We’ve Lost All Concept Of What A Healthy Woman’s Body Looks Like
And it’s really not even our fault
Most fatphobia is disguised as “concern” for someone’s health. Rarely will someone make a negative comment about someone’s body and admit, they just don’t like it because it’s larger.
For the most part, you’re often met with a holier-than-thou speech about someone’s concern for your health. Often, this concern will even come from people you barely know. Or, these comments will be made on famous women’s bodies, by people all around us. Are we really still believing that people care about a total stranger’s health? Are we finally ready to admit we’re just fatphobic and have no real concept of what a healthy body looks like anymore?
Confounding thinness with health
Recently, I came across this post on on_site’s Instagram. Where we see the woman on the left, saying the woman on the right’s body is a result of “no discipline, structure and poor eating habits”.
We’ve totally lost the plot on what a healthy body looks like. The lines have become so blurred on what’s cosmetic versus what’s healthy.
When it comes to fitness culture, especially online: people show off their results with vanity metrics. Which isn’t inherently bad. Both men and women who are covered in rippling muscle worked very hard to get there and I’m sure are in great health. However, these bodies are not models of healthy bodies, but just of built bodies.
For a woman aged 21 and above, between 20% to 30% of body fat falls within the healthy range of body fat. Most bodybuilders and toned people are sitting at around 15% or less. A healthy amount of physical activity sits at about 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week, which is just over 10 minutes a day. Alternately, around 20 minutes of less vigorous activity. Many bodybuilders or very muscular people do a lot more than that.
When it comes to diet, people who are aiming to build more muscle usually consume a lot more protein than what’s necessary for health. Generally, during the bulking cycle, they’ll have to eat much more than what’d be necessary to fall within their healthy calorie ranges.
With the above statistics and metrics taken into consideration, we see that healthy bodies often look like the one on the right, far more often than they look like the one on the left. Bodies that fall within healthy ranges of exercise, food consumption and fat percentages are very rarely extremely toned or slim. As a matter of fact, losing too much body fat is often detrimental to women’s health.
Of course, people who are very muscular, and thin can still be very healthy. However, it’s important to separate cosmetic metrics and health metrics. They are not the same and don’t present the same. Vanity metrics are not a good measure of health. They cannot and should not be taken seriously and are largely based on fatphobia.
Vanity metrics as a tell-tale of your lifestyle
Outside of the realm of thinness, fitness culture also makes strong, bold and overarching assumptions about women’s lifestyles and habits based on their bodies. The response doesn’t only lay claim on her body but makes several assumptions about her habits. A list of habits, that wouldn’t necessarily have any visual impact on a person’s body. It’s incredibly easy to have a consistent workout routine, and healthy diet without being that thin.
It’s another fatphobic assumption that not being extremely toned is a personal failure and shortcoming. That the reason someone’s body is not adhering to the vanity metric set by the fitness industry is that they’re lazy or have bad habits: whether or not there’s any proof of this.
There is no way to tell someone’s fitness levels, habits or lifestyle based on their body.
Nondisclosure of plastic surgery
There’s nothing wrong with cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgeries really do change people’s lives. However, fitness culture is rampant with people who’ve done surgery who don’t disclose that their results are an outcome of surgery and not just their “habits” and diet.
Your general fitness level won’t give you the same results in the same amount of time that a surgeon can. What can be accomplished in six weeks post-op will very rarely have been accomplished with six weeks of “changed habits”. So much of what we've convinced ourselves are “healthy” bodies were crafted.
People have the complete right to do this, but it’s important to understand how damaging it is to parade your body as a sign of hard work and discipline while commenting on another woman’s body when it’s simply not the truth.
Fatphobia and fear of larger bodies have done a number on everyone. Many of us are projecting unpacked insecurity that we’ve learned. It’s cyclical. We do onto others that were previously done onto us. It’s natural. However, it’s important to continue conversations like this to remind ourselves how many of the ideas we have are wrong and based on hatred.
The world around us hasn’t been particularly kind to women, and unlearning is the first step to learning to be kinder to ourselves and others.