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The “Before” body.

April 17, 2009

One of the common responses I get to working on body positivity is “what about the obesity as a health issue?” And of course, your weight and body have everything to do with your health. But does fat-shaming or fitness magazines really have anything to do with health? What is this “health” culture really promoting?

I really think this is a culture of shame, wrapped under the label of “health”. When you look in Shape or Women’s Health, or Fitness magazine, you see only one image of a healthy body: thin, sculpted muscles, hourglass proportions. (also probably tall, tan, blonde – see Jill’s post) Health has become an aesthetic quality, detached from the inner workings of the body, even detached from a healthy lifestyle.

And when health becomes a visible quality, it becomes a quality that can be judged.
And from that judgement, comes the shame.

We are constantly bombarded with advertisements like this:

And it is apparantly clear that the “after” body is healthier. Aesthitically we know that thin, sculpted, smiling women are healthy. We know nothing of their lifestyle or mental state, but we can tell. And certainly we know we are the “before” image, the journey waiting to happen, the unhappy woman ready for her own “success story”. That is it. To these magazines, to this diet culture, women are just the before images, waiting to become the ideal of health. Yes, it is a clever marketing tool, we can see the “results” of the product being sold.

But that product is not a weight loss supplement, not a diet program, not abstractly health, it is shame. Shame about your body, that eveyone can see your body, and that they are all judging your body. None of these products are selling anything but: you are not good enough, your body isn’t ready, you are unhealthy, you are unhappy, and its all your fault.

And we buy buy buy.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jill permalink
    April 17, 2009 7:06 PM

    YES! The point of “One rule to a flat stomach: OBEY” is to say, “Hey, uppity bitch, I make the rules here.” It’s not about health, it’s about reifying control–other people decide if your body is adequate.

  2. April 18, 2009 10:42 AM

    You are so right. Health and our perception of health are two separate things. They often coincide but not as often as we might think.

  3. Lyndsay permalink
    April 18, 2009 5:14 PM

    It’s amazing how many people are trying to cut calories while when I’m running out of groceries and don’t have time to bike for more I want as many calories as I can get. 300 calories for a muffin that’s only $1.14? Great! It’s amazing how we talk about calories as if they’re bad. Calories are what keep us living. Saying calories are bad is like saying eating is bad. If you tell me that muffin has a high amount of saturated fat, I might listen to you. If you tell me too much fat around the waist is bad for health, based on a peer-reviewed study, I might listen. Or even if you talk about over 2000 calories/day and no exercise. I’ll question but I’ll listen. But calories are bad? No way.

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