, reliable plans and objectives are fundamental.
Self-confidence depends on our world view inclusive of a robust comprehension of our own bodies. If you don’t mind about what you are made of, how can you mind anything at all?