More and more people are embracing the “love your natural body shape” mentality that has become popular in the last few years. Men and women alike are clinging to the belief that your body is beautiful the way it is, regardless of size or shape. While this can help people to be comfortable with what they perceive as flaws, there is a danger to this mindset.
The “love your body” mentality is intended to encourage people to be content with the way they are, with the goal of combatting depression, fat shaming, and other harmful attitudes.
But could this mindset be the reason that fewer and fewer people are exercising?
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that provides some scary insights into modern obesity trends. Weight gain among Americans has continued to increase—66% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, up from 53% before 1994. However, the number of obese/overweight Americans trying to lose weight has decreased from 56% to 49%.
Modern science has made impressive discoveries on weight loss, fitness, healthy eating habits, and healthy lifestyle habits. Those who are trying to lose weight (specifically, get rid of body fat) will find there are many ways to do so. Sadly, fewer and fewer people are making the effort. How much of that is the result of campaigns that teach that “fat is beautiful”?
For example, in 2015, Cosmopolitan Magazine ran a series of photos showcasing how “fat” can be as beautiful as any other body type. In March 2017, a photographer ran a series of photos of naked women of all body shapes standing behind a mannequin as a protest against popular beliefs of what women should look or act like.
All of these campaigns are intended to help women (and men) be comfortable in their own skin, which can improve self-image, combat depression, and promote a happier life. Unfortunately, they won’t promote a healthier life.
Obesity comes with a plethora of health risks: everything from decreased organ function to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease to diabetes to a slow metabolic rate to digestive problems. Being obese is dangerous, and can lead to early death—death that could have been avoided by corrective weight loss.
Weight isn’t what matters—body fat percentage/BMI are the true indicators of health. While BMI is more of a statistical measurement tool, you can say to be classified as “healthy”, you have to get your body fat under “normal” levels: 25-30% for women and 18-25% for men. Beauty and health may not be as closely linked as you’d think. You may be beautiful the way you are, but that doesn’t mean you’re truly “healthy” if your body fat percentage is at dangerous levels.
1. Snook, Kassandra R., Andrew R. Hansen, Carmen H. Duke, Kathryn C. Finch, Amy A. Hackney, and Jian Zhang. “Change in Percentages of Adults With Overweight or Obesity Trying to Lose Weight, 1988-2014.” JAMA 317, no. 9 (March 7, 2017): 971–73. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.20036.