Body Shaming

Today I was reading an article that featured some amazing photographs of plus sized men and women dancing and performing. The pieces were amazing and powerful.

The comments, however, were not.

Reading along, I wanted nothing more than to rage out at these people, so full of themselves and their own preconceived notions of health and beauty.

“Stop glorifying obesity,” they would say, “No one should be this fat.”

“Who the fuck are you to tell me how fat I can be? Are you a doctor? Are you MY doctor?” I want to shout at them.

But when I stop to think, I realize yelling and cursing out strangers on the internet won’t change a thing. So I turn to my blog, where I can take a moment to process things and type out my thoughts. Maybe someone will read my blog one day and it will inspire them? Or maybe not. But at least my thoughts are out there in the Universe.

It’s an interesting thing to say, “Stop glorifying obesity,” isn’t it? What does that mean, exactly? “Glorifying obesity.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen an article encouraging women and men to pack on the pounds, to eat cheap food and pizza, and pastries, and to avoid vegetables and fruits at all costs. I’m sure if I delve into the deep recesses of the internet where those with fetishes go to find like minded individuals I could find some such articles and advice columns, but that isn’t what is being discussed here.

People seem to think that whenever an individual shares photos of them being happy, embracing their bodies, enjoying their lives, having fun – that they are “glorifying” a terrible lifestyle. I’m here to tell you, no they aren’t. My family photos, my beach photos, my vacation photos, my fashion photos – are simply that, photos of my life.

What would the opposite of glorifying be? Should I be ashamed of myself? Should I hide from the camera, like so many actually do? Should I shrink away from opportunities to express myself through art and photography because of my size? Remember Edna Turnblad from Hairspray? That’s what she did. She hid in her apartment for years, and she rationalized it away, claiming she’d come out after “her next diet.”

Hardly anyone is going to come out and say it, but that’s exactly what they mean. That’s the message behind it all.

As a child, I was constantly aware of my weight and how I was above “average” on the weight chart and that something needed to be done about it. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood and actually became overweight that I realized how healthy and thin I was back then.

Thinking back to my childhood though, does seem to shine some light on this differing point of view. I think comments like these come from a place of deep seated insecurity. When those people look at photographs of those who are different – be it because of size, or health, or physical ailments – what they are really thinking is, “I don’t think I’d ever show my face in public again if I looked like that.”

The reality is, even the fittest and healthiest, and sometimes most beautiful, among us, are scared to show their faces and their bodies to the world. How many times has someone paid a compliment to you, and you brushed it off as them, “just being nice.”? This isn’t something that is exclusive to those who are plus sized. It’s something that affects all us all.

Maybe you truly aren’t comfortable wearing a 2 piece swim suit, that’s ok. No one said you had to. But does that mean that others who choose to wear them shouldn’t be allowed? No.

No one should have to wait to begin enjoying their life. No one needs permission to exist or to be happy. So please friends, before it’s too late and before you filled with a lifetime of regrets, get out there and do the things you enjoy and that you have always wanted to try. Wear the clothes that make you feel fabulous. Flirt with people whom you find attractive. Dance until your heart if full.

And take plenty of pictures. Please take plenty of pictures!
-Sam