COLUMN:Body positivity stops at obesity

By Marielle Decena, Opinions Editor

By Marielle Decena, Opinions Editor

Today we have grown familiar with companies like Aerie, ASOS, Forever 21, and H&M, who proudly shine their light on models of various shapes and sizes, encouraging young women to start their journey towards embracing their natural bodies and practicing self-love.

Without a doubt, the body positivity movement has had a sweeping effect on the body images of many young women in western cultures.  For the most part, destigmatizing imperfection has ultimately proved positive, however, it has also given room for the glamorization of of a modern western epidemic:

Obesity.

Too often, those who’ve addressed this problem are more than likely to be confronted with backlash and are deemed as “callous,” “insulting,” or “judgemental.” 

This needs to stop.

As an exercise science major, I’m going to have to burst some bubbles. The whole notion of “body positivity” has more so become a scapegoat for poor life decisions and an abhorrence for criticism. 

Being a woman within western culture, I myself have grown tired of the pressure to conform to this set of unattainable body standards. I can look into the mirror and  list a slew of “imperfections” that riddle my body. My legs, short and muscular, are unlike the long and slender legs that walk the victoria’s secret fashion show. My stubborn belly pudge is a stark example of the chiseled abs of nearly every fitness instagrammer I can think of. And my arms, a tad bit fuller than that of movie stars that strut the red carpet. 

Like others, the journey towards self acceptance will inevitably come with a set of struggles. We’ve all undertaken the misguided path of excessive exercising and poor diets and in the end, we’ve learned that achieving aesthetically pleasing bodies is not the solution to self-love.

Still, the true state of self-love involves self care. We can’t simply spread this message if we place so much weight on campaigns such as “#effyourbeautystandards” whose members outwardly bash the whole notion of health. 

The world’s first plus sized model and founder of “#effyourbeautystandards, Tessa Holliday stated, “If you want someone to preach health over self-love, I’m not your girl.”

Yes, it is important to see the beauty in every woman’s body but in order to take full stride in empowering women, we shouldn’t be so fixated on what others deem as physically attractive. The words “thick” and “curvy,” in my perspective, do not resonate any sort of valuable measure of one’s worth. In the end, these are mere exploitive descriptions of what is sexually pleasing to the eye. 

We should have the responsibility to be active, to have well-rounded diets, and to view our bodies as temples while refraining from viewing these efforts as some sort of pressure to appease the expectations of others. 

Obesity is characterized by a set of detrimental physical states that can prove life-threatening and the last thing we should do is to categorize this condition as “natural” and point a middle finger at health advocates who address this. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 36 percent of adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with obesity. It is a condition which has led to the prevalence of preventative diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, some of the leading causes of death in our country. 

Coming from a family that has had a history of health issues resulting from obesity, I can acknowledge that obesity does not merely result from the overconsumption of food. Others live in areas that don’t have the best access to healthy food, preventative health care, and the necessary nutritional education.

In some cases,  obesity is correlated to depression, anxiety, and a multitude of psychological problems. Still, our role as loved ones is not to allow obese individuals to believe that their physical states are something to be proud of and to ignore the seriousness of their condition 

Taking pride in sedentary lifestyles and eating whatever we please spreads the wrong message. 

Body positivity includes a plethora of things that go beyond the mere physical appearance of an individual. It also involves a myriad of healthy life choices that allow us to become our best selves.

True female empowerment should derive from our efforts to be healthy, yet our current motives for body acceptance are too fixated on the notion of aesthetic beauty. In light of this, it is perhaps more important to set aside our fear of diving into touchy subjects and to look our loved ones in the eye and tell them that they need to better their life choices.