My yoga buddy, a sixty-something-year-old engineer from an affluent family, told me this week that I have a perfect body. He meant it as a compliment because I’m thin with socially privileged body measurements, but his statement left me wondering about its deeper implications. The perfect body… what does that mean?
People tell me that I have an easy time loving my body because I’m slender and have therefore “achieved” thinness, and in doing so, they completely disregard the meaning of my message, which is frustrating. However, if I was overweight, I feel I’d be disregarded in the same fashion — “Well, you’re just saying that because you can’t be skinny. Everyone wants to be thinner.”
I’ve been slender my whole life. I didn’t “achieve” anything; I was born into it. And yet, people regularly assume I’m in perfect health without knowing anything about the internal composition of my body or my mental health. How would they know if I had an eating disorder or was self-harming, or if I had a debilitating congenital disease, or if I had cancer, or if I was depressed?
Those same people tend to also assume that overweight people are unhealthy, which is equally as ridiculous. My yoga buddy proudly professes that all fat people are lazy, including his small sample of overweight friends. My boyfriend has been overweight for most of his life, and people regularly give him “helpful” (i.e., unsolicited) advice about how he should be eating and exercising. Little do they know that he eats better food and exercises much more often and intensely than I do.
Meanwhile, people don’t volunteer any of that criticism to me because, as a slender person, it’s assumed I know what I’m doing. They do, however, touch me at their leisure, with or without my consent. Perfect example: the family friend who came up to me at a neighborhood holiday party, grabbed me around the hips, and started guessing my pants size. Thanks, but no thanks, Olga.
We all regularly witness fat-bashing, and more recently, skinny-bashing, too. In this society, skinny is privileged because it’s harder to achieve than fat, but both are toxic. When people say they want to lose weight for their health, unless they are severely overweight and it’s stressing their heart and other vital organs, I assume they are either lying or ignorant of the underlying social mechanisms at play.
Some psychological studies suggest that cosmetic changes which bring our bodies more in line with society’s standards increase our overall happiness and feelings of well-being, but at what cost? You’re “fixing” bodies which were never broken, which treats the symptom but does nothing to target the disease.
I mean, really… Who cares about the extra squish on your belly? Bellies were built to be soft to protect our organs! And that cellulite on your thighs, or the extra skin under your neck, or the curvature of your chest? So what?