Every single day, I sit in the kitchen and listen to conversations about weight, diets, health, etc. Something tells me I’m not the only one. It’s become an office-wide obsession. We even have voluntary weight loss contests throughout the year, an office balance and special rebates if we join the local gym, etc.
The social pressure to match the standards of beauty is so great that many people allow themselves to impose these standards directly on their surroundings. They are constantly looking and commenting on other people’s lunches, judging and giving out free unsolicited advice.
These toxic standards become established in our daily lives and many participate, thereby encouraging systemic oppressions.
Not so long ago, two people on a new vegetarian diet reading new age health books told me I’m not doing “vegetarian” right. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 2 decades and I have genetic health issues so doctors are constantly monitoring my blood, vitamin, proteins, etc. I’m doing it right. If I weren’t, my doctors would not hesitate to say so.
The worse is that it’s not just because it’s a new year and people have made resolutions. It’s like this all year long, every single year.
People are constantly observing co-workers bodies. They compliment them when weight loss is visible and give them “helpful” tips when weight gain is visible. To comment on the bodily variations of others is also to be avoided since the reasons for the losses and weight gain are varied.
To complement a weight loss is to suggest that thinness is better, better and more beautiful in a general way. It is to impose as a collective idea that it is more appropriate to have a body without the fat that corresponds to the standards of society, regardless of the reasons behind these weight losses.
We have the personal and collective responsibility to ensure that our words and actions do not harm others. To condemn weight gain is to explicitly suggest that being fat is bad, ugly and inappropriate. That it is automatically cowardice, weakness and let go that people gain weight.
What do you think are the consequences of such compliments and condemnations?
It reinforced a culture of disgust, repugnance and shame associated with unusual weights and bodies, as well as fat people. We believe in this culture so much that the majority of us hate our own bodies. We hate seeing our reflection in the mirror or see ourselves in pictures. All these thoughts and ideas are toxic and false, and they propagate systemic oppressions related to the hate of big and/or non-standard bodies. We must absolutely deconstruct these acquired ideas and understand that beauty is not synonymous with precise criteria based on weight.
Eating disorders are mental illnesses, and those affected by these conditions are not responsible, cowardly, weak, and at fault. By allowing comments on the weight and the appearance, one comes very often to reinforce and worsen these diseases in others. I once struggled with Anorexia and I can tell you that it was a time in my life when I received the most compliments. People were literally cheering me on.
A thin person who is affected by health problems, who puts on weight during his recovery, is pointed negatively. Yet, his health is better with weight gain.
A fat person who is affected by health problems, who loses weight because of these diseases, is complimented. Yet, his health is worse with weight loss. At my thinnest moment in my life, I was at my unhealthiest.
It is therefore very difficult for each person to feel good and to celebrate his appearance by being constantly conditioned to hate his or her body, regardless of the situation.
We must all be aware of the scope of our words to stop participating in systemic oppressions, to promote the psychological well-being, esteem and acceptance of each person. Nobody has the right to criticize and judge others. All bodies are beautiful, regardless of their shape, colour and size, and each person deserves to be respected.