Are we embracing the right principles?

I believe that staying open minded when it comes to education should be a prerequisite for all human race. If you believe in the science of human evolution then you should also believe that as we age our belief system will evolve, that is, if we open up to new findings and information. That’s why I am always interested in the latest news in the field of nutrition. I’m especially willing to listen to research that contradicts my beliefs in hopes that it will either convince me that I’ve been on the right path all along or to a lesser degree for it to sway me the other way. That’s why on my most recent solo weekend I took to Netflix in search of some new, fascinating documentaries in the food and nutrition theme.

What I found and decided to devote my time to was a title that I remembered seeing somewhere in the social media world being referred to as the ultimate in body positivity movement – “Embrace”. My common sense guard came up right away to warn me against watching this flick, but I didn’t listen and watched it anyway. And here is what I think:

The film tells a personal story of Taryn Brumfitt who overcame her struggle with body image by losing a bunch of weight, joining a bodybuilding competition, getting disappointed by how she felt and then gaining the weight back on and then some. Yes, you read that right, she is only happy now, after having regained the weight. Why? Because she claims she has accepted and embraced the way she is.

Let’s back track for a bit. After giving birth to her children her body has changed, she probably had less time to prepare meals and as a result it showed.  This caused her discomfort – like it would to anybody – that’s a natural reaction. She has the basic understanding of what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed – diet and exercise. Nevertheless, she hires a personal trainer who will guide her on her health and fitness journey. She cleans up her diet and starts an exercise regimen. She gets in shape, she is happy with her body now, she looks good, she can wear cute outfits that fit her well. Somehow, at this point she thinks to herself: “I need to validate this by bearing myself to the world.” and so she competes against other women who might or might not have been competing in bodybuilding shows for years. At this point she realizes that bodybuilding competitions are typically not a one time thing – people who compete do it for a lifetime, they don’t get settled in after one fail or one trophy. If they don’t place as well as they had hoped for – they come back with a vengeance next time, if they win – they want more and come back for more. Supposedly, this gives her the impression that it’s never enough in this sport, that those people are never happy with their appearance. She realizes that staying in shape is a lifetime commitment to taking care of yourself by nourishing one’s body properly and by training regularly for the rest of one’s life – and that’s not what she signed up for. She says that this is way too difficult and time-consuming for her to continue, so instead she abandons the new found knowledge and packs on the weight again – now she says she embraces the way she is. I guess it’s easier that way.

If you’ve read this far you probably got the sense that I disagree with the premise of the movie and you would be partly right. I disagree with how this whole embrace-your-shape-whatever-it-is BS is presented. We are basically being told to put the least amount of effort into making ourselves into what we want to be and instead just go with the flow, cake and cookies included. Such assertions – that if you’re overweight, it’s because god indented you to be this way and you should not resist it, just embrace it – make my skin crawl. I think that type of attitude is teaching our children to be complacent, to not have aspirations, to not want to better themselves – we are all humans with faults that we should strive to eliminate or lessen. Take a smoker : smoking is a nasty habit that’s hard to quit and that’s killing him, will you tell the smoker to embrace his habit? No, you’ll encourage him to quit, show him ways to do it, you’ll support him in his efforts – you won’t ever tell him to embrace it. So why is it ok to encourage and support malnourishing our bodies to the point of obesity? 

What really bothers me about this movie is the fact that Taryn compares her situation with others suffering from afflictions that they cannot control. She seems to imply that a person with a weight issue is somehow suffering from the same societal pressures and judgements as a person who has half of her face paralyzed due to brain cancer, or a person who is disfigured due to surviving a fire, or a person  who is missing limbs due to an accident. So we have two groups of people here : in one people who become overweight on their own doing and in the other people who, not by choice, are in some way shape or form physically deformed. Both groups of people should embrace the way they are instead of trying to correct their circumstances or be unhappy with how they look. Well, if you don’t see a problem here let me tell you that in my eyes that’s a huge blow to the face of the people who cannot help the fact that they became permanently disabled. 

However, I do believe that there is time and place to be body positive – and it’s to fuel our desire to look and feel great in our bodies, not by becoming complacent and lazy, but by working hard at achieving the best that we can be. I do believe that we become what we think and that’s why thinking positively about what we want is very important. “Thoughts become things” sounds like such a cliché, but what else is there to do? – the opposite is just a sure way to fail and be miserable. So, instead of going with the flow and accepting the bulge I vote for embracing the hard work and effort that it takes to be the best that we can be. Your body will thank you for it, I guarantee it!

I leave you with an article – “Don’t tell me to embrace my overweight body” – about a woman who tells it as it is without sugarcoating anything. I respect her for her courage to come out and say it out loud – embracing an oversized body is often a free ticket to eat that extra large burger without guilt. 

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