Tag Archives: diet

Why Obesity Will Never Be Attractive

obesity

There are a lot of complexities, oddities, and eccentricities that go into what makes someone attractive. Betty White might not have the body of a Victoria’s Secret model, but she has a wide range of talents and quirks that make her attractive in her own unique way. Being physically beautiful is nice, but that will only get someone so far in terms of being attractive.

Certain people find weird things beautiful and there’s nothing wrong with that. Human beings have diverse and eclectic tastes in many things, especially when it comes to beauty standards. That said, there are some attributes to being attractive that are difficult to circumvent. That’s not to say one particular feature is always unattractive. There are simply some logistical issues that go beyond taste.

One feature that tends to become an issue every summer is that of fat acceptance. In recent years, ads using beautiful female models to promote beach body readiness have become controversial for reasons that are only half-legitimate. The complaints are fairly standard. Using beautiful models promotes unhealthy body images. While the veracity of those concerns may have some merit, that’s rarely where the complaining stops.

The outrage.

It’s not enough to protest products that use beautiful people in their advertising or movies that only ever cast attractive, relatively fit actors. For some, the entire concept of finding someone fit and thin as beautiful is detrimental. It doesn’t just foster unrealistic beauty standards. It perverts the entire concept of beauty. It sends the message that fat cannot be attractive.

At a time when obesity rates all over the world are increasing, it seems like a problem that’s bound to get worse, especially if the media insists on using thin, fit models. It has given those in the fat acceptance movements, as well as those on extreme ends of the political spectrum, ample material with which to voice their outrage.

Now, in the spirit of sifting through the firestorm that is outrage culture, I want to make clear that there are certain traits that don’t warrant shame and stigma. Someone’s race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender aren’t things they can control. Attacking someone or judging their attractiveness by those standards isn’t just unreasonable. It’s just a dick move.

When it comes to fat, however, the line gets somewhat obscure. It’s true that some people are genetically predisposed to being obese. There’s nothing they can do to change that. Losing weight or staying thin is just much harder for them than most people. I know this because I have relatives who are thin as a rail, but eat like pigs and never gain an ounce.

To that extent, I don’t support shaming or stigmatizing individuals who just got dealt a bad genetic hand. Having the body of a Victoria’s Secret model isn’t something that anyone can gain with sufficient exercise and diet. That kind of beauty is akin to winning a genetic lottery.

The sexiest lotto winners.

Where the fat acceptance movement loses credibility, though, is when it attempts to place fat as something that warrants a level of attractiveness on par with those who are thin. Some frame it as healthy at any size or basic body positivity, but the intended results are the same. The idea is to make those not blessed with supermodel genes feel and be accepted as attractive.

While I can understand and even appreciate the intentions, idealistic they might be, I can’t overlook one glaring problem with that effort. It’s not so much a matter of attitudes as it is an issue of logistics. Simply put, fat will never be as attractive as thin or otherwise toned bodies. It’s not because of culture, the media, or some nefarious conspiracy by the patriarchy, either. It’s just simple logistics.

To understand, you need only look at what it takes to be fat and compare it to what it takes to be thin. Being fat is relatively easy. You eat lots of sugary, unhealthy food and you don’t get enough exercise to burn off the calories. While genetics will add numerous variations, this process is part of basic human biology.

To be thin and fit like the models in the beach body ads, you need to put in real, strenuous effort. As someone who has made that effort, I can attest to how difficult it is. You have to exercise discipline in changing your eating habits. You have to push yourself to exercise regularly and that exercise is rarely pleasant. At times, it’ll feel downright uncomfortable. However, in time, you will see results.

Those intractable difference also sends other, less obvious messages that influence how attractive someone is. When people see someone who is thin and fit, they don’t just see their body. They see someone who is willing to put in the work to look they way they do. They also see someone who will endure physical and mental strain in order to achieve a goal. Those are all things we want in a potential partner.

Conversely, seeing someone who is fat or unfit sends the message that someone doesn’t care about their health. They either don’t want to put in the effort to look better or don’t care to look better. Then, they expect other people to find them attractive without them doing anything to earn it. Beyond the physical attributes of fat, it’s an attitude that’s hard to make attractive in any context.

On top of that, obesity does lead to a host of legitimate medical issues that go beyond beauty standards. Unlike other physical traits, it is possible to lose weight and body fat. There is a biological process for it and there’s no need for fad diets, either. There are plenty of success stories about people who put in the work and lost considerable weight.

Again, such efforts are very difficult for certain people due to genetic factors that they cannot control. I know people who work out regularly, but can only seem to lose so much weight. It’s frustrating, but the fact they put in the effort still shows in other ways. They’re healthier, they have more energy, and they feel better about themselves. That makes them more attractive than anyone protesting beach body ads.

To some extent, there needs to be some stigma against activities that are objectively unhealthy. It’s how many societies have managed to reduce smoking rates. Like it or not, being too fat is unhealthy. No matter how many ads someone protests or how many plus-sized models get hired for underwear ads, that’s not going to change.

Beauty standards are subject to all sorts of trends and quirks. They always have been and fat has been part of that for much of human history. No matter how much or how little fat is considered attractive, unhealthy traits that denote unhealthy characteristics will never reflect ideals of beauty.

In the same way being attractive takes effort, being healthy, fit, and desirable to others requires hard work and a measure of discipline. Someone’s ability to achieve that often says more about who they are, as a person, than what they look like in a bikini.

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How I Shamed Myself Into Being Healthier

There’s no way around it. Compared to all the characters in movies, TV shows, and comic books, we’re ugly as hell. We don’t take care of ourselves. We’re fat. We’re weak. We’re unmotivated. Despite all this, we still like to pretend we’re sexier than Jennifer Lawrence in a bikini sucking on a popsicle. It’s as unhealthy as it is delusional.

What I just wrote is not to be taken as motivation or a sales pitch. It’s not even directed towards any person or group in particular. In fact, what I just said is merely a reflection of the thoughts I once conveyed whenever I looked in a mirror, minus that part about Jennifer Lawrence. Just like I am with my writing, I am my own harshest critic when it comes to my body and health.

I shamed myself. I shamed myself a lot for a good chunk of my adult life. It wasn’t just about my looks either. I had a serious self-esteem issue growing up. It wasn’t because of anything my friends or family did. That’s for sure. I did it to myself and not for all the right reasons. I was fucking miserable. I hated myself. In the end, however, it helped me in a profound way.

Confused? That’s to be expected. Annoyed? Yeah, I have that effect on people. Anxious? Well, you should be because I’m about to get personal again. I’ve talked about sleeping naked. I’ve talked about my own circumcision. Those topics are bound to fill peoples’ heads with unpleasant imagery. I hope this time is little anecdote is a bit more pleasant.

This personal story is a follow-up, of sorts, to my post on body-shaming. I understand that what I wrote probably offended certain people because I took the unpopular position that there’s some kind of merit to shaming. Then again, the people who took offense to that probably get offended when someone points out the color of the sky so I’m not going to worry too much about those people.

Instead, I want craft a real-life example of how shaming can make us better ourselves. It’s not enough to just be happy with who you are, love yourself no matter what, and never acknowledge any flaws you may have. I think it’s an important lesson to learn because people make a big fucking deal of self-esteem these days and worry endlessly that kids and adults alike or suffering when they don’t have enough of it.

Like snake oil and diet pills, self-esteem is basically seen as this cure-all for every mental shortcoming. Chief among those shortcomings involves how we look. We shouldn’t shame each other for looking different, right? We should love ourselves and embrace our inner beauty, right? It’s the lesson that Lady Gaga has taught an entire generation.

First off, this lesson is bogus. Second, it’s extremely easy for Lady Gaga to love herself. Why? She looks like this.

It’s very easy to love yourself when you’re beautiful. Beauty like this is beauty you actually have to work at. You think Lady Gaga looks this way because she just loves herself? Hell no! She has to fucking work at it. She has to actually earn the right to look this good.

This is an important concept and one that more people need to learn. Beauty and health aren’t things that we can gain just by loving ourselves. Self-esteem does not help you lose weight, nor does it make your acne go away. A lack of self-esteem can make it even worse. I would know.

This is how my story played out. For most of my life, I wasn’t very attractive. That’s not to say I was ugly. I wasn’t short, fat, or deformed in any way. I was basically just average at best or below average at worst. I also wore dorky glasses and had a horrible acne problem that plagued me for most of my teenage years. I never felt attractive. I never felt sexy. I basically went out of my way to make myself more miserable for not looking good.

I admit I was probably much harsher on myself than I should’ve been. While I was in school, I knew people who actually did have health issues, be it their weight or their appearance. Harsh or not, it did mess me up. It didn’t make me very pleasant to be around, that’s for sure.

I certainly didn’t get a lot of attention from women either. Believe it or not, girls don’t find pudgy, pale, self-loathing guys with an acne problem attractive. This certainly did plenty to undermine my self-esteem even more, but looking back on it, I can hardly blame them. I can’t imagine I would’ve been a good partner for any woman during that time.

So what changed? It had to have changed. I wouldn’t have the energy or the self-esteem to share this story if I had remained this sad, dorky, overly-emo kid with an acne problem. So how exactly did I respond to all that self-shaming and self-loathing?

Well, for one thing, it ensured I didn’t ignore it. When my acne got really bad, I made it a point to go to a doctor and get actual medication to help treat it. Believe it or not, modern medicine does work. I was able to find a treatment for my acne that more-or-less solved the problem. So thanks modern medicine! That’s one issue solved.

Modern medicine helped me out again down the line. Remember those dorky glasses I mentioned? Well, they’re gone now. I don’t wear them because I got Lasik surgery on my eyes to fix them. I now see perfectly. I now have a face that is unhindered by acne or glasses. I like to think it’s a cute face. I’m not Ryan Gosling, but I’m no George Costanza either.

However, modern medicine could only do so much. Sometimes, you need a good kick in the ass to get yourself to change. I definitely got that when a close relative of mine suffered a serious heart attack. He didn’t die, but it was serious.

The fact that he was only in his 50s really concerned me because after that incident, I found out that there is a history of heart disease and cancer in my family. On top of that, I didn’t take care of myself. My meals consisted primarily of sugary cereal, cookies, greasy burgers, and pizza. My exercise regiment was restricted to walking up to the store to buy more junk food. I was playing a risky game of poker with the deck stacked against me.

Despite this very disconcerting knowledge, I was still reluctant to get off my ass. The caveman part of my brain just didn’t want to change. It was just too easy to keep doing what I was doing. Plus, I really like the taste of cookies and junk food.

In the end, I feel the shaming gave me the extra push that I needed. Seeing myself in the mirror every day and not liking what I saw motivated me to do something about it. On top of that, I love comic books, as I’ve made clear on this blog many times before. In case you’ve forgotten, Superman looks like this.

Look at those muscles. Look at those abs. Look at that raw masculine power. Is it an unrealistic ideal for men? Absolutely. Superman is, by his own nature, the embodiment of an ideal. However, just because something is unattainable doesn’t mean it’s worth striving for. That’s a lesson Superman himself preaches.

I finally got that message loud and clear. One day, I finally dragged my pudgy ass out of bed and to a gym at the local rec center. I convinced myself to go there by promising myself that I would soak in the hot tub after getting in a workout. It wasn’t much of a workout to begin with, but it was a start and that hot tub felt dam good.

From there, a new habit formed. I started going to the gym more regularly, once a week to start. I soon felt the urge to do more so I started going twice. I bought workout clothes. I looked up fitness tips online. I didn’t buy into any gimmicky weight-loss crap from late-night infomercials. I just ran, lifted, and sweated.

Flash forward a bit more and now I’m an avid runner. I go out running for at least 30 minutes a day or four miles, whichever comes first. I do weight-training twice a week and I don’t go light either. I grunt, I sweat, and I toil. After every workout, I look like I just swam in a pool of my own sweat loved every second of it. I’m not going to lie either. It makes me feel damn sexy.

On top of the exercise, I did tweak my diet. This was, by far, the hardest. I had to cut a lot of sugar out of my diet. That meant cutting soda completely and saving cookies for special occasions only. That was painful. It meant eating more protein, such as eggs and chicken. It meant eating less red meat. These changes were tough, but worth it.

Now I’m not saying I look like Superman. I don’t. I’m not saying I have Brad Pitt’s abs or Hugh Jackman’s ass. I don’t. However, I can say that I look a lot healthier and a lot more attractive than I did before I started working out. I don’t have as much body fat anymore. I can actually see my abs. I actually have good bicep now. It does work, people. You can work out, eat better, get healthier, and become more attractive.

None of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t shamed myself into action. If I had just done what Lady Gaga said and loved myself, I would be 25 pounds heavier and far less healthy than I am now. Working out and becoming more attractive gave me more confidence and energy. It made me better to be around. It also made me more attractive to women, which is certainly a nice bonus.

I get that there are still problems with body shaming. There are people whose biology simply doesn’t allow them to look the way they want. It’s a difficult issue. Hell, it was the primary topic of my book, “Skin Deep.”

Until science advances to a point where it can make everybody look like Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence, we need to push ourselves. We need to actually work at it if we want to be beautiful, healthy, and attractive. Just being content with who we are isn’t enough sometimes.

We need to shame each other to some extent to get our asses in gear and get healthier. It can be hard and downright demoralizing at times, but it’s worth doing. You feel better, happier, and sexier as a result.

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Re-framing Body Shaming

Shame on you. Shame on me. Shame on us for not being exactly how others want us to be. We should all be appalled with ourselves. How dare we not conform to societies expectations?

That last paragraph was pure sarcasm, by the way. It’s also an overly simplistic summation of shaming, that inglorious facet of society where we collectively decide to denigrate or denounce someone in a way that’ll make them feel terrible about themselves. It’s one of nature’s crudest instruments for shaping a social species. Being so crude, it’s absurdly easy to misuse.

There’s all sorts of shaming. There’s slut-shaming, fat-shaming, food-shaming, culture-shaming, gender-shaming, and probably some other form of shaming that’s being invented as we speak. Even in the era of the Internet, it’s hard to keep up with all these types of shaming. So for the purposes of keeping this post simple, I’m going to focus on one particular type of shaming: body shaming.

This type of shaming is relevant to me because, being an erotica/romance writer, I deal with a lot of bodies. In my stories, I have to describe bodies. I have to describe how they look and what they’re doing in a way that’s compelling, interesting, and sexy. If I can’t do that, then I can’t tell much of a story. Nobody’s panties will get wet if the story just involves two amorphous blobs rubbing together.

According Urban Dictionary, body shaming is simply defined as:

Shaming someone for their body type.

Pretty obvious, isn’t it? This is one of those concepts that really explains itself. It really shouldn’t be that complex, but like so many things in this world, we love to fuck it up in a way that completely skews the concept.

Body shaming is a big deal these days for reasons that have nothing to do with health and beauty. It, like other forms of shaming, have become tied into the anti-bullying movement that has grown rapidly in recent years. We no longer live in a world ripped from a bad 80s teen movie. It’s not cool to be a bully anymore. Bullies are now right up there with dead skunks and cow shit in terms of things we don’t want in our society anymore.

The stereotypical bully is often the first to laugh at someone’s body, be they fat, skinny, ugly, or deformed. They loudly proclaim that there must be something wrong with a person who allows themselves to get that fat or that ugly. They make someone feel guilty, depressed, or sad for being who they are and that’s just not cool.

Okay, now this is the part where I piss off the politically correct, overly emotional, obscenely sensitive crowd because I’m going to look at this issue in an unusual, unpopular way. Brace yourselves, prepare to send the hate mail, and hide in your safe space because I’m probably going to offend some people here. I’m not going to apologize ahead of time either. I’m just going to say what I feel needs to be said about this issue.

My problem with the current approach to bullying and body-shaming is that my brain just can’t work in such simplistic terms. The simple idea of, “All bullying is bad! All body-shaming is bad! Shame on all those who justify it!” just doesn’t work for me. My brain has a problem with accepting overly simple things that sound too good to be true. Maybe I’ve had one too many bad experiences with infomercials and Nigerian princes, but I just can’t look at this issue in the context of “always bad and always evil.”

Human beings just aren’t that simple. Humanity, in all its inglorious grandeur, is full of all sorts of complexities, both as individuals and as societies. These complexities are a big part of what makes us so interesting and entertaining. If aliens landed tomorrow, I’m sure they’d find something about humanity to laugh at.

With respect to body-shaming, I do think there is a context that sets it apart from traditional shaming. First and foremost, we have to understand that the very concept of shaming is important to our society. We can’t do a way with it, nor should we.

Shame, as ugly as it may be, serves an important purpose for social creatures like humans. You see, for most of human history, we didn’t have laws or message boards to punish or denigrate others for doing something socially unacceptable. We lived in small bands of tribes that roamed the land, looking for food and safe places to hump. Failure to do so means that both the individual and the tribe would suffer.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, for the politically correct crowd), humans come with some built-in biological wiring to keep people in line. If someone did something wrong, they would feel guilt about it and have an incentive not to do it again.

Shaming emerged as an extension of guilt, creating a system for an entire tribe to use to let someone know that they need to get their shit together. It was a way to motivate or incentivize them to do the right thing for themselves and others. It can be harsh, but it can work too. It can even be funny, as Family Guy regularly proves.

It’s a fact of life as a social species. We need shame because it’s built in. It’s hard-wired. It can’t be bribed, corrupted, or bought off. It’s a force that can affect the poorest among us and the richest among us. It is effectively the glue that incentivizes us to function in society. When laws and internet message boards fail, shame can pick up the slack.

So where does this leave body-shaming? First, let me make clear that there are degrees of shaming that have no excuse. If someone’s body is big, small, or misshapen in ways they cannot control, either by genetics or poverty, then that’s a gross misuse of shame. It’s true that human bodies have many variations and some are more prone to be fat, thin, or something in between. However, there is one little detail here that skews the context.

That detail is called obesity.

When I say obesity, I’m not just referring to fat people. I’m also referring to overly skinny people as well. They aren’t shamed quite as often, but it’s the same blunt instrument. It’s the same unjustified use of shame. It’s just being used in a way that isn’t consistent with the biological purpose of shame.

Here’s the issue that I know anti-shamers and obesity activists try to avoid. Obesity, like smoking, does have serious health risks. While it’s not nearly as bad as smoking, it does carry with it some health issues that aren’t exactly attractive. According to WebMD, these issues include:

It’s true that not everyone who is obese will have these problems, but the chances are greater and not everybody is willing to play those odds. Eating too much, having too much body-fat, and not getting enough exercise can be damaging, both to individuals and the society that incurs the cost of these health issues.

As a result, our crude biological wiring is going to step in whether we like it or not. When we see something unhealthy in society, we tend to do whatever we can to stop it, even if it means bullying and shaming. It’s true we go overboard at times. We’re human. We’re blunt instruments, not surgical tools. However, there often is some level of logic behind our actions.

It’s just not the kind of logic that will ever show up in an 80s teen movie. This is caveman logic, a term I use so often on this blog that I should probably trademark it. In the old hunter/gatherer days, the biological programming of which is still with us, the fat and unhealthy bodies incurred a burden on the tribe. If the person couldn’t see that, then shaming them was a way of getting them to shape up and get their ass in gear.

We’re not cavemen anymore, but we’re still stuck with their wiring. We need to accept that and there are some politically correct types who can’t seem to wrap their heads around it. They seem to think that human biology can be ignored or circumvented.

It’s the same faulty belief that has effectively doomed the Catholic Church’s crusade on premarital sex and masturbation. You can’t stop people from masturbating. You can’t stop them from shaming bodies either.

By the logic of our faulty human wiring, a tribe of healthy, fit men and women is a good thing. Being fit doesn’t necessarily mean that all the men have to look like Brad Pitt and all the women have to look like Kate Upton. The human body has all sorts of glorious variations, colors, and traits. Being healthy enhances every one of them.

Some people aren’t going to be motivated to pursue that level of health. Shaming is a way of getting their asses off the couch. Again, we do tend to go overboard with it, but it’s one of those unpleasant facets of society that has a legitimate biological function. So those who want to live in a world where nobody is shamed for how they look may as well wish that carrots taste like chocolate. It’s not going to happen.

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