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Understanding the role of body positivity in obesity

A few weeks ago I saw a video of Kanye West commenting on the body positivity movement, and how he views it as strategic genocide (of black people especially) because having an overweight body / obesity is unhealthy. To paraphrase, He went on to give an example about Lizzo, that when she loses weight, bots (social media telemarketers) comment and discourage her weight loss, even though it’s useful and helpful, and thereafter support her with self love affirmations to create a cushion for the reaction that discourages her to lose weight.

I welcome this view, however, I need to bring balance and personal experience to this comment especially for those that struggle with why body positivity is necessary.

Obesity is a disease. It’s a complex, layered issue of organ functions, hormones, stress, the life situation of the individual, a mental battle, and often lastly about food consumption and use, however the abuse of food can be symptoms of obesity. It’s layers of problems I haven’t even mentioned all of and cited by a specialist endocrinologist of 30 years practice as one of the most difficult fields of study in medicine full of “mine fields”. Because of this, It requires medical intervention and management, *like any other disease* it has different depths, stages and severities of it. It differs to which quality of life is impacted. “Oh come on just lose weight!” “Oh my goodness that is disgusting how does someone get that big!” is an indication of ignorance and prejudice: Pre-judging a condition without knowing the facts, and making it less acceptable and lovable in the process. For example: someone is likely to have more compassion for someone that has Anorexia Nervosa more than they would a person from my 600 pound life. Thinking like this prevents the truthful messaging and treatment of each. These conditions are all under the same criteria: Disease, co-created by a host of factors, including things out of our control and knowledge; along side choice we make as far as we can see.

Body positivity is also about living with a disease, and doing the best possible to live a full life, whilst managing that disease as best as possible, up to what their financial resources can sustain and accessibility to health infrastructure, education and resources. Some even “abandon” direct management of the disease in favour of just focusing on the positive, which actually has evidence of over all successful wellbeing. A person with obesity does not constitute a person that is less loveable, doesn’t deserve to be successful, isn’t allowed to have standards or have the man or woman of their dreams. Furthermore, having an overweight body is not an automatic death sentence or the pits of existence. In fact, there are so many people who have achieved their wildest dreams, reaching the peak of their potential whilst living with disability and disease. In fact the disability and diseases were their unique elixir to the life situation that suddenly expanded possibility for others. This is also why representation matters! We need to move beyond limiting beliefs and expand the possibilities of life itself. Why does one have to lose weight or have a big body to be the entire definition of successful? Can you consider that definitions of success vary and that it can come in a package different from your own construct? The reverse applies, a thin body doesn’t automatically equal a health body either, nor does it automatically equal success. There is so much more to the body, and there is so much more to success.

The practise of inclusion started in my mid twenties, fast-tracking me closer to wholeness and wellness that I tried to achieve through fad-diet culture, which is innately depleting and void of true progress, failing to produce the empty promise of effort equalising to being good enough. 18 years is a long time to be working with a tool that isn’t even working! This is why it makes you sick and tired. Inclusion looks like restaurants having armless chairs for bigger people, why infrastructure needs to consider bigger bodies by design, why fashion brands need to just call it a size. The “plus size” label is well meaning, however unnecessary. It’s either a size 7 or 59. Done. It’s either 29cm or 500cm. This is reality, and the power of reality is in the facts, which again gets someone into a higher order of thinking instead of being attached to a label (opinion) and trying to make it fashionable. If you keep making ugly clothes for people, it reflects the worth assigned to them, and that’s the level they will stay at and they will stop buying clothes completely and this is the real reason why “plus size” fashion brand longevity is challenged. It’s a nasty cycle of self-loathing. If the clothes are made beautiful, you offer an outlet for the person to get closer to appreciating their body. This includes instances when the towels and gowns at the spa don’t fit around the waist! We are all here, we all exist and we are all doing our best to lead full lives. If an establishment doesn’t offer this care, make them aware, you are paying for it. And if they don’t hear, stop going where you are not seen. I promise, a healthier life is not chiseled through exclusion, shame and tease, it’s made through acceptance and ownership now. By natural law of self-acceptance, the demand for better for and from the self rises.

There will be bigger bodies and people struggling with self-love for a long time to come, even more so because of the prejudice placed on this disease. This includes some suffering with this disease don’t even know that it’s something that is beyond will power, eating clean and exercise. The condition is most likely not going to go away tomorrow. Even after you go for a gastric bypass surgery, you will wake up and still be in that big body. Even if you’re using different tools for healing and health, you still need to love and include your body today as it is.

This is not to build a hierarchy of diseases, or create a battle of the causes. We all have problems. Remember that each person on the planet has a journey unlike any other. Remember that having a disease doesn’t define you, it’s something you have, not something you are. Shame is often half of the weight carried and the expulsion of shame will significantly minimise the dis-ease you’re in with life and shift your mindset in remarkable ways.

Diagnosis is powerful because it directs the treatment of the condition and a course of action. A problem well defined, is a problem half solved.

If you have been diagnosed with a disease, please cancel the ownership and tendency to make yourself synonymous with it. “I am depressed or “I am obese”, “I am overweight” is grammatically and factually incorrect. Start with “I HAVE depression” “I have obesity”. Then suddenly having it, expands the possibility of not to have it one day. Then suddenly you will realise that it’s possible for it not to have you. Then suddenly you may wake up and finally be free, healing, loving and making lemonade. The words that come after “I am” make an agreement. Make a true statement about yourself and life that will empower you.

Your body is not in the way, it is the way. How else are you going to live without it? Celebrate it in every way you can, and expand that to the best of your ability - only you can decide that.

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