Shame. The concept of shame is not a new one – we can trace it back to the original sin and the subsequent invention of pants, after all. As society has changed, so have we. People have been shamed for different reasons over time.
As our lifestyles have changed so have our bodies. Modern sedentary lives combined with less physical activity has led to a huge escalation in health problems associated with people being overweight.
This is nothing new, we’ve been on the receiving end of this information for decades. Medical science has developed to the extent that doctors are able to tell us that lack of physical movement and extreme weight gain will, most definitely, lead to early death.
We’ve now reached the stage in modern society where some people would happily lie in order to spare someone’s feelings. Just think about that for a second: some people would rather lie and so ‘spare’ someone’s feelings than see that person live a longer life. How can that be considered a good thing?
And yet, we’re being encouraged to think that it is a good thing. Body shaming, the activity of making people feel uncomfortable about the distance that exists between their bodies and the common perceived body ideal, is obviously not a nice thing. As a general rule of thumb, making people feel bad about themselves isn’t ‘nice’. But we’ve now reached a stage where the desire to avoid anything like body shaming is becoming confused with an obviously commendable inclination to protect people from abuse.
Obviously protection from abuse is a good idea, but on this point, society is wholly confused. Our societies send out messages which do little but confuse us all. We are bombarded with instructions on what to eat, drink, and think, and these instructions have implications for our bodies and our appearance. The health industry has grown into something less connected wholly with the idea of enabling people to live better for longer, and more with the idea of encouraging people to pay for certain products and services that may enable them to live better for longer, or at least make them more attractive to others whilst they strive for this goal.
Several industries now exist to take our money in return for promises to make us not necessarily feel better, or live longer, but rather look better so that others find us more attractive. It would appear that beauty is only skin-deep after all.
One result of the increased attention that is now paid to bodies, should be the realisation that the vast majority of people’s bodies aren’t anywhere near the ideal that advertising tells us we should be aiming for. There’s nothing surprising about that, however, is there? Surely, we should be able to open our eyes to the extent that we recognise advertising and images in fashion magazines for what they really are: not real life.
Cosmopolitan is telling people that they, too, can be healthy and fit, even if they are hugely overweight. That flies in the face of medical knowledge.
There are people whose health is being adversely affected by the size of the mass that they’re carrying around. The morbidly obese will die before they should. That’s not just sad, but disturbing. These people’s extreme weight is forcing their own organs to work under such duress that their organs will be ready for the knacker’s yard far sooner than normal. But to state that is rude. Saying something like that might hurt someone’s feelings. Call someone fat and it probably will hurt their feelings. Not many people like being called fat, or ugly, or stupid. This is normal. This is what we do when we insult: we exclude someone to highlight that they are not what we are. We belong, they don’t.
Unfortunately, insults and advice are being confused. What we’re presently witnessing, is the overwhelming desire to reassure people that they, too, can be members of a particular group. The morbidly obese, too, can feel that they are part of the world of fitness and sport. Fine, that’s a nice idea, an admirable idea which might contribute to a closer, more loving society. But at what cost?
Magazines, like Cosmopolitan, have chosen, for albeit good reason, to attempt to make women feel better about their bodies. Cosmopolitan and others have decided that body shaming should stop. And it should. But it won’t.
What we could stop, however, is the insane swaddling of the feelings of morbidly obese people in cotton wool. Ignoring the truth or deliberately convincing people of a lie is not a good idea at all.
Magazines like Cosmopolitan enthusiastically seek to reassure their readers that being morbidly obese is no reason to feel excluded. All this attitude provides is a cosmetic cover for an ever-deepening dichotomy.
More disturbingly, the figures are getting worse. Children are becoming fatter and fatter, a fact which equates to being a time bomb for our health services. Adults can be influenced, but children are far more susceptible to believing what they are told in the media, and our children are becoming fatter and fatter, all whilst being told that it’s not a problem.
Seeking to comfort people rather than face the truth, Cosmopolitan goes out of its way to reassure everyone that being dangerously overweight, being morbidly obese, is not something that you should worry about. But you should, obviously.
Cosmopolitan has got its wires crossed. Gratuitous abuse is never a good thing, but encouraging someone to believe a medical falsehood that will potentially result in untimely health problems and possibly death, is nothing short of insane. Sadly, Cosmopolitan and others are, with their misguided attempts to make people feel safe, encouraging health problems and premature death in those who are impressionable.