On Consideration

599328_649761945054764_604047418_n You’ve probably seen this picture floating around the internet in the past few days. Maria Kang is a former fitness competitor and has three kids. What she’s pointing out with this picture, that she made herself and posted to her Facebook page, is that she’s had three kids and still maintains a muscular and slim physique. She caught a load of flack for ‘fat shaming’, and has since issued one of those pseudo-apologies where you say sorry but then reiterate and back up what you said in the first place.

That’s not what I’m here to rant about, though. What I’m here to rant about are some of the responses I’m seeing that are falling into the same thoughtless traps of exclusion, waxing lyrical about excuses and dedication and all that motivational nonsense, appearing profound and dedicated and good while forgetting one big, big thing – for some overweight people, there are no excuses, only reasons.

 

I posted this on a friend’s G+ status recently (click here to read the original post and see what I was responding to), and it’s relevant to my point;

I’m currently overweight (or rather, over my ideal weight) and unhappy with how I look. I’m not unhappy with how I look because of what I think other people are seeing. I’m unhappy with what I’M seeing. In this instance, ‘be happy with yourself even if you’re bigger’ is not something I can personally get on board with. I’m overweight because of hormone issues that were beyond my control. I feel like I’m living in a body that is not mine. I still FEEL thin. When I close my eyes I can easily imagine that I’m still 110lb (at 5’1). When I open my eyes and see my actual size, I feel like I’ve been stuffed inside a skinsuit. I empathise, utterly and completely, with the pose this woman is in in the picture. She may not be clawing at herself or covering herself up because she thinks she’s fat or because she’s not conforming to some svelte catwalk role-model; she may be doing it because she has no control over it and knows that it’s not how she’s supposed to be. In that light, there is nothing at all wrong with this image. What’s wrong is with the way it’s interpreted.

And now read this;

http://www.salon.com/2013/10/02/my_embarrassing_picture_went_viral/

Caitlin has Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and problems with her thyroid gland. Let me pull a relevant quote from the article;

I don’t generally view my body size as positive or negative — it simply is. I eat right (most of the time) and I exercise (an inordinate amount), but it does little, thanks to a struggle with polycystic ovarian syndrome and a failing thyroid gland. I’m strong, I’m flexible and my doctor assures me my health is good, but the fact remains: I’m larger than someone my height should be.

“I eat right (most of the time) and I exercise (an inordinate amount)”

If the message of the original picture is ‘what’s your excuse for not exercising’, well, she doesn’t need one – she DOES exercise and she IS healthy.

If the message of the comments I’m seeing, like ‘if you put the hard work in and stop making excuses – you can have a great body, despite all that life throws at you‘ * is that all you need to do is work hard – well, she IS working hard (and why is ‘great body’ so important, why are you connecting ‘great body’ to ‘being healthy’ and oh I think you forgot to add ‘what I personally consider a’ before ‘great body’).

So what now? What’s YOUR excuse for sweepingly assuming that there’s a simple solution for everyone who’s overweight and that is just to ‘stop making excuses’?

I think it’s ignorance. And in keeping with my point, ignorance isn’t an excuse either. There is no excuse to not consider other people before you speak.

* – Part of an actual Facebook status deriding people taking issue with Kang’s photo and message, along with “The jealous and bitter are quick to make excuses and try pulling others down…”

  • Cesario

    Would it be difficult to just simply accept other people mild or moderate conceitedness as aspects of what makes them… them? (As in, themselves; they can’t be anyone else until they are, but they’re still themselves just changed.) Yes, people are vain; there isn’t really anything wrong with it as long as that person has a aspect of them which is modest. Usually when people examine the dichotomies of personalities, the normality of enduring traits and their definitions subjectively, we’re left with objective definitions of what is and what is not. Like, being vain AND being modest AND being… (other traits.)

    When I see that picture, I Say to my self: “Well, good for her. She worked hard and that work obviously paid off for her.” And when I hear the response: fatshaming, I hear “People shouldn’t be at all vain, in anyway, for any reason, and just accept all others regardless of who they think they are for all reasons.” Like a false-reality: trying to defeat not only the products of normal emotions, but that people shouldn’t feel emotions because they’re dangerous to feel.

    I think when I look in the mirror I see an overweight man. And so what? I’m overweight. You don’t have to associate with me. Or like me. OR whatever. I don’t exist so that you may sit and judge me; but i can’t stop you if you do. The point isn’t sitting in judgement, or that people have boundaries for themselves and their emotions; the point is if they’re achievable. When it comes to self-love, or self-pride, or self-conceit; the point is if it’s unconditional to one’s self. Yes people are narcissistic. So what? Just because someone is, doesn’t mean they’re (bad) narcissistic. (As in, consciously manipulative, toxic, abusive, etc etc.) It just means they love them selves unconditionally. And this woman obvious does. And those that are overweight might do, too.

  • Carla B

    Loved your article 🙂

  • Pstonie

    Lack of self control could probably be defined as a psychiatric condition, so really it’s all good.

    In fact, fat people could probably already make a case for affirmative action benefits.

  • Thanks so much, Del, for writing this post and collecting these links and quotes to share in it. I have PCOS, thyroid issues, AND narcolepsy — three conditions that all contribute to weight gain and make it difficult for a person to lose weight. It is so frustrating to hear people remark about how all you need is exercise (or whatever) to have a “great body” and that there’s no excuse. It makes me feel pretty invisible when people scoff at the notion that a disease or health condition (beyond the person’s control) can contribute to their weight and body shape/size. Like it’s just an excuse — because, you know, we’re all looking for excuses so we can feel gross and look ugly to ourselves and other people, right? Sigh!

    • Yeah. Makes you wish you could snap your fingers and force someone to walk in your shoes for a while.

  • What actually puts me off this image is that it repeats the old misconceptions about what influences body shape. Exercise actually has very little with losing weight, even in people with no other health conditions.