Slightly Off-Topic: Shame Doesn’t Work

Yesterday, I saw Gabi Fresh interviewed on the Today show. She’s a fashion blogger who has created an online gallery of photos of women in their “fatkinis” for xoJane (her term, not mine; I would’ve gone with “bigkinis,” as that’s catchier, but she didn’t call me in time) to show that it’s possible to be a large woman with confidence and flair. She explained that so many women feel ashamed of their bodies that she felt the need to help show them that they can be beautiful, even with imperfections. Predictably, the (size minus-two) interviewer asked her if she was concerned that she was promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. Obesity, as we all know, is an EPIDEMIC IN AMERICA! It can lead to HEART DISEASE and DIABETES!!! WHAT ABOUT HEALTH??!?! LET’S ALL GET HYSTERICAL!!!!!!!

Look people, I’ve got something to get off my chest about this. Let me just make one point: Mental health is part of health. Misery and shame do not promote weight loss or health in any fashion. Our bodies are not static objects. Accepting our bodies and loving them does not have to mean making unhealthy choices. Quite the opposite.

So far, news stories that 60% of Americans are overweight (subtext: You fatties are letting down our NATION!) and images of “ideal” skinny bodies don’t seem to have done much to get people in shape. Hating ourselves isn’t working for us.

Gabi Fresh made the point that you can be happy with yourself wherever you are in your journey to health, and I agree. Accepting your body doesn’t have to mean rolling over and stuffing your face with Oreos. It takes a confident person to say, “Hey, I think I’m going to start training for a 5K race.” Or, “Hey, I don’t have to feel pressured to eat that cupcake just because someone else wants me to.” Jennifer Hudson is my heroine in this regard. Unlike most celebrities who have lost a significant amount of weight, she refuses to embrace the, “I hated myself so much as a fat person that I starved/ punished myself for my failures and now I LOOK AWESOME AND EVERYONE LOVES ME AGAIN!” talking points. Jennifer Hudson is quick to say that she was always confident in her body and simply lost weight because she wanted to model positive food choices for her son. The end. She was on the cover of Vogue as a plus-size, and she’s not apologizing for it.

Accepting yourself doesn’t mean that you stop seeking improvement. What these photos show is that you don’t have to wait to reach some far-off ideal in order to be happy. You can start now. Health, like art, should be joyful, not punishing.