Has Fat-Shaming Gone Too Far?

Hi everyone,

Today, I’m going to take a break from the normal content of my blog to actually talk about something quite controversial right now – the topic of fat shaming. Now, if this isn’t your cup of tea, you’re welcome to stop reading this. My aim in writing this post isn’t to bash people with body types, lifestyles, health issues, or even opinions that differ from my own. This just happens to be one thing I actually have an opinion on, and I’d like to share it. If you don’t agree with me, that’s perfectly fine. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions, and I fully respect that.

For those of you who don’t know, the internet has been buzzing about a photo posted by Maria Kang, a mother of three, showing off what I’d say to be a pretty amazing body for any woman who had a baby 8 months earlier with the caption, “What’s your excuse?” Now I commend her for the way she looks. I don’t even have any kids, and I definitely don’t look like that. However, many people on the internet found the picture and caption insulting. This isn’t the first of this either. In fact, not too long ago, Matthew Inman of the Oatmeal was criticized for his character the Blerch when people claimed he was responsible for fat shaming after a fan dressed up as the character at a comic convention. {For anyone who doesn’t know of Inman’s comics, most are written in a very in your face and shocking way, but I don’t think fat shaming was what he was going for.}

When I saw both Kang’s photo and Inman’s Blerch, I didn’t find them shameful. I found them inspiring. Here’s a woman who lives an incredibly busy life, has had 3 kids, and still has time to take care of herself! {Really, what is my excuse?} Inman runs ultra-marathons, and he still has that evil voice in the back of his head screaming about cookies and watching Netflix. {just like me!} So are we now saying that anyone in the fitness industry is partaking in fat-shaming because they are trying to promote a healthy lifestyle? Are Karina and Katrina of Tone It Up shaming “fat” people by posting inspiring stories of TIU girls who’ve transformed their bodies each week? Is Cassey Ho of Blogilates shaming people when she advertises a shirt stating “Muffin tops are for muffins only?” Or are these just healthy, active people simply trying to inspire other people interested in improving themselves?

Now, you see, I’m small. I’m 5’1″, and I typically weigh under 115 lbs. I’m sure anyone who’s ever struggled with their weight is probably cringing. {Of course a skinny girl would be writing this…} But just as people stereotype people that don’t have an hourglass figure, they also stereotype “skinny” people. I’ve lost track of how many times people have remarked, “Wow, you mean you actually eat?” At times, even my own family members have forced me to put extra food on my plate “because I’m too small.”

I’m here to say being small does not equal being healthy. I may be a size 0, but I want to fall over and die after jogging a quarter mile, and that’s not healthy. Health isn’t always as black and white as how big or small you are, and health isn’t based on one simple number. Health is based on a combination of factors. I once had a PE teacher who ran constantly. Her classes weren’t your average B.S. gym class either. You learned things in her class, and you left sweating and sore for days. In her lessons on BMI, she told us that based on her BMI, she would be considered obese, but that was purely because most of her weight was muscle. Someone who runs at least 8 miles a day who actually truly taught P.E. was technically obese according to BMI.

I don’t think Kang and Inman were specifically targeting “fat” people. I mean, do you think that healthy people, or skinny people, don’t have excuses?  They don’t wake up and think, “Gosh, it’d be so much nicer to sleep in?” or see a piece of cake and think “That piece of cake looks amazing?” They both admitted to struggling in the past. I routinely plan to fit in morning workouts and routinely sleep instead. I might make protein pancakes for breakfast only to have a Whopper with cheese and chocolate cake for dinner. The point is, people like Kang or Inman recognize that these things working against us do exist. We simply find ways to work with our excuses and motivate us to do better rather than letting excuses consume us.

I’ll be the first to say I’m lazy when it comes to working out. I want to run a 5K someday, but sitting here writing this blog post in sweat pants seems so much nicer than going outside for a run right now. When I get home after work, watching Netflix seems way easier than putting on workout clothes and putting in a workout DVD. Living a healthy lifestyle takes work. It’s a commitment, and no it’s not always enjoyable or easy, but I keep trying because I enjoy taking care of my body.

Now I know there are a lot of people saying that society pressures people to look a certain way. I’m not going to disagree with that. I really respect companies that put weight requirements in place for models to ensure they aren’t too skinny. I work out and try to live a healthy lifestyle for ME and no one else. I like being able to see the changes in my body that pushing myself brings about. I love the feeling I get after a workout. I love how I feel when I eat better. {but I also love the occasional Snickers bar… – Everything in moderation} On the other hand, I also worry about messages we’re sending to kids about it being okay to be inactive and not eat healthy. I grew up in a house where you played outside until it was dark there and you had to eat your all vegetables before you got up from the table. Is it more important to teach kids how to live a healthy lifestyle or teach them to ignore it because it’s okay to live in front of the TV eating Cheetos every day?

What honest really prompted me to write this were the excuses other people have been giving to Kang’s photo. Now first of all, no one is saying you have to look like Kang, so I’m going to take those excuses out of the picture, and I realize some people may have legitimate excuses like disabilities, but the ones I’m seeing are not like that. I’m talking about excuses like being too self conscious to work out at a gym, not having enough money to work out, or a bad childhood. Many skinny people also dislike working at a gym. I happen to have anxiety in social situations, so I actually prefer to work at home. If you don’t have enough money, guess what? Your own body is a great piece of gym equipment. A bad childhood doesn’t mean you have to let it affect you for the rest of your life, it’s a reason to go to counseling.

I’m not sure where “fat-shaming” will go. My current feeling is that it’s already gone to far in that people are confusing inspiration and success stories with shaming. I can say I enjoy inspiring photos and silly comics like Kang’s or Inman’s. When I want to have a piece handful of candy or complain that I don’t have time to work out, it’s things like this that keep me going because I know I’m not alone and it is possible. If you’re fine with your lifestyle, by all means just don’t pay attention to these people. If you want to improve your health, realize you aren’t alone. Even the best of us struggle, and there’s entire community of people who have your back and are willing to push you back up when you have an excuse or your own Blerch is screaming at you to stop.

Signature Update