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A different perspective on body positivity

The body positive trend is seeking to combat discrimination and stereotypes based on weight and aims to help people feel comfortable about their unique body shape. Such a trend has contributed to identifying unrealistic appearance standards that are portrayed by the media and rejecting the thought that people must fit a specific body type to be considered beautiful. However, the message also holds the risk of being misunderstood as meaning that it is okay to remain obese because “all body shapes are beautiful,” eventually justifying and normalizing obesity despite the toll it takes on the person. Moreover, a healthy lifestyle and attempts to stay fit and manage weight can be considered “fatphobic” because they go against what body positive proponents view as “normal” and might spread the belief that being overweight is something to be ashamed of. Unfortunately, such a belief that people are healthy and thriving regardless of their size is not true and numerous efforts are needed to reduce and overcome obesity.

The primary step to make changes is to establish why one must lose weight. Obesity, by definition, is a state where the Body Mass Index (BMI) is above 30. Although one might be satisfied with the way they look and is comfortable with the life they are living, it does not mean that they are healthy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 4 million people die each year as a result of being obese. Gaining weight leads to increased blood pressure, higher cholesterol and high blood sugar. Each point increase in one’s BMI increases the risk of diabetes by 20%, coronary artery disease, heart failure, heart attack and stroke. Also, excess fats circulating in the blood accumulate in the liver, causing chronic liver inflammation. Higher blood cholesterol levels can cause gallstones to amass in the gallbladder. Obesity increases the risk for stroke, cancer, premature death and mental illnesses. Although people may not feel an immediate change in body function and well-being, subtle changes are occurring inside—but these negative effects can be prevented by staying fit and managing your weight rather than waiting to pay the consequences.

Attempting to overcome obesity also improves your quality of life, both physically and mentally. Some of the immediate impacts of obesity include asthma, sleep apnea, difficulty breathing, back and joint pain from the added weight, disabilities from osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal discomfort and gout, which can lead to damage to the heart and kidneys. Psychological impacts include impairments in memory and cognition, Alzheimer’s disease, female infertility and mood disorders. Obesity is associated with an increased rate of depression, eating disorders, anxiety, substance abuse and low self esteem from outside criticism. Although disrespect based on appearance is not acceptable, it is difficult to not be swayed by outside opinions and criticism. Making changes to an area that you have control over and the foundational cause can help remove the discomforts and help you regain your health without undergoing complicated procedures or treatments.

Another reason to overcome obesity is to avoid the financial burden it can impose on the individual, healthcare institutions and the government. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the annual obesity-related medical care cost in the U.S. was estimated to be nearly $173 billion in 2019. This amount includes the treatment process, the need for special equipment to accommodate patients’ needs, loss of productivity due to frequent treatments and being unable to work. On the individual scale, medical costs for adults with obesity—which consist of medical treatment, preventive services, diagnostic testing, bariatric surgeries and medications—were $1,861 higher than those without obesity in 2019. Those with obesity are likely to experience a decrease in income due to impaired work performance and productivity resulting from cognitive impairments and physical limitations. This condition may also result in an inability to have certain jobs, like joining the military, and cause one to take frequent absences from work. By going through the temporary discomfort stemming from attempting to overcome obesity and taking care of one’s health, people can prevent unnecessary costs and reduce one of the major barriers in enhancing their career.

The body positive movement and the increased understanding of obesity has helped fight the stereotype that obesity is due to overeating and laziness, but is rather caused by various reasons. Factors such as psychological stress, hormonal malfunction and changes in the workforce culture can contribute to habits that lead to weight gain. In some cases, there are uncontrollable reasons such as genetics, poverty, medications used to cure other illnesses and a lack of awareness about the impacts on our health or illnesses that make it difficult to manage one’s weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The movement also created an atmosphere of accepting people for the way they are rather than forcing unrealistic standards on them that are also unhealthy. Although nobody holds the right to criticize others for how they look, nor should anyone be lacking confidence and self-love, it is not normal to continue a lifestyle and a physical state that exposes oneself to a variety of dangerous health conditions and severe financial losses. Attempting to lose weight to a normal range and to gain some sort of control rather than merely blaming external factors and using it as an excuse to neglect fitness is not simply about becoming “pretty to look at” but more about self-care and self-protection.

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