There’s a disturbing narrative that exists today, and we just can’t seem to shake it. It’s simple, really: Fat = Bad. It’s everywhere; we see with advertising selling us slimming products, the press fat-shaming celebrities, and people bombarding social media with before vs. after photos. No matter where we might find it, the message is always the same – being fat is the worst thing you can be.
And I’m so sick of it.
My most recent encounter with this was watching the latest TV ad for Weight Watchers. I can’t remember the exact words and, annoyingly, can’t find the advert anywhere online, but I distinctly remember the spokeswoman telling people to sign up on the basis that it will make them a “better version of themselves” – come to think of it, she might’ve even said the best version of yourself.
Because apparently, thinner ALWAYS equals better.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, especially when it’s affecting your health and you think you could be in better shape; hell, I could stand to lose a few pounds myself! But the idea that being slimmer automatically makes you a better person – and, in turn, being bigger somehow detracts from you as an overall human being – is total bullshit.
Not only is it a load of rubbish, but it’s incredibly damaging. Pushing the “fat = bad, thin = good” narrative is bound to have a negative impact, particularly where eating disorders and mental health are concerned. Imagine telling someone with anorexia, for example, that being the thinnest version of themselves makes them the best version of themselves. Or how this could easily recycle that feeling of guilt in someone with bulimia to the point that they experience dangerous symptoms such as binging and purging. It seems so obviously dangerous to me in this context, I’m amazed we allow it to continue.
It’s clearly designed to make us feel terrible about ourselves. Telling us that we’re better when we’re thinner makes those of us whose bodies don’t fit these very particular – and sometimes unobtainable – specifications feel worthless, unattractive and uncomfortable in our own skin. It also strips us of our identities as people; it ignores all other aspects of our personalities and achievements, reducing how we measure up on the “good vs. bad scale” to nothing more than our weight.
I look at photos of myself from a few years back, before I gained the weight I now carry around with me (mostly in my lil’ tummy pooch), and sometimes I’m swept up in that narrative. I look at photos like the one below and think, “Wow, how did I let this version of myself slip away?!” And literally the ONLY reason I think that is because I’m thinner in those photos. That’s it. It’s not based on where I was at that point in my life, or how happy I was, or what I’d achieved. It’s because I was thinner – so I must’ve been better, right?
NO, SAM! Of course not! That’s just such a ridiculous notion, I can’t believe I bought it for even a second! I look at what’s happened in my life since those photos and almost laugh at how absurd I’m being when I think I’m worse off now simply because of my weight. I’ve achieved bucket loads since then; I’m in a happy, committed relationship, moved out, learnt to drive, started (and ended!) my own music publication, created my blog and worked my way up to my dream job. I’m more accomplished, level-headed, hard-working, ambitious, sociable and confident than the person in that photo. I’m more comfortable with my body and appearance than I’ve ever been, regardless of my size.
I’m a better person for so, so many reasons right now, and it all has absolutely zilch to do with my weight.
I’m lucky enough that I can see that, despite falling down the rabbit hole every now and again. But all the while we give into this narrative that being fat is the worst thing you can be, and the only way to make yourself a better person is to lose weight, then this narrative will continue to win and companies like Weight Watchers will keep making these shitty adverts.