The Not So Great Weight Debate
I am a sucker for great debates. One debate that I have always struggled with though is the debate about ‘body size”. The talks about what body size is better than the other, the obsession some women have with counting calories, people who choose to make references to what they believe a “real woman’s” body should look like, or men who obsess with muscle building or weight loss. All of these things leave me with a sense that there will always be unhealthy perceptions about what is acceptable and what is not as it relates to a person’s body size and image.
The most important thing that I can see about this debate is that people who are confident about their own body do not give a hoot what anyone has to say about their size, shape, torso length, booty volume, or muscle mass, etc. With this confidence people will know how to dress their body to look great, take care of their health to feel optimal and be content with their own self which in my eyes—is PRICELESS!
I am a native Jamaican and in my culture and many cultures of African descent, a woman who is voluptous, curvacious, full figured and even medically diagnosed as obese is considered by many to be attractive and desirable. I call it the “more to love” phenomenon. On the other hand, as there will be in any debate there are some people in my culture who simply “don’t get that”. They see the socially constructed standard of beauty to be the norm.
Interestingly enough, unlike some Asian and North American cultures, concern is immediately raised in my culture when a woman is “too slender”. Should she dare drop too many dress sizes and become thin, almost everyone and their grandmother will try to feed her and probe her about the condition of her health. The advice she gets sounds something like “Dear, are you alright? Are you sick? You lost too much weight. Here EAT some food” (as the plate of fat rich food is shoved under her nose).
But who’s opinion really matters anyway? Quite frankly, no one else but YOUR OWN (and perhaps your doctor if your health is in jeopardy).
Because of the pressures placed on us by society, media, culture and even religion-many people end up suffering severe mental distress, psychological disorders, and discontent from not feeling as though they measure up. Check out these shocking statistics and see how the weight debate affects the lives of so many people (both men and women):
- Two out of five women and one out of five men would trade three to five years of their life to achieve their weight goals.
- In 1970 the average age of a girl who started dieting was 14; by 1990 the average dieting age fell to 8.
- A study found that women overestimate the size of their hips by 16% and their waists by 25%, yet the same women were able to correctly estimate the width of a box.
- After viewing images of female fashion models, seven out of ten women felt more depressed and angry than prior to viewing the images.
- The “ideal” woman – portrayed by models, Miss America, Barbie dolls, and screen actresses – is 5’5, weighs 100 pounds and wears a size 5.
- Young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents.
- One out of three women and one out of four men are on a diet at any given time. Two thirds of dieters regain the weight within one year and virtually all regain it within five years.
- 35% of occasional dieters progress into pathological dieting.
- The diet industry (diet foods, diet programs, diet drugs, etc.) takes in over $40 billion each year and continues to grow.
- 30% of women chose an ideal body shape that is 20% underweight and an additional 44% chose an ideal body shape that is 10% underweight.
- The average U.S. woman is 5’4” and weighs 140 pounds whereas the average U.S. model is 5’11” and weighs 117 pounds.
Also, for additional reading about perceptions on body size and body image I have included a few academic references to highlight this problem that plaques our society.
My motto is always “Love yourself”, whether you are slender, full figured, muscular, lean, short or tall—without self acceptance you immediately shut down your personal development. It becomes harder to filter out the unhealthy and detrimental things that people will do or say to “make you” feel unhappy.
It is important to note: Though I encourage body acceptance, if your body’s size negatively affects your physical health I strongly recommend that you work with your doctor to get you to a stage where you have a weight that supports optimal health. The goal is not to arrive at some “ideal” body type or size—it is to arrive at a healthy weight.
Please complete a poll titled “What is your honest opinion about body size” to weigh in on this debate.