I saw a headline the other day: If I want to lose weight, does it mean I have internalized weight stigma? What they mean I imagine, is: I want to be thin, am I broken in some way? Is this yet another fucking thing I need to worry about?
What belongs to you, and what belongs to culture? We live in a weird, obsessive, toxic yet health-conscious culture. We’re constantly told we need to be thinner and there’s nothing in particular that’s wrong with believing what you’re told all the time. It can be somewhat overwhelming. It’s just that it’s pretty one-dimensional.
When you’re dealing with individuals in a health context, it’s both helpful and necessary to discuss specifics. But when you’re discussing the health of a population you need to talk in broad terms and that can be misleading. We speak broadly when we cannot speak about individuals. A discussion about public health cannot really take into account the health of individual people, but then we get turned around, and we employ generalized ideas and policies in an attempt to diagnose ourselves and other singular people. It’s all backwards. It was never meant to work like that.
Weight is not health. It may be a risk factor, but these days we use weight as a proxy for health and we exploit fear and shame in order to sell shit. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Big Pharma is evil and The Wellness Industry is benevolent. Any fucker can play on your fears in an attempt to make a buck. Weight may be a risk factor, but it gets blown way outta proportion too easily these days.
The thing that sticks in my head is this: it doesn’t seem natural to me to worry about your weight, yet we all seem to do it. When did it become normal to think there’s something wrong with your body? When did that become the default position for modern humans?
Nobody is born fatphobic, nobody is born hating their body. We learn it. Over time, we become both educated, and also fearful. We learn to fear illness and we learn to take responsibility, and it’s not irrational to be fearful of risk factors and to want to mitigate for them or to eliminate them.
It’s just that shit is outta hand. Eating disorders kill people. The quest for thinness wastes so much effort and time, and it creates anxiety and prejudice. It’s not about health anymore, and it hasn’t been for some time. If it was about health it wouldn’t be so exploitative, it wouldn’t be about giving you an anxiety attack every time you look in the mirror. Shame is not good for your health.
As a civilized, generally affluent society (relative to human history anyway), we don’t need to worry about starvation in the way that it plagued our species in generations past. The industrialized food industry is not without issues, but because of it, far fewer people die of starvation than ever before, and that’s pretty awesome. And modern medicine is pretty cool too, we don’t need to worry about tuberculosis so much anymore. Certain threats to our lives aren’t really on the radar, not like they used to be.
But sickness and death are scary as shit, it’s just that there’s different shit on the radar now. People will exploit your fear of death to sell you diet and training programs. Nobody literally thinks it’ll make you immortal, but I see far too many “live to 100” promises these days, that are based on nothing. You can’t say that, you can’t guarantee it, but y’know, superfoods and shit. Immortality. It’s a comforting thought, and we sure know how to push it, how to buy it, and how to indulge in fantasy. But you don’t have to drink the kool aid. Death is inevitable, but you don’t need to waste too much of your life shopping for the best snake oil.
The Catholics believe in Original Sin. Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden, and cursed with self-knowledge. You are mortal, and you know it. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see it. We are all imperfect, flawed, doomed to die. On the other hand, the Buddhists believe that the spark of divinity exists within us all, we are merely confused, distracted, cluttered. But we can discover that divinity through training and perseverance.
For my money, either you’re perfect the way you are, or perfection is a lie. Pic whichever ideology suits you best; it matters little, because in the end it’s all the same, we’re all in the same boat. As you are, you are either perfect or flawed, and we are all equal in this regard.
Anyway, if in doubt remember that a bullshit societal prejudice is different from a health trend, and trends tend not to hit the mark anyway. You’re an individual, not a generalized sample of a contrived society.