In my quest for the Heroic Life I’ve lost a lot of weight. The bulk of it, about 50 pounds, I worked off in 2010-11. (Before and after pictures here.) Since then I’ve continued dropping the weight, albeit more slowly. Now I’m below my old college weight.
And it’s time to work on sexy.
Beliefs about Fat
I do actually feel sexier now than before. I’m not just thinner, I’ve also built up stronger muscles, especially in the thighs, butt, and abs. Like most people I’ve always associated a thinner, fitter build with “sexy.” I know that in times past a plumper build was sometimes considered sexy but that seems to apply more to women than men. When I look at the artwork of past ages I see two kinds of male figures shown over and over: lean muscular athletic guys, and nobles who had so much power no one could make fun of their physique anyway.
I’ve been overweight since about age 12. It was worst in my mid-20s. So the feelings of being thinner, having an easy time moving and seeing clothes fit my figure are all new sensations. I’m still not lean but I intend to continue reshaping my body.
A good way to explain my goal might be: when I talk about searching for the Heroic Life, I intend to look the part.
But with this image of the lean, muscular male figure, I’m buying into a lot of societal baggage. I personally don’t feel any shame about my body, and I find that changes in diet and exercise have an impact. That’s not true for everyone, and it leaves me with questions.
There’s a movement known as the Fat Acceptance movement that you may or may not have heard of. I’ve been familiar with it since at least 2007 when my feminist friends explained it to me.
The idea is simple. Media tells us we’re really fat and it’s terrible. This is partly based on the very real trend of higher obesity rates. But it’s also part of an effort to sell us all kinds of crap to help us lose the weight. Crap that we really don’t need and a lot of the time it doesn’t deliver results. But it’s profitable.
What’s good for sales is not always good for mental health. People who are told they’re not good enough often end up feeling—wait for it—not good enough.
The idea of the fat acceptance movement is to just accept ourselves the way we are. If you weigh 220 pounds and your doctor says you should be 150, maybe just be happy with 220. Or maybe put a moderate, sustainable effort in and feel great at 200 instead of killing yourself to get to 150.
It’s hard to argue with reasoning like that. But I’m about to.
I like seeing people love who they are, but it can also be a force of complacency. Most people can indeed get fitness results from diet changes and exercise. Telling them they’re good enough as they are is a pro in the mental health column, but potentially a con in the physical health column. There are two concerns I have with the idea of fat acceptance:
- There are health problems associated with obesity. Some are exaggerated or imagined and advertisers definitely hit the button too hard, but I question whether people should be told to accept a higher-risk health condition.
- I tend to favor self-development. There is a type of happiness to be found in accepting circumstance, but also a type of happiness in overcoming adversity or personal obstacles and achieving something hard.
Please Help Me
I don’t know much about the idea of fat acceptance. I’m concerned about the two things I listed above but I may be totally missing the mark. Anything that helps people live happy, self-affirming lives is valuable, and I don’t want to unfairly misunderstand it.
I know we have at least one fat acceptance advocate who’s a reader here. And as a whole my readers seem to be full of useful information.
So educate me.
Are my concerns above well founded, or not? Does fat acceptance address those concerns, and how? Does the value of self-acceptance outweigh the health concerns? Are there other ways to address the painful issue of obesity—or am I way off the mark?
Post a comment and school me. And please, tweet or share this post. The more people involved in the conversation the better.
I’m writing my first novella. It has magic spells, happy corn, sad farmers, and desperate fucking. Lúnasa Days.