A constant that remains throughout social fads is this: people have a relationship with their body whether hating it, loving it or somewhere in between. Cultural shifts and trends in how the body is viewed or is to be viewed has a massive impact on our relationship with our body and our acceptance of other people’s bodies.
Recently I heard an interview with an American fitness coach who’s health journey I find inspiring; however one thing she said concerned me – she referred to getting rid of ugly fat.
Seriously – What is ugly fat?
We are in a phase in the west where the culture around body image is to ‘shred fat ’ There is a positive in this; as a culture we are shifting to an understanding that we need to take action to be healthy ie ‘shred it’, rather than a passive ‘starve it’ mentality. However many of us are still reaching for an ideal that someone else has dictated to us.
Let’s get this in perspective – culture changes! At present there is an emphasis on getting ‘shredded’ – Instagram is a clear visual documentation of this cultural phase. (of course there are other phases alongside this but it is pretty up there!)
We have been exposed to many cultural shifts around body image, in the 1990’s we saw the rise of the supermodel, being skinny was in. My understanding of ‘skinny’ was to do no exercise and to eat as little as possible. I found this difficult as I loved and still do love food, therefore in the past no matter what my size I always felt fat and therefore ugly!
The rise of the page 3 girl in the UK saw Katie price leading the way for slim figures with big breasts rather than a typical supermodel figure. In the 2000’s having a big ‘booty’ became the ideal. Looking back through the ages to medieval times being skinny was not seen as attractive, it was a sign of lack of wealth. Fat on the body was desirable, signifying wealth and suggested fertility in females. In this historical context I am speaking from a female perspective; There are pressures on men to achieve the ideal body, perhaps becoming more extreme in the last 10 years or so. For an insight from a male perspective I recommend Reggie Yate’s BBC documentary ‘Dying for a six pack’.
When we attach a level of desirability and beauty to an image of a healthy body we have a problem. If shredded is attractive, big booty and slim waist are attractive then no wonder this fitness professional was calling fat ugly! Healthy bodies come in all different shapes and sizes and healthy mindsets are just as important!
Carrying excessive fat can be dangerous for a person’s health, but as a society can we let go of labeling fat as ugly and deal with real health issues? Most of us know ‘that person’ who may not be stereotypically beautiful or have the ‘perfect’ figure yet is so attractive to others they are like a magnet! Usually these people have a healthy relationship with themselves – they like, even love who they are and what they offer the world! Deep down I think everyone wants this and we can bypass all the fads to get there!!
Our bodies, regardless of any culture or period of time are a vehicle with which we experience life! The question therefore arises how do we want to experience our bodies? We can experience our bodies through the lens of cultural norms and codes or as a wonderful manifestation of our unique journey in the world.
We, as a society can choose what images to post and share with the world from individuals posting on social media, through to international advertising campaigns! Let’s develop a relationship with our bodies that is based on our own needs and ideals, being conscious that the language and images we use to talk about the body can influence how younger generations view their bodies and the bodies of others.
So what is Ugly fat? It is an unnecessary label that feeds the notion that there is a beautiful body and an ugly body. We are different people with different bodies; let’s be the healthiest we can be without shaming others or ourselves.