I have always loved the summer. With it comes so many good things: a break from our routines, extra sunshine, long bike rides, ice cream cones, and tan lines, to name a few. With it too comes less clothes. This week, I stumbled onto this ecard, which I think is a touch on the unnecessary side.
Today I thought of it when I read an article from the guardian about being fat in the summer. In “Yes, I’m fat, but spare us the cruelty this summer,” the author talks about her experience being big and being told that her body is too big on a seasonal basis. People, in the summer, feel more compelled to comment on her size, which the author admits makes the hot months uncomfortable. She calls for people to give her (and other fat people) a break during the already uncomfortable summer months when it comes to judging them for their weight.
I don’t have a lot of experience being told that my body is too fat in the summer. I do know what it’s like to be uncomfortable in some capacity because of the shape of my body in the hot months (hello, prickly heat from thighs rubbing during a run) and I certainly have experience wishing that it was fall so I could cover up.
No matter what size we are, the summer is a time when there is more of us exposed. Whether we’re overweight, underweight, or just think we’re too much of this or not enough of that, the summer and it’s lack of layers can make us uneasy. I agree with the article’s call for less commenting on each others’ bodies.Our reactions to how someone else looks have more to do with our own relationships with our bodies and ourselves than anything, and I don’t think we should take those out on other people–whether it’s the norm or not.
Where I disliked the article was with the way that the author frames fat and refers to her own body. I think that it’s interesting that this kind of article where there’s a call for people to back off with the body judgement is so harsh towards the fat body of the author herself. Her body–fat or not–deserves her love.
Self deprecation when it comes to our perceived faults–in this case, a fat body–might make it easier to take. But unfortunately, making fun of our own bodies just makes it worse and gives permission to other people to do the same. While I applaud the honesty:
“I suppose the facts of a fat summer are ones I accept and embrace every time I get a Big Mac (which is more often than I should, and yet never enough), and I’m self-aware enough to know that being this big isn’t good for me, that barbs from strangers on the street are mixed with truths.”
…I definitely get why someone would be judgemental. Our culture views health as a personal responsibility and if it comes down to eating or not eating Big Macs, I am not surprised that people think someone “should” be smaller. For the fat acceptance movement, I think this kind of article sends the wrong message. If we don’t change the way we look at “fat” and the way that we think about people’s bodies becoming fat, I don’t think we are going to change the way people relate to their bodies or look at other peoples’.
That being said, I am on the side of the fence where I think people should take responsibility for the way that they treat their bodies. Healthy is healthy whether your BMI falls in a certain range or not. You can’t necessarily judge a book by its cover–or a person by their body size/shape–but you can judge yourself based on your actions. It’s easier not to eat healthy or to exercise and to try to change the way that we feel about our bodies, but I think we’ll feel better about whatever size body we have when we can rest assured that we are doing our best to be as healthy as we can and taking care of our bodies. To me, that’s what body acceptance is about. I feel better about my body when I know that I’m doing things to take care of it. I know that this “It’s OK to have this body if you’re healthy” conditional approach might not win me the favour of some advocates out there, but I also know that if we want a healthier world people need to value their health and that means encouraging healthy behaviours.
In short, I agree with this article and with the idea that in the summer and year round we should back off with the comments and judgements regarding other peoples’ bodies. But I don’t think that in the process we need to normalize that someone who’s fat must necessarily be eating big macs or not taking personal responsibility for their health, nor should we excuse unhealthy behaviour as part of our journey towards acceptance. Skinny or fat, taking care of yourself and taking responsibility for making healthy choices is a win.
What do you think about this article/topic?