Many of you reading this right now probably have an Instagram.
I want you to open up your news feed right now and give it solid scroll for maybe a minute or two and find a picture of some pretty girl or handsome dude with a decent amount of followers.
Open up the comments section.
What is one of the most common comments you usually see?
“Can I be you”.
Or another one could possibly be, “GOALS”.
I’m sure you could probably think of a few more to add to this list.
You may be thinking of the direction I’m about to take this article; one that bashes these people for commenting these on a regular basis.
You are both right and wrong.
You are right because I do think comments like these are ridiculous and can be pretty annoying after seeing them on every person’s IG posts. I believe every single person in the world should be their absolute biggest fan and not wish to be anyone but themselves.
You are wrong because I’m empathetic to the fact that MOST of these comments are not really all that serious and are usually just a simple compliment amongst friends on social media. It’s likely not backed by real truth of this person commenting to literally want to be someone else.
Or is it?
I am not in the position to realistically answer this question, but it is definitely something I want you to think about if you are one of these people constantly looking through your news feed wishing you could be someone else.
My main issue with these comments are not the comments themselves, but the underlying principle behind them.
Comparing yourself to others.
Before you think this is going to be some long-winded explanation or plea for you to “love yourself” and “love the body you’re in” and “don’t let anyone else define you, but you”, please keep reading.
It is not going to be a self-love and flowery blog post because I don’t agree with many of those posts. Many (not all) of those posts are unoriginal, short-term, motivational “band-aids” that don’t fix the root of the problem.
I do believe people should love themselves, as I just stated about being your own biggest fan, but I also think people should be fucking realistic.
What do I mean?
As a coach in the fitness industry and as a human being living in a generation where obesity is at an all-time high, I think people who spread these flowery messages can actually be hurting the mindsets of those who are obese, overweight, underweight, etc.
I think this exaggerated idea of body positivity can be harmful to those who hear these messages of “love your body no matter what shape or size” because there are people who are clinically at risk for many diseases and/or nutritional deficiencies later on down the road due to their excess body fat or extreme lack of body fat.
Think of it like this:
How much outrage would be elicited if these same people who preached about “loving yourself no matter what” switched their focus to saying these same things about people who smoke cigarettes?
“Your lung disease doesn’t define who YOU are!”
Do you see how this can be a very dangerous idea to spread to people who are ignorant about the potential health risks of being overweight and obese?
I am not trying to make light of these serious issues like obesity, smoking, and body image but instead trying to make you open your mind to some of these messages we, as a society, can be spreading amongst people who are trying to get healthier.
Empowerment, self-confidence, and respecting all people are characteristics that I am very passionate about spreading and instilling into others, but I think it is important to make sure the methods of doing so are backed with responsibility to the true issues at the forefront.
There are many movements, campaigns, and communities that spread body positivity by loving your body through eating healthier and exercising more, which I think is really awesome. The ones that aren’t so awesome are the ones that encourage ignoring excessive weight gain/loss and not worrying about how overweight/underweight you are.
This is not empowering others to love themselves, this is delusion to serious health risks involved.
The great thing about science is that it is true whether you believe in it or not.
When your triglyceride, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels are all outside of their normal ranges, no amount of belief will cause you to become healthier.
Taking progressive steps towards a healthier lifestyle, will.
To give some anecdotal evidence to this claim of how body positivity can be dangerous, I’ve got a story about my medical nutrition therapy professor who had his mother come in and talk to our class about her gastric bypass procedure (common surgery for those who are highly overweight/obese to help aid weight loss).
As his mother was growing up, she said she never really noticed how much weight she was gaining. Many of her other family members were also overweight and so it was likely common for her to be exposed to similar unhealthy eating habits and weight gain amongst the people she spent the most time with. When everyone around you is overweight, it is very easy to dismiss the amount of weight you may be slowly gaining year after year.
After she explained much of this with us and started to get into the part about where she was discussing with the doctor about getting the weight loss surgery, I raised my hand to ask her a question.
Being super interesting behind behavioral psychology, I asked her what the “tipping point ‘thing’” was for her that caused her to actually make the change and to finally get the weight loss surgery. What was that “push” she needed in order to cause her to start progressing towards a healthy lifestyle?
She told me that was a really good question and she had to actually take a moment to step back and think hard about it.
After a little more time, she looked up and said it was when her loved ones told her she was fat.
She had her epiphany moment and the truth deeply set in for her to actively pursue a lifestyle change because if she didn’t, she wasn’t going to be around as long as she wanted.
This was NOT the answer I was expecting at all.
It hit me like a ton of bricks.
She didn’t need a motivational quote, some fancy diet or exercise regimen, or someone telling her to just “love her body”.
She needed honesty.
The brutal truth was that she was at an unhealthy weight and if she didn’t do something about it, she was not guaranteed to reach a very old age.
Isn’t this, or at least some extent of this, what we all somewhat need in order to make a positive change to our lives?
We need someone or something to make us truly “wake up” and stop bullshitting ourselves.
By no means am I saying we should go around telling people they are fat in hopes of them realizing they are fat and then expecting them to make a change. Not at all. I don’t think fat shaming is ever a good idea and I think every situation deserves individual context and personalized interventions.
But what I am saying is that if you truly love yourself, you will be super honest with yourself.
You will get angry, possibly accompanied by sadness, when that honesty really sets in because you’re upset with yourself and your past actions that have brought forth reality.
When that pain and anger of remaining the same outweighs the pain of making a change, only then will you truly want to do something about it.
After reading through this, many of you may be thinking “I can still love my body while also trying to make a positive improvement for a healthier lifestyle”.
I completely understand where this argument comes from but, again, to me, it is both right and wrong.
I think it is right because you can accept your current circumstances and value yourself enough to have a positive mindset in order to make a change for the better. This is the whole “pleased, but not satisfied” mentality, which I can admit to having as well.
However, I think the argument is wrong because you can’t accept and love something while ALSO actively be working to improve it. Improving something, by definition, means you are making something better than what it was before. If you truly loved it, you would have no incentive to change anything (shoutout to Alex Kovaleski, @wheytoostrong, for this point, and Aadam Ali, @physiqonomics, for sparking my interest to make this article).
I know this can kinda be dealing with the minutia of word play or however you want to actually frame it, but I figured it’d be helpful to really break things down to possibly give you a better understanding of what I’m trying to convey.
With all that being said, I want to take a major step back as I end this article.
Who am I?
Who am I to judge anyone who finds the flowery, motivational, and cliche sayings helpful?
If you follow people who are a little “extra” and over-the-top with all of their posts, and you like them and find them helpful, please continue to do so.
Body image is a very complex issue (this article could have been 5,000 - 10,000 words) and me, being someone who has never struggled with being overweight, has very little merit to say what is right or wrong.
I will not pretend that I understand these struggles that many of you reading may currently be facing.
I care about people who care about other people and genuinely want to make them healthier, happier, etc.
I care about you being able to come to my page to find credible, possibly entertaining, and valuable information that can help you along your journey.
I don’t care about being right or wrong, I just want us, as a community, to spread awareness to the repercussions of not caring about your body.
My hopes are that this article helps clear that up, even just a little.
If you have any issue or reason for discussion for something I have written, I’d love to hear about it in the comments, email, text, whatever, so that I can possibly see it from your point-of-view and get that much closer to what is actually the most important:
*If you’ve read this far, thank you, and I would love for you to do me a huge favor and share this with just one person who may need to read this. It would mean the world to me. :)*
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