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Sometimes It Is Not Ok

1 November 2010 28 Comments

I’ll start this by saying this:

I don’t care if you are fat, skinny, black, white, have two arms & two legs or two arms and nine legs.

I don’t care if you want to make out with each other.

I mean, I’m a little squeamish over PDA’s myself and don’t really like watching other people make out.  But it isn’t like I shield my eyes in horror if pretty people aren’t the ones swapping spit.

Like many other women with pulses, I was quite horrified by the Marie Claire article last week, in which blogger Maura Kelly declared that she would be “grossed out” to watch the two overweight characters from the new CBS sitcom Mike & Molly kiss (she also declares she’d “aesthetically displeased” to watch them do ANYTHING, including walking across the living room.)

Ah, yes.  Only attractive, athletic, vivacious, engaging, ambitious, etc people get action and play.  If it isn’t Hollywood or magazines or society cramming it down our throats, it’s that little voice that gnaws at the back of our mind.  Reminding us that we just aren’t good enough.  That we aren’t skinny or pretty or “insert appropriately superficial adjective here” enough.

I am a girl who struggles with my weight.

I’m also funny.  And smart.  And kind.  And talented.  And sometimes pretty if not beautiful.

But at the end of the day I’m also a girl who weighs much more than she should.

What Maura Kelly said touched some nerves.  And one of those nerves is that behind the evil superficial societal mores voice that we shrug off as imposed and bullshit, is a quieter voice telling you what you know is the right thing to do.

Because  many people who are bigger are not always living the life they want.

Seriously.  Talk to an overweight person for long enough.  They know it is not healthy to weigh 50+ pounds more than what is scientifically and medically proven to be healthy. It leads to heart disease and diabetes and a slew of other health problems that seriously impede people’s ability to lead the life they want.  It leaves them open to the judgment of people who have very tight ideas of what is attractive.  It means that they have to make adjustments to simple everyday daily living.

Yet when someone says something mean about the “fatties,” we all rally around the fact that it isn’t ok to say mean things about overweight people.

It is an absolutely positively nasty and unnecessary thing to say about another member of humanity.

Am I making myself clear??  There is totally enough judgment and hate in our world.  We don’t need to compound it.  NOTHING justifies what Maura Kelly wrote.

But it truly makes me sick to my stomach to see people coming out around the internet and media and water cooler to say “It’s ok to be overweight and you are still beautiful.”

You are a beautiful person.

I AGREE ABSOLUTELY.

But it is not ok to be overweight.

You don’t need to be rail thin, but you do need to be healthy.

Those actors on Mike and Molly are not only overweight, they are severely overweight.  And their characters met at a meeting of Overeaters Anonymous.  THEY DON’T WANT TO BE FATTIES ANYMORE.  But no one is talking about that.  Saying that we don’t want THAT body type to be an aspiration for young people watching it.

I am not overweight because of a disease that leaves me fatigued and broken almost daily.  Or because I know I am pretty enough and don’t need to fit into some box, imposed by society’s expectations.  Or because I am so ridiculously busy with work and family and life that I can’t find time to take care of myself. Or because my parents didn’t love me enough when I was a child or I am in a mental distress of total self-loathing.  Or whatever other excuses we lay out to tell people that “it’s not their fault.

I am overweight because I have not ran or been to a gym or done anything cardiovascular in at least two months and I have eaten almost an entire bag of Halloween candy this weekend and I drank tens of thousands of calories in beer and whiskey this month.

I don’t want to be attractive in the way that society says is perfect.  If I did I’d own a lot more clothing from Forever 21 and American Apparel and less from Old Navy and MLB.com.  My hooded eyes and curvy figure will never allow me to look like a supermodel without some major surgical assistance.

I personally find more beauty in people’s deviations from what we are told is attractive and perfect.

But stop making excuses for yourself and for others!!

With very few exceptions, your life and your body and your actions and your responsibilities are yours.

Own up to them.  If you don’t like something, change it.  If you do like something, enhance/promote it.

Listen to the quiet voice.

Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s ok to be complacent and content in something that deep inside you know is not right for you.

Live a full life that you are proud of and makes you happy.

And enjoy the occasional chocolate cupcake while you are doing it.  😉

Photo Credit: Getty Images – Tim Platt

————-

Post Script I love you all to pieces.  But this isn’t a woe is me, tell me you love me post.  So please, if you are so compelled to write a comment/email/etc and tell me that I’m perfect just as I am or not to be upset about society or whatever, I will probably not respond.  I hope you are not offended by this, but I’d rather talk about the post, not your internet warm fuzzies.  Thanks.

28 Responses to “Sometimes It Is Not Ok”

  1. I like where this post ended up, which is someone taking responsibility for where they are in their life. What she said wasn’t okay, but to me it wasn’t as ludicrous as James Zervios, director of communications for the Obesity Action Coalition, an advocacy group for obesity education, saying, “You’d never see an article like that about a cancer patient. It saddens me that those who suffer from obesity aren’t treated with the same respect.”

    WHAT!? You’re comparing obesity to cancer? What a clown.

    It does take work to be fit, but it can happen gradually, by forming good habits and sticking to them. There’s no excuse for 75% of this country to be overweight. A magic pill isn’t going to be invented to save everyone so they might as well get busy getting healthy or get busy developing type 2 diabetes, autoimmunity diseases, heart disease and more. And it’s damn sure not the media’s fault.

    Good for you Elisa.

    • Ryan – Thanks! I actually wrote the end about halfway through the “writing process” because I really wanted to make sure that I made those points. That we are responsible for our own lives and decisions, and that it isn’t ok to let yourself believe something like “being overweight is really ok” just because other people are saying it.

      As for that coalition dude. Seriously?!?! That just makes me even sadder.

      To go for full on sadness, forget that 75% of adults are overweight. There is a MAJOR childhood obesity epidemic. These kids are being set up for a lifetime of sickness and much more. We cannot do that to our futures.

  2. Grace Boyle says:

    I really like this post and I didn’t know you would end up where you did with this post (like Ryan noted).

    I think it was incredible well-written and thought out. I also understand and agree with what you’re saying. That “struggle” affects millions of people…

    Bravo, Elisa. Really, I appreciate this so much.

    • Grace – It did loop around a bit, but I am glad that the way it ended is what resonates with people. That is really how I wanted it to be. After about an hour of edits and proof-reads.

      The struggle is there, and you are right, millions of people are going through it daily. As Ryan noted, I don’t think they’ve created a magic pill for it (yet) so looks like hard work, eating healthy and living a good lifestyle are going to have to keep us in check! 🙂

  3. Alice says:

    Very well said, thank you!

  4. Lindsey says:

    Glad you said it. Everyone was outraged by Maura Kelly’s ignorance and bigotry but no one was saying what needed to be said. Great post!

    • Lindsey – Yes! That is part of why I waited a bit to post. I didn’t want to be on the bandwagon of outrage and pontification. I wanted to reference it but stand on it’s own to say there is a MUCH bigger issue (no pun intended?) than a blog on a beauty magazine site.

  5. Jamie says:

    I’m not exactly sure what the point you’re trying to make here is.

    Are you trying to say that body acceptance and obesity are linked, such as the former leads to the latter? In fact, it’s more common that someone who accepts themselves will take care of themselves, thus leading to a healthier lifestyle.

    Are you calling out the people who are saying that being overweight is healthy? I don’t see such people.

    Are you making the point that someone should have made a footnote in all their positivity and love to say, “Hey, pssst, I know we’re saying you look beautiful, but it’s all a lie. You’re actually really unhealthy. Put the candy down”?

    I think that you are coming from a good place with this article, but you’re fighting a battle with no opposing side. No one is trying to say that being overweight is healthy. No one is trying to give people an excuse to get/be fat. No one is suggesting that one should choose to live a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle.

    What people are saying is that it’s okay to feel good about yourself, no matter what size and that your motivation for getting healthy doesn’t have to be shame and societal pressure. It’s okay to be beautiful at any size, whether you’re working towards losing weight or not. It’s okay to not want to see stick-thin models or to read hateful articles about women’s bodies. Saying these things are okay doesn’t lessen the need for this country to be and feel healthier.

    Whoever seriously believes that there is a solid correlation between hating yourself and choosing to be healthy needs to think twice about the reasons behind positive change. It doesn’t start with shame; it starts with acceptance.

    • Hrrmmm…I do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES condone making someone feel BADLY about themselves because of how they look. I’m sorry that you somehow inferred that I would EVER say something like that.

      Of course, I should also note that I don’t think beauty dwells too much in how people look, period. How sad is it that we are even discussing measuring beauty by what someone’s appearance is? Are we REALLY that superficial?

      That is where the post comes from, that is where my concern lies. I have seen all too often people fall into this victim mentality. This “society thinks I’m ugly but it isn’t my fault, it’s the fact that I can’t live up to some impossible standard” idea. Or any of the many other excuses that people use when they make bad life decisions (finances, relationships, careers, etc.)

      There needs to be a piece of responsibility in each of us. A moment when we listen to and act upon that quiet voice that says “I’m a beautiful person. But I am making some really dangerous and unhealthy decisions and need to make some changes.”

      Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Whether it’s negative or positive, what other people think does not matter. We need to learn to listen to the quiet voice within ourselves.

      I do not believe that it is EVER ok to make someone feel bad about themselves.

      EVER.

      Seriously. NEVER.

      EVER EVER EVER.

      But I also don’t think that looking ONLY at the positive side of things will be enough to pull many overweight people out of the lifestyle they’ve created for themselves.

  6. Felice Lam says:

    Great post. Way to speak out.

    In the end, I think that no matter who you are or however you look, like one of your previous readers mentioned, it starts with acceptance, then it’s up to the person to decide whether to make the choice to become healthy.

    Otherwise, society and the media still put way too much pressure on body images and there is no wonder that so many people have eating disorders. Then, we have obesity and that’s another story.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I like your voice in your writing! Keep it up!!

    • Felice – Yes, so very true. I think it’s kind of arrogant to think that anything I’d write would be the sole reason someone decided to become healthy. Whether it was positive OR negative.

      As I wrote at the end, our decisions are our own, so stop making excuses for why you can’t do something and decide to do it. Or not do it I guess. But at least have a reason, not an excuse.

      • Felice Lam says:

        I’ll say that what you write and what you do is inspiring. I could actually see you inspire others to become healthy. =)

        Excuses are lame! You’re absolutely right. Having a reason sounds a little better but in my mind, I don’t understand why anyone would want to just live through live with an unhealthy lifestyle.

        Again, in the end, we’re in charge of our bodies.

        “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” Jim Rohn

  7. I’ve been ruminating on this blog post since yesterday, and I still don’t know how I feel about the topic. First, I agree that we should never make anyone feel bad about themselves — we’re supposed to be building each other up, not tearing each other down and I think the latter is what’s causing so many problems in the first place. Second, I do believe that everyone has the right to be happy with themselves, to accept themselves as they are. I think Jamie actually sums it up pretty well in that we shouldn’t be shamed into a healthier lifestyle and we shouldn’t have to feel bad everytime we look at another magazine cover. The thing that makes me really heated is this: We should always see each other as human NO MATTER WHAT. And to see someone as anything less than that, as the author of the article displayed, is the worst offense.

    Ok. I think part of the problem I have with the no-excuse thing is that there are reasons (I hate the word excuses). I AM overweight because of a disease. That has happened for most of my life — I gained weight when I was younger and caught mono — twice. Then I lost it all. I gained some weight when I was in college and was diagnosed with CFS, when it took all of my energy just to walk downstairs. And last year I was diagnosed with PCOS. And I’m still struggling to lose that weight — a battle that feels disheartening and sometimes impossible, those feelings only compounded by the fact that there are people, like the author, saying that you’re somehow worth less of a human being because of your weight.

    The moment I quit blaming myself for everything that illness was doing, the minute I stopped listening to those people who said I had to work out five hours a day and be model-thin, was the minute I did a double-take in the mirror and thought, “I am beautiful.” My outlook changed. I didn’t care what anyone else thought about me. What mattered was what I thought and how I felt.

    That’s why I started yoga. That’s why I still enjoy the healthy food I’m eating. It’s a choice that I made to help me feel better, not with the primary goal to lose weight. I think that’s what acceptance means. I think that’s what positive change means.

    I think that’s what our society is sorely lacking.

    Interesting post, Elisa, that touched on some dicey issues and sparked some interesting discussion. As always, you’re great at that and thanks for that. 🙂

    • Susan – Thank you for understanding I was not AT ALL condoning the article or the idea that it is ever ok to be cruel to someone. For me, I sometimes have problems remembering *exactly* what people look like because that is not what matters to me in another human being. I personally find so many OTHER things attractive, such as personality and humor and intelligence.

      Nor do I think that SHAMING someone into a healthier lifestyle is AT ALL ok. Shaming someone is pretty much being cruel to them. Which is…ummm…bad. BUT I do have a problem with statements like “You are ok/fine just as you are.”

      Because it is NOT OK to be overweight and unhealthy. Not because of aesthetics or conventional beauty, but because we should love other humans enough to want them to not be unhappy or sick. I’m totally on board with “You are a beautiful person” or “You are an important and essential part of this world” or any other phrases. But “You are ok/fine just as you are” is an enabling phrase.

      I also have a disease that causes weight gain. PLUS it makes me so tired and sore that I have been known to take three showers in one day to massage out the muscles and tendons and then lay on the couch for hours because I can’t bring myself to move anywhere.

      I could easily say “I’m sick, and that’s why I am the way that I am.” So could you.

      But instead of allowing illness to be an excuse, you have chosen to do something about it. You listened to the quiet voice, the one that told you to be healthy for you. And it wasn’t because someone TOLD you to find yourself beautiful, it’s because you looked in the mirror and saw that you were.

      I have family members that I am terrified will never meet my children because they do not take care of themselves. That is devastating to me. That wanting to be there to see my family grow up would not be enough for them. If wanting my family to be a part of my family’s life isn’t enough love to shower on someone, what is?

      I don’t believe the power for change lies in anything anyone can say to someone, positive or negative. The power for change lies within each of us.

  8. Marie says:

    I really enjoyed this post, Elisa. Thanks for putting this out there.

    I was completely offended by the Maura Kelly piece mostly because of the negativity and judgmental attitude. However, in our attempt to battle hate with positivity and love we have to be careful about the message we’re ultimately sending. Do we really want to “condone” an unhealthy lifestyle?

    And I’m not talking about being overweight. But unhealthy lifestyles where people are unconsciously killing themselves with their daily habits and choices. Sure, a good “tell tale” sign of these poor daily decisions is being overweight, but let’s be real. Very few people would call me overweight, and I eat fast food on a regular basis and recently cancelled my gym membership. That’s not good even if it isn’t seen in the size of my jeans.

    So yeah, I’m totally with you that we shouldn’t unintentionally condone being overweight, but we also shouldn’t limit it to our only gauge of fitness.

    • Marie – RIGHT?! Completely offended is probably the nicest thing I could say about my feelings on it. Sadly, from my days in recovery I wasn’t surprised to see at ALL that she has an eating disorder.

      I’m really glad you had the gumption (The Holiday is right…that’s SUCH a good word!) to ask the question “Do we really want to “condone” an unhealthy lifestyle.”

      I agree, being overweight is not necessarily the ONLY way to tell that people are being unhealthy. Plus I find issue with the traditional BMI model as it offers very little deviation for body type. BUT you are right, it is a pretty good tell tale that maybe that person needs to be encouraged (notice I said encouraged, not shamed and stoned in an alleyway somewhere) into making some changes and choices in their lives.

      PS – No worries on the gym membership. I bet Marshmallow would only learn ninja skills or something while there which would be like 1000 times worse than edamame. 🙂

  9. Anne says:

    I’ve always been pretty skinny (just the way I’m built), and I was horrified by the reaction I got when I joined a gym a couple years back. The trainer who gave me my initial gym tour actually said, “You look great already. Why are you joining the gym?” It blew my mind that a health professional was questioning my decision to exercise because I was thin! What he didn’t see was that I had bone loss in my spine from years of birth-control shots; that I couldn’t walk up the stairs without losing my breath; that I couldn’t touch my toes; that I *felt* unhealthy. Choosing a lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating made a huge difference in my life, but if I’d only listened to the so-called health professional at the gym, I wouldn’t have made those changes. I had to listen to my own quiet, inner voice, and make the decisions that were good for my insides — not just consider what people might be thinking about my outside.

    I think the fat acceptance movement does a huge disservice to men and women of ALL shapes and sizes, because it distills us down to our physical appearances. Everyone — fat, skinny, and in-between — suffers from body image issues. The sheer amount of cosmetic surgery being performed in this country testifies to that. Focusing on the skin we’re in is, I think, the most unhealthy approach possible. There is so much more to every one of us. We all have gifts and abilities that have nothing to do with our bodies. But if we fail our bodies by not keeping them healthy, our opportunities to use those gifts and abilities will decrease, and our loved ones will pay the price for our negligence.

    • Anne – OMG YES!!! This: “I think the fat acceptance movement does a huge disservice to men and women of ALL shapes and sizes, because it distills us down to our physical appearances.”

      That is such an important point. Body image issues aren’t reserved for overweight people. But healthy/skinny people aren’t allowed to talk about them. Skinny bitches. The problem is not the size that people are.

      The problem is that we attribute a value to appearance at all.

      And yes, how right you are. If you do not take care of the body you are in, how can you use and share your gifts and talents and abilities?!

      Love this comment. LOVE!

  10. Amy says:

    Every time I read a post of yours like this I become proud of you all over again. I think people focus on the superficial part of obesity. There was a time in this world that full figured people were actually considered the more beautiful people of the world and thin was out. Times have changed but the fact that weight and health problems directly correlate has not. It’s not ok to look at a 26 year old actress who weighs over 400 pounds and say, “It’s ok. You’re beautiful. Don’t worry about it”. Because oh yes, I heard this all over media, the water cooler and even status updates on facebook and twitter.

    I will NEVER be a size 2. There was a time that I thought I could be and then realized the measures I would have to go through. During that time I also wanted to loose weight because I didn’t think I was attractive. Then one day it all clicked for me. All my grandparents died before I was 6. A lot of my family has serious health issues. I am on a very good path to get those health issues, if I don’t do anything about it. Is that Marie Claire chick right? No. Saying you don’t want two fatties getting it on over two “sexy” people based on appearance is mean.

    Get off high horses people. I work for a nutrition company. You know why I work for a nutrition company? Because this country needs one. Because people do not make good healthy decisions. The articles I read about obesity in this country is mind boggling. The child generation today is the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. That means it is not expected that any child under the age of 20 is to live past the age of 80. Diabetes, heart attacks and heart disease are to run rampant and take over. I see what people are saying, “I don’t know anyone ‘ok’ with obesity”, ok. But I will let you know right now there are plenty of people making excuses for obesity. I see them everyday with my job. Believe me.

    • Amy – Yes, the girl from Precious. I don’t want that girl to lose weight because I think she’s ugly. At over 400 lbs she is actually quite a beautiful young woman. But that’s not healthy…not safe.

      Having a father AND a sister (ahem ahem) who work for a nutrition company, I am all too aware of the way that our country is getting unhealthier, not healthier. How sad is it (I mean…it’s great for you cause you get a paycheck) but that we ACTUALLY need to have a company that rates the nutrition of food in the supermarket cause we can’t tell ourselves.

      And don’t even get me started on the youth of America today. It breaks my heart the lifestyle we are setting them up to lead.

  11. David says:

    You know what’s really not ok? When a morbidly obese person takes a handicap parking space away from someone who has cerebral palsy. The person was born with cerebral palsy, an actual handicap they can’t help! But yet someone else who was born perfectly healthy and is fully capable of living a normal healthy life has CHOSEN to handicap themselves by overeating and be inactive.

    You know what else isn’t ok? One of the biggest problems in American is obesity. But one of the biggest problems in many other countries around the world is hunger. In America we have too much fucking food! We have so much food that we stuff our faces to death…to actual death! People die from eating too much, from being overweight. But other people in the world die from starvation. How messed up is that!

    I like putting things in proper perspective and your post did just that. And not that you asked, but my philosophy on food is kind of like my philosophy on money. Instead of stressing you don’t have enough money and figuring out ways to cut back, why not figure out ways to make more money so you can sustain the lifestyle you’re already accustom to? Not being forced to give things up just makes me happier. The same goes for food. You don’t have to completely give up the guilty palate pleasures in life. All you have to do is live an active lifestyle and then you can basically eat whatever you want. Works for me!

    • David – Wow, those are some really humbling examples of putting it in perspective. Especially the second. I have heard a similar statement before, but I hadn’t really thought of it in relation to this post. Now I am and I am thinking “WOW.”

      And yes, some people can eat like crazy and just work it off. I’m not 100% sure that works for all of us though. Lucky bastard… 😛

  12. […] Ophelia’s Webb: Sometimes It is Not Ok […]

  13. I tweeted this but I’ll ask it here, just to spark some thoughts, because there’s a lot of tlak about feeling beautiful, healthy, etc., but no talk about WHY. So…

    What would you say is the purpose of being/feeling beautiful? Why do we pursue it? What’s the ultimate benefit?

    Answering those questions should help each person know what the fuck they’re doing wrong or right, and what the fuck they should be doing (if anything).

    • Carlos – I think your question is worth about a million dollars, and if I had an easy answer then…well…I’d be a millionaire.

      Wherein I’m obviously not, I’m still trying to figure it all out.

      I’d start by saying that a part of it is obviously projection. We want to look/feel/be beautiful because we know that *we* as people look at others and make judgments as well. We base first impressions and opinions of others on how we perceive them. And since the human mind tends to form these opinions within 7 seconds of meeting someone, looks and superficial observation are going to rank high up there.

      In my experience, many of the people most obsessed with their own superficial beauty and promoting it and defending it are the most judgmental of the superficial beauty of others.

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