It’s taken a while, but we’re finally breaking the boundaries on what society has told us is attractive and desirable.
Body positivity is at an all-time high and more and more, we’re seeing normal everyday people being represented in magazines, on TV, on social media and through various other channels.
Normalising body image has come a long way in the last 10 years, and there’s no doubt that we’re realigning our expectations with reality.
However, there’s a thin line between promoting a positive image, and a healthy image.
There should be no universal standard for beauty…… but there should be a universal standard for health.
What The Stats Say
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), obesity is an epidemic worldwide that is more common globally than under-nutrition.
In fact, the WHO states that worldwide there are 2 Billion adults overweight, with 650 million of these falling into the obese category.
Yet, our focus over the past decade has been on creating positivity towards our image, even if that image is an unhealthy one.
An emphasis on body positivity has resulted in an ignorance of the health implications that come with being obese.
The NHS state that being obese increases your risks of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, several types of cancer, reduced fertility, liver disease and kidney disease.
It’s also stated that obesity can lower life expectancy by an average of 3 to 10 years.
Big can definitely beautiful, and big can definitely be happy; but it’s rarely healthy.
Healthy and Happy Are Different
The pendulum is starting to swing too far in favour of actually promoting obesity as if it’s a healthy image just because we’ve realised you can be big and be happy.
It may be approaching the norm to be obese in society today, but this doesn’t mean that it’s something to be celebrated.
Once again, it may be a happy image and it may be a beautiful image; but it’s not a healthy image.
We need to get into the habit of separating these concepts.
Happiness is such a fundamental part of life that you need to hang on to and promote what makes you happy.
So i’m not arguing that you shouldn’t promote your happiness and see the beauty in all shapes and sizes; i’m arguing that there’s a fundamental difference between these things and being healthy.
When we blatantly ignore the health implications to promote obese image as healthy ones; we are demonstrating a lack of responsibility to those out there who aren’t as informed.
In the economically developed world, the USA has an astounding obesity rate of 40% whereas the UK is sitting further down the table at number 11 with 26%. (You can see the full list here).
It’s clear that continuously shifting the message that it’s ok to be obese as long as you’re happy, isn’t the message we should be pushing.
Body positivity in society is a double-edged sword. By all means, love yourself and be happy in your own skin. There’s nothing more important for your own mental health and sense of worth.
However, in a society where obesity is classified as an epidemic, i think its pretty dangerous if we focus on this message that being body positive is more important than being positive about your health.
We need to stop being so concerned with offending everyone and be more concerned with actually helping someone.
What we need to be doing is taking our levels of physical activity more seriously, and educate the population on the importance of good nutrition.
Saying it’s ok to be morbidly obese as long as you’re happy may help to comfort someone, but it does nothing to help the cascade of health issues that person is likely to experience.
Even worse, the promotion of these images as healthy is only inspiring the younger generation to feel as if its obesity is perfectly normal and it’s fine as long as they’re happy.