THIS is proof things have gone too far. That when you try to click on Instagram #thighgaps, you are shuffled to an information page about eating disorders. That we have a wide vocabulary concerning body image, disturbed eating patterns, binging and purging. That we have developed a system of warning for possible triggers. That a five years old girl is afraid of looking fat. That Wikipedia has page after page about anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS, orthorexia… Of course, I think it’s great that they are there – it’s the need for them that disturbs me. It’s not OK that there is a reason for those things to exist.
I am aware that overweight and obesity is a massive threat to the public health. On average, the American woman has increased her waist measure by 10 inches (25.4 cm) and her weight by 25 pounds (11.3 kg) during the last 50 years. 30% of the world population have a BMI higher than 25. 43 million children under age five are obese or overweight – a 60% increase between 1990 and 2010. Yes, those are indeed scary numbers because overweight can lead to astonishing amounts of trouble.
Yes, it is a problem and we need to do something. But don’t for a minute think that “doing something” can’t lead to other problems, problems that can be infinitely more severe.
It does not require a particularly careful look at statistics to see that half Swedish men and two thirds Swedish women are NOT overweight. They are within a healthy weight range, or underweight. A majority of the population, a minority of the health related advice.
Physical activity, vegetables and water are good for everyone BUT everyone shouldn’t eat/sweat the same amounts. Telling an underweight person (not by necessity face-to-face, newspapers and blogs are at least as effective) that s/he should eat more cucumber is likely to make his/her underweight even more severe – whereas an overweight person would benefit from that advice.
There is endless amounts of information about weight loss, easily obtainable and instructive – because it is automatically assumed that we want it. Health related or not, we want to be slim. I suspect the situation might look slightly different to another target group, but I am constantly exposed to a beauty ideal that isn’t good for my body (or wouldn’t have been if I’d achieved it). Advertising is everywhere, and it is mostly done with models that are either starved or photoshopped to fit the current ideals. Social media is flooding with fitspiration: gorgeous running shoes, healthy food, dream bodies and motivational quotes. A lot of it is in fact inspiration that can motivate me to achieve the healthiest version of me – but more often than not it is inspiration that can motivate me to achieve the skinniest version of me. Even teachers seem to have given up, and instead of teaching nutrition in the style of “eating this will increase your risk of heart disease” they teach in the style of “eating this will make you fat”.
Beauty ideals are growing thinner as the average woman grows thicker. Because in a world where being skinny requires hard work and being fat does not (for most people, in the Western world of today) it isn’t strange that we want the former. It isn’t strange that this desire is played upon to earn money. It isn’t strange that there is a market for slimming socks, protein enriched cereal and liposuction. It isn’t strange that these products are advertised to play on our emotions (diet coke is not only a sugar free version of the real shit – it will unlock your potential!). It isn’t strange, but it is WRONG.