The Unhealthy Hypocrisy of Thin Shaming
In October 2014, Victoria Secret’s “Perfect Body” campaign sparked an uproar amidst accusations of promoting an unhealthy and unrealistic body image. But looking at the models in the advertising, all of them looked to be within the healthy BMI (basal metabolic index) range (18.5-25), although most would be at the lower end of that scale.
Three women started the #I am perfect online movement campaigning against Victoria Secret’s “body shaming” and Dove used it as an opportunity for a “Perfect Real Body” campaign featuring 6 women. Closer inspection of these women would show that three of the women were at a healthy BMI whereas three others would be in classified in the overweight category (BMI>25) placing them at increased risk of disease. Interestingly, this photo of these women was applauded.
So based on this and most of the comments on social media, it seems that it is okay to shame models who are thin and assert that they are unhealthy and bulimic (although they are in a healthy BMI range) yet lo and behold anyone who dares to assert that people who have a BMI greater than 25 as overweight. As more people are adopting a lifestyle that creates an overweight body (and no, it is not genetic), it seems that if you ever point out that being overweight is unhealthy and not a good thing, then you are perpetuating low self esteem and promoting eating disorders.
So what is the bigger problem, being overweight and obese or having an eating disorder?
According to the Centre for Disease Control, 78.6 million adults are obese (34.9% of the population) costing an extra $147 billion dollars in 2008 US dollar terms. Whereas the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimates 24 million people to be suffering from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorders. While both are serious problems affecting a large proportion of the population, obesity affects three times more people than eating disorders.
I think one solution to the epidemic of people who are overweight and those with eating disorders is to include different body shapes that are in the healthy BMI range in representing the healthy normal body. That includes thin people and curvier people. But you should not ever promote people who are overweight or underweight as healthy and normal even if it is becoming more common because so are the associated diseases.
If someone is within the healthy BMI range, and happens to post a post baby picture of themselves, do not get offended and think they are shoving their healthy body in your face. If you are offended, you need to look at how you are interpreting the situation because no-one can actually upset or offend you without your own permission and participation. Instead, consider celebrating and congratulating them because it doesn’t happen by luck. You should also consider asking them how they did it because success leaves clues.
Finally, take complete responsibility for where your health and body shape is now. That does not mean thinking anything less of yourself or beating up on yourself. Being “response-able” means that you are able to respond by taking the necessary action to get back the health and the body you deserve.
Written by Dr. Paul Lanthois