Recently, Gabi Gregg, a 25-year-old blogger for xojane.com, was on the Today show defending herself for posting up a pictorial of 31 overweight and obese women — herself included — modeling in bikinis and lingerie. While many readers lashed out, claiming she was promoting obesity, she was clear this project was aimed at going against the obsession with being thin.
And while I can definitely co-sign on the notion of loving yourself for you and not feeling like you have to be a size 4 to be beautiful, her stance on the connection that weight has with health was extremely bothersome. According to the Daily Mail, she told Tamron Hall that her health was not determined by her size.
"My measure for health is how good I feel,” she said. “The main thing is to judge how you feel and what you're putting into your body, how active you are and not based on a number on a scale.”
And while that sounds nice, it's not grounded in reality. If you were really watching what you were eating and were moderately active, you wouldn't be obese or even really overweight in the first place. And while feeling good is so important, what does that mean in terms of your triglycerides, cholesterol levels, arteries and glucose levels? Nothing, really, not if your lab results show that you are diabetic, suffering from hypertension and cannot walk up the stairs without being out of breath.
Unfortunately, Gregg isn't alone in her views.
Recently, The Root published an interview with fat-acceptance blogger Shannon Barber who claimed that being healthy is not an obligation — whatever that means — and that she doesn't believe that "people are absolutely healthy or absolutely unhealthy. Given the bio-differences of humanity, no one's ever going to be healthy in the same way."
I will admit that I do agree with her stance that Body Mass Index (BMI) is problematic in measuring what is a healthy weight and what's not because it doesn’t take into consideration muscle mass and racial body differences. And so therefore, the stats around Black women being overweight might be inflated. But let's be clear, the stats around obesity are not and neither are the negative outcomes of weighing too much.
Health is and will always be related to what the scale tells you. We have the science to prove that, so let's not kid ourselves. There is a reason why we as a community have such poor health.
I truly believe that this disconnect from reality is a symptom of how the weight debate is being framed here in the U.S. Despite the medical community making the health-weight connection, the conversation is mostly about the weight-aesthetic connection and how society only values perfect, rail thin bodies. And so it makes sense that regular everyday people feel the need to resist those social norms and pressures, especially Black women.
For ages, we have been told that our hair is too nappy, our noses and lips are too big and our hips are too wide. And so, of course, we should fight those standards and say we are beautiful as we are, for who we are naturally. And while the obesity epidemic and poor health most definitely stem from disproportionate poverty, food deserts, lack of access and a trifling food industry, we must acknowledge our own personal responsibility in it as well.
Stop accepting obesity and being overweight as OK, because it's not.
In the end, no one is saying don't have curves or some meat on your body. But in order to truly be both physically and emotionally healthy, we must stop with the extremes — either being incredibly obsessed with being thin or being completely dismissive about weight. Somehow, we need to stop listening to people like Gregg and Barber and learn to meet in the middle. We can no longer afford to live in denial about the science, not when it's our lives that are at stake.
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(Photo: Courtesy of xojane.com)