Perhaps a sensitive subject, society has become more and more accepting of those who are overweight. We are not talking a couple pounds here and there, we are talking clinically obese. Most of this acceptance is under the ethos of supporting people, encouraging self-confidence, anti-bullying etc. These are all ideas we can get behind. However, there does come a point when the pandering becomes plain dangerous as it could be encouraging extremely unhealthy lifestyles. Let’s look at some points that we feel should be addressed on this topic.
- There is a difference between overweight and unhealthy. If you hang out with physically active people enough, you know they come in all shapes and sizes. There are the guys that show up once a month to play basketball and spend the rest of their time drinking beer yet always have at least a 4 pack of abs. There are those who run 50 miles per week but look like they spend most of their time at McDonald’s. Physical appearance does not always correlate to health. It can be a VERY good indicator but, just because someone is overweight does not mean they are in poor health. Now, if someone is 100lbs overweight, there is a high likelihood that person is also not in good health unless it is a rare occasional when that person is a professional powerlifter or offensive lineman. But the key point here is, appearance does not always equate to health.
- Confidence should not only originate from appearance. Much of the focus on applauding people for being proud of their bodies regardless of their physical condition is based on the idea of self confidence. Again, this is somewhat of a dangerous idea. This is still correlating one’s self-worth and their physical appearance. Instead, we should all be confident about our qualities and abilities, not just how we look. The message would be better served applauding people for charitable or contributing to society. Not for being 75lbs overweight and in a bikini. It seems counterproductive for this self confidence movement to directly link appearance and worth so closely.
- It is not “cool” or attractive to be unhealthy. Does it get any simpler of an idea than this? It makes no difference how big your smile is or how bright your bathing suit is. If you are unhealthy, that is unattractive. On the contrary, you can have washboard abs and an amazing physique but if your insides are rotting out, it’s also very uncool. What should be applauded and marketed as attractive are the people who take care of themselves. The people who consume whole foods, who monitor their health, who have a dedicated and consistent exercise routine and, who are of course good people. It is not cool to be on a magazine with your gut hanging out discussing self-confidence while you are diabetic, unable to walk a mile and lack the flexibility to touch your toes. Where is the focus on improvement? Sure, there may be other qualities that make that person attractive but the focus is on their confidence DESPITE their unhealthy choices.
- We are sending the wrong message to the youth. Look, bullying is the antithesis to everything we are about. Making fun of someone because they are overweight, particularly in the formative years, is despicable. We would never condone that. However, telling a child or teen that is making poor life choices that it’s all OK and they are perfect as they are is also disgusting. Would you tell a 16 year old kid smoking meth that they need not change and to ignore the “haters?” Then why is it OK to tell an adolescent who is literally eating themselves to death that its ok? Remember point 2 above, self-confidence should not come just from physical appearance. This kid should have confidence and should face the world head on with an air of strength but the kid should also be healthy. The kid should also want to live a long and fruitful life void of serious health issues. There has to be a balance. People, particularly kids, should not be mocked for their weight but their loved ones should be honest about the real life consequences of their lifestyle with the same intensity they make it known that confidence should not depend on your waist circumference.
- We need to change the way we think. The points above summarize our main thoughts on this subject but society as a whole needs to change. We put so much emphasis on the exterior that we never address the most important aspects of our physical and mental well-being which is on the inside. While there are of course external indications someone is unwell, there is often not as well. Plenty of people with abs have been diagnosed with illnesses that may have been preventable. Plenty of people with a bit of a gut have finished Ironman races. Plenty of both have taken their own lives. The image of well vs unwell has been ever evolving but at some point, we need to pivot and realize the defnition of health and wellness is certainly never skin deep.