I won big.
Somehow, not because of anything I did, I was born a skinny white girl.
I hit the genetic jackpot!
I feel a little reluctant to say this. Directly after I wrote the opening sentence my instinct was to then follow it with a list of my physical features that are “inadequate.”
I would also like to say and believe I am skinny because I eat all the right things and do all the right workouts, but in my heart, I know that is total bull.
I was born into a family of a bunch of skinny people and that’s just how my body is. It’s hard to admit you have something really good for no good reason at all.
But the truth is I benefit everyday from a system that affirms and supports me.
Let’s call this “War on Obesity” what it actually is: straight up discrimination. The entire country is teaming up to make it okay to judge and shame the size of people’s bodies in the name of health. Even though racism, ageism, and sexism is very much alive most of us at least know to somewhat hide those judgements or not say certain things out loud.
This is not true when it comes to the discrimination against fat people.
It is still totally acceptable to make comments about what someone is eating or buying or how someone should exercise or cut out carbs. We see big bodies and we are welcome to say what we want. Everywhere we look the message is skinny is okay, fat is not, even on news programs and in doctor offices.
The problem is that all this concern is based on misinformation.
Even those who have the best intentions, like wanting loved ones to be healthy, make matters worse by choosing to chime in about another person’s body.
Did you know that there are almost no studies which can prove that losing weight prolongs life? (1)
Or that being overweight actually protects you from more diseases than it puts you at risk for? (2)
Of course you don’t! No one wants you know that a fat person can be just as healthy as a skinny one. If you believed that were true, what could they sell you so that you could unsuccessfully lose weight?
It becomes clearer to me every day that almost everyone feels shitty about their bodies, and that we waste tons of time, money and energy trying to fix something that isn’t broken.
I want to be a part of the solution and to help shift the paradigm around body image. I want my children to grow up in a world where they are seen, heard, and valued because of their actions, their spirit and their gifts instead of whether or not they fit into a certain size or predetermined standard of worthiness or beauty.
As a skinny white girl, I know that I need to be an ally to those who do not benefit from privileges I am afforded because of my size, and try to constantly work toward a deeper understanding of this privilege.
I do my best to try to be a part of the change, not the problem.
Do you want to join the Body Love revolution?
Any sustainable movement requires an honest look not just at the problem, but at themselves. Ask yourself,
“In what ways do I participate in perpetuating a message I do not want to support?”
The answer could lie in the magazines you purchase, or how often you choose to compliment someone just based on looks, or the self-critique you engage in when you look in the mirror.
The more honest and open you are as you recognize the ways in which you are not currently living in alignment with the change you want to see, the more you have the capacity to bring consciousness into what you do and say, thus creating a more powerful, sustainable shift.
So here it is: my proclamation of some of the ways I benefit from an unfair system because I am skinny. And—to be clear—there is nothing wrong with being skinny!
It turns out we all just have the body we are born with, and my hope is that someday, because of the work we are doing personally and socially, all of our bodies will be seen for what they really are: a container that houses our soul, that allows us to move, breathe, feel and experience. What a gift our bodies are!
Because I am skinny I get to:
- Eat ice cream and nachos in public without fear of shame or unwelcome comments or opinions.
- Go to the doctor without fear of lectures or body shaming.
- Buy one airline ticket.
- Feel comfortable going to a yoga class.
- See others who look like me represented daily on TV and in magazines and advertising.
- Shop in stores and be certain they will have a size that fits me.
- Be considered for a raise or promotion first.
- Enjoy the assumption that I am healthy.
- Avoid being the target of body jokes. (or maybe not always)
I am sure there are many more privileges I am completely unaware of.
Just like any other humanitarian issue, when it comes to fat discrimination, we have a long way to go.
If you or I want to see change we must act as intentionally as possible and that always starts with looking at ourselves.
Every time I have a thought about my body or someone else’s I take the time to notice it and examine if it is helpful or hurtful to the shift in paradigm.
Evolution, change, revolutions and breakthroughs are never easy but always worth it!
Author: Emily Brown
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Natalie Shapiro
(1) “Health at Every Size,” by Linda Bacon, PhD page 140
(2) “Health at Every Size,” by Linda Bacon, PhD pages 125-126