“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller.
- Obesity, self-image, self-esteem and the dangers of perceived perfection and ignorance
*big equates to high body fat percentage. Not referring to any genetic features, only those within our control.
I write this particular article not with disdain for overweight people, synthetically inflated body builders or as a conceded male, but as someone concerned with the growing rate of obesity, the negligence of health and the misrepresented acuity we have with beauty.
The idea that Big is beautiful is problematic as it suggests beauty can be calculated by aesthetic value and size. First and foremost, beauty should not be measured in a singular fashion by our limited visual capacity nor by physical quantity but by our aptitude to do and feel certain things. How much we care, give and love are things that express beauty within us. You could have washboard abs and look like Brad Pitt but still be a bit of an asshole, thus beauty should not be defined by what you look like but by who you are.
Our societal perception of beauty seems to be highly influenced by what we are told to believe is beautiful. With the ugly abundance of celebrity magazines, social media and reality TV there seems to be a mass of mindless imitation with relentless eagerness to be viewed as attractive despite the abandonment of individuality and the shallow return on investment. As the above Helen Keller quote suggests, beauty is more than aesthetics, it delves deeper into what we feel and should bring a certain light into our world.
Our unhealthy obsession with instant gratification and our permeability to shallow yet powerful media influences seem to dictate what we feel we should look like. Due to these fictitious laws and ‘what’s hot what’s not’ type of media exposure there is a host of unhealthy and obsessive behaviours that lead to severe detrimental effects upon our overall well-being, not only for those trying to be but for those who feel isolated because they feel they will never be.
Big is beautiful is a common mantra bigger people occasionally throw around to demonstrate pride in their size. Those who are big can indeed be beautiful people, but being this way also means you are host to high fat mass and these toxic storage units can lead to severe health concerns. However equally as toxic is the concept that we must look a certain way to find self-worth. So where is the balance? We are destined and designed to be individuals, the shape of our skeleton and the actions of our cells are primarily pre-programmed in our genetics to be and act a certain way but this does not mean we are destined to be fat and unhealthy, our health is a choice and product of our individual environment.
Personally I think it’s wrong to tell an overweight teenager struggling with low self-esteem and zero confidence to be proud of their size and that being big is beautiful. Although the intentions may be good, the overall message and actions are bad and consequentially damaging.
What should be asserted is that beauty is not dictated by what others think but by what they do and that their value and self-worth should emanate from within. What should not be ignored is that obesity leads to a host of physiological problems that can cascade over and into our physical appearance, deeply affecting our spiritual and mental well-being. There are correlations between obesity and low self-esteem which can exasperate personal problems and lead to poor nutritional habits like finding false comfort in food, having low self-esteem and feeling isolated. By assuring someone big is beautiful, you may have good intentions but you are nourishing the source of the problem rather than dealing with it. If the foundation of our misery emanates from our weight and appearance, will reassurance that big is beautiful really help? Or is it better to address the source and help eradicate the unhappiness through a positive means.
Without targeting an element of the misery that can be controlled, maybe weight (although this may be a consequence of something deeper, or medicinal), confidence, poor nutritional habits, we will never achieve a solution to the true problems that are causing them to suffer. Yes you can remove the external influences like bullies, and yes you can shower people with compliments and some false assertions but the underlying problem will likely remain. Being overweight can contribute to unhappiness and deteriorating health and people need to know and understand that they truly have the potential and capacity to be healthy and even more importantly they need to know and understand the consequences and cost of sedentary living and poor nutritional habits.
Of course I am not suggesting that all fat people are sick, dying, depressed and spiritually broken compared to a thriving community of lean, healthy people who have no psychological or spiritual concerns. That would be stupid and irrational logic. I know many people who I would describe as beautiful people, but I would not describe them as physically healthy and vice versa.
My message is not that obese people are ugly and skinny is beautiful, nothing could be further from the truth. My message is that obesity is plaguing our society and our solutions seem to be missing the mark. It is not ok to be obese, it is not ok to ignore, neglect and sugar coat the problem with false compliments. It is certainly not ok to pretend that being overweight or obese does not carry serious health concerns that will last throughout your life. It is not ok to assure people big is beautiful and all is fine. That is a lie that could have devastating – effects.
What I am saying and advocating relentlessly is that improvements to your Health leads to improvements with your physical, spiritual and mental well-being getting you to a better place and giving you more capacity to be beautiful people.
What we need to do is destroy our false perceptions of beauty and our band aid application of ‘everything will be ok’ approach and address the problem with empathy and honesty, to empower teens to be responsible for the way they look, to care for their bodies and to invest time in positive ways to counter act the growing weight gains we are seeing within our society.
We are beautiful because of our ability to adapt, to give, to care, and to love. It is your responsibility to take true care of yourselves, to love, learn and appreciate how beautiful you are. There is always help just be brave enough to ask and brave enough to admit you need help and for those who are healthy, be brave enough to offer the help that someone may need but afraid to ask for.