Warning: Dear Reader, if you’re all about political rectitude, you probably won’t like this post, in which I will make every effort to convince you that embracing your overweight body with love and acceptance—as body image activists recommend—is, in fact, antithetical to long-term health and well-being. Read on to learn how to learn how to love your body the healthy way.
Use prejudice on your behalf
Discrimination based on one’s size may seem unfair, but let’s face it—distaste for overweight and obesity are universal, so instead of fighting it, why not use it in your favor? The embarrassment wrought by your perception of what the world thinks of you can be harnessed as yet another motivator (alongside disease resistance, for instance) prompting you along the path of nutrient richness and life-long trimness.
Maintaining a thin figure and eating high on the nutrient-richness scale have both been shown to help maximize longevity and health potential. Will all overweight women get cancer, diabetes, or heart disease? No, but most of them will. Extra body fat isn’t just an unsightly, socially unacceptable inert blob inciting chub rub on thunder thighs or fleshing out the ubiquitous muffin top. In fact, excess fat produces excess hormones which contribute to increased disease risk. Excess body fat also causes insulin resistance, eventually leading to type II diabetes. And contrary to pink ribbon propaganda, periodic mammograms do nothing to prevent breast cancer —maintaining a lean body weight (by dint of a diet based on fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and exercise) is the best way to thwart this all-too-common killer of women.
Why learning how to love your body can be dangerous
Dissatisfaction motivates change. In fact, frustration, unhappiness, hitting bottom—some form of discomfort is necessary to actuate a person’s desire to modify his behavior. Discontent with one’s body shape is a primary motivator for people to lose weight. Replace body displeasure with an enhanced body image, and you remove one of the main drivers for healthful self-transformation.
Health is not enough of a motivator (unfortunately)
It would be nice if one’s physical condition alone were enough of a stimulus to promote healthful eating and exercise. Alas, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution didn’t wire us to concern ourselves with the far flung consequences of today’s behavior. Instead, we are programmed to respond to instantaneous threats—like crushing pain in one’s chest—and my childhood go-to meal of cheeseburger-large-fry-small-coke has no such immediate consequence attached to it.
A brief jeremiad
I’m confused about this movement towards overweight body acceptance. After all, we don’t encourage smokers to feel good about their blackening lungs. Instead, we offer them resources to help change behaviors which, in turn, will lead to healthful changes in their bodies. Should an overweight child experiencing insulin resistance be encouraged to love the very fat on their bodies that is setting the stage for a shortened lifetime of disease, blindness, amputations? Or should we teach them healthy lifestyle habits—not because they’re fat but because they’re killing themselves?
Please note that I am NOT advocating some deranged form of body hate whereby the bathroom mirror becomes an unwitting accomplice to your self-castigation. That’s probably not helpful, either. I suggest simply that you use the psychological discomfort arising from unrealized aesthetic preferences—along with the pressure to conform to society’s trim ideal—as a motivator on your path to health. Transmogrifying that dissatisfaction into body love will provide relief but stall—or halt irrevocably—your progress along the nutrient-rich path.
You cannot be both content with your body and motivated to lose weight. Instead of putting your efforts into learning how to love your body, use your (and humanity’s) inborn distaste for excess body fat to help inspire you to move towards the safest way to enhance your body image—by living a salubrious lifestyle (eating lots of unrefined plants, moving your body frequently throughout the day, meditation/mindfulness, good sleep, relationships) and maintaining a lean weight.
Check out Caroline’s 4-part compulsive eating program here.