TRIGGER WARNING: Body Talk. Food Consumption
I saw this video on Facebook last week and it made me think many thoughts. I couldn’t watch it all the entire clip, intact, I think I got one minute into it, before I walked away because I found the argument so appalling. But at the time, I didn’t react to it, as Nicole Arbour is entitled to her view, and she is entitled to explain her view via social media. I also dismissed the video, because I like to think that what we see on Facebook and other digital platforms do not control my life. I clearly love a good selfie, but there are more important things in life than what someone posts on their social media.
But then, I saw this article, and, truth be told, I had some niggling thoughts and feelings about what Ms. Arbour was saying.
In my experience with food, exercise and weight control, there is no single path, cure or pill that will immediately change your body or your headspace regarding weight management. I have been many different sizes, from 10-16 (maybe even 18), and even at my skinniest, smallest, lowest weight, I thought I needed to drop a dress size, tone up and be smaller. I cannot think of a time since adolescence where my diet of my body didn’t enter my mind at some point during the day. And I don’t think I am different from too many other people with these thoughts and feeling. How did it start, and why did I, at 13 take a day off from eating, because I thought I was too fat, or only eat rice crackers, or binge and engage in many different unhealthy diet patterns? I have a distinct memory of reading Dolly/Girlfriend and looking at the models, with their thigh-gaps and flat hips. In my mind, I knew the girls in my magazine were photoshopped and therefore, unrealistic, but it didn’t stop me from obsessing about my weight, and weighing myself daily, to see if I had lost anything. And now, despite all the knowledge we have about photoshop, it is still just as challenging to walk through our daily lives without seeing those images of unrealistic perfection.
So back to that YouTube clip: fat people are unhealthy, and therefore bad, and need to be stopped. SIGH! This makes me so disappointed, on so many, MANY levels. 1) Skinny people can be unhealthy 2) Fat people can be healthy 3) STOP MAKING THIS ARGUMENT INTO A SKINNY/FAT DICHOTOMY! I’m not going to comment on Ms. Arbour’s appearance, because that is rude, her exterior doesn’t dictate her academic capacity and I don’t know her background. But what I will say, is I’m a bit over skinny people telling fat people how to live their lives, and as for denying the concept of fat-shaming. Lady, you’re doing it. The whole video, which I have to say, I don’t find humorous or intelligent, shames people who are outside the socially accepted size range. I’m never going to say it’s acceptable to be unhealthy choices but it’s not my place, nor Ms. Arbour’s place to judge what is acceptable for someone else’s body. #BODYPOSITIVE.
And as of blaming the #bodypositive movement, oh golly gosh, do I have plenty to say about this. When we are bombarded with images of white, able-bodied, slender people, (usually women, and usually sexualised), and those images are replicated and reproduced within our cultural expectations, its pretty darn hard to fight the hegemony. So as I fill my mouth, one-by-one with choice malt balls, I wish to remind people that weight management, is more than a mathematic equation. Yes, we need to be mindful of the types of food we consume, and how much activity we engage in, but this doesn’t take into account the external pressures of the day-to-day grind. It doesn’t account for the ways in which food is marketed to us (How many Maccas do you have in your local neighbourhood compared to fruit and veg shops?), it doesn’t account for the internalising process of watching a sea of perfect images, and it doesn’t account the relationship we have with food, exercise and our bodies. All of which are personal and shape the way we approach life. When a fat person speaks up, dares to take up space and be unashamed in their body positivity it can only be a positive thing. From my experience of being all sizes, I know you are never going to be able to sustain and maintain a healthy weight range when you work from a position of fear, shame and negativity. Ms. Arbour’s stance on #bodypositive is rude, demeaning and seeks to further oppress the already marginalised by reinforcing the dominant cultural expectations. Love your body at every size, live your life for today, and not when you fit into that dress or those pants.