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Be comfortable in your own skin, no matter what the American Medical Association says

By July 16, 2013 6 Comments

The American Medical Association thinks it’s time to begin classifying obesity as a “disease”. This news brought me back to reality after I found myself caught up in my own recent weight loss. Let me back up a bit.

Recently, after I did a presentation, someone told me I appeared “very comfortable in [my] own skin”. I think this is probably the best compliment someone could ever give me.

Image of average-sized woman modeling.

Girls just wanna have fun, not constantly focus on their weight.

Some people like to hear, “You look nice today”, but that mostly makes me uncomfortable. Not that I don’t appreciate their attempt to be nice, I am just very aware of the culture we live in and know that we constantly evaluate women on their appearance. I don’t want to be evaluated for my appearance, but instead what I think, accomplish, have to say, etc.

Specifically the compliment that makes me the most uncomfortable is, “You look like you’ve lost weight.” I’m sure the person just thinks they’re doing me a favor by telling me I’m closer to getting to what must be my goal of being thin.

I know the stereotypes and assumptions about women include that we must constantly be on a diet and want to look like the women in the magazines; however, this is not something that I strive for.

I am definitely comfortable in my own skin — curves, stretch marks, and all. Sure, I occasionally lose confidence when being bombarded with media rhetoric that tells me I’m too fat, or that I don’t fit the “ideal” beauty standards.

Usually I just remind myself of all the things I learned in my Women’s Studies classes about body image and the media, like how all the models in magazines are Photoshopped or airbrushed and aren’t really as thin as they look in the photos.

When I get these “compliments” (which I got a lot after I had my second child and the weight started to slip off), I smile and say, “Thank you”. What I really want to say is, “Thanks, but no thanks”, but that might come off a little snotty.

I get it. We’ve been taught to focus on women’s appearances and to assume that women want to be complimented on such things. I especially don’t want to be rude to my friends who I know are just trying to be nice.

Three plus-size models in bathing suits.

I see your “disease” and raise you “sexy”.

As I mentioned earlier, for a little while there, I have to admit I got caught up in it. I started to get excited about fitting in to smaller sized pants. I even started weighing myself every week, something that I had sworn off completely. I even told my friends and my mom about the weight that I had lost.

It wasn’t until hearing the news about the American Medical Association classifying obesity as a “disease” that I snapped out of it.

Really? So I’m sick? I don’t feel sick. In fact, I’m quite healthy. I don’t have high blood pressure. There isn’t any physical activity that I need to do that I can’t. I play with my kids. I pick up my kids and swing them around. I walk up the stairs several times a day to go to the restroom and don’t get out of breath. I don’t eat a bunch of junk food. I drink plenty of water. I feel great.

I do not have a “disease” and I don’t appreciate the insinuation. I wonder about their intentions with this new declaration. It’s certainly not done to help improve our body image and may even increase the incidence of eating disorders.

Fashion magazines and companies like Abercrombie & Fitch are already telling “obese” people they’re not cool enough to wear their clothes. The AMA’s definition is only going to encourage that type of discrimination. We’ve worked so hard to get the media to recognize their fat-shaming and had some success. Hopefully the backlash they face in response to this news will encourage them to reconsider.

Gretchen Edwards-Bodmer is a curvy grrrl from Virginia with a Master’s degree in Humanities and Women’s Studies. You can find her musings about raising two boys in this crazy world at www.grrrlwithboys.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter @GrrrlWithBoys.