Bikinis and Body Peace

It is that time of year when articles start popping up left and right on fitness sites about getting that “bikini body” or “beach body”. There are countless exercise regimens, nutrition plans and diet products that market behind this concept. But those articles, diets and exercise plans really aren’t about fitness. They highlight a culture of body shaming that is being perpetuated in our culture often through a disguise of health and fitness. Not only is it superficial and a really shitty thing to do, but it also distorts the perceptions of health and fitness in our culture. It changes the way people approach fitness & nutrition by making it more about being skinny than about overall health and wellbeing. Part of this emphasis on weight is because of the chronic conditions associated with being overweight/obese, but part of the emphasis is likely because of prejudiced beauty standards in our culture. If the discussion of weight in health and fitness was strictly scientific in nature,  fitness magazines would not say “look your best” or “earn that bikini body” when talking about weight loss.

The Bikini Body

There has been a myth that has been created that you need to look a certain way to wear a bikini.

There is no such thing as an “appropriate” body for wearing a bikini. Some people have the nerve to attempt to rationalize their prejudice by saying being fat is unhealthy and that is why fat people shouldn’t wear a bikini. Last I checked, whether you wear a bikini or not has nothing to do with fitness. The only difference wearing a bikini has in the realm of health is that it increases the surface area of your skin that may or may not get a sunburn (but there is sunscreen for that).

There are also people who attempt to rationalize the idea of an appropriate size for wearing a bikini by saying seeing certain people in bikinis makes some people uncomfortable. Their discomfort is because of their prejudice, not because there is anything harmful or wrong with anyone of any size wearing a bikini.

What someone decides to wear for swimsuit season is a matter of what they feel best in. There is no justification for body shaming. Body shaming is horrible and it certainly has no place in health and fitness.

Body Peace

Being able to love and accept yourself is key to living a healthy lifestyle. Everyone deserves to love their body. Everyone deserves to feel beautiful. I believe that part of loving your body is making healthy choices, but part of it means accepting yourself as you are. It means making the choices based on what you consider the best version of yourself. That means something different to each individual.

I think loving yourself is especially important when making changes in your own lifestyle. When you change your behaviors out of love rather than shame, it is much easier to continue making healthy changes and feel good about yourself in the process. I believe that the first step towards becoming what you consider a better version of yourself in the future is being at peace with yourself in the present.

I recognize that the views expressed may seem contradictory and hypocritical given the story behind the name of my blog. That had to do with my own body and my aspiration towards a version of myself that the red bikini was symbolic of. I believe it is a personal choice that is about wearing what you feel best in.

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Recommended Website: Body Image Movement

Can you be fat and fit?

Body Fat Percentage (BF%)

 

Why I am Grateful for Having Been Overweight

I used to have a lot of resentment towards myself for having been overweight. I was mad at myself for letting myself go like that. I was ashamed. But as I have become further removed from being overweight, I have taken a new perspective on the experience and have become grateful for it.

I believe that good can be taken from any situation if you just find a new way to look at it. Rather than looking at a challenge you face as a problem, look at it as an opportunity for growth. See how you can take that challenge and create something good out of it. See how you can use it to find a new appreciation towards other aspects of your life. This is how I have become grateful for my experience with being overweight.

I don’t think it is likely that I would be as fit as I am today if I hadn’t first become so overweight. I wouldn’t have been uncomfortable with myself enough to take action. People usually don’t take action and change when they feel comfortable with where they are. This is why I think a little bit of discomfort and suffering is needed to become our best selves. I believe that wherever our greatest sources of fear and suffering are in life are also where our greatest potential for growth is.

I think having been overweight has made me appreciate my health more. It has made me love of my body more. I think it has made me enjoy food and all forms of physical pleasure more. I have learned to savor each and every bite of food I eat. Each meal is more satisfying to me. I appreciate indulging more because I do so less often and I do it with a more positive mindset.

I think my experience with being overweight has made me more confident with who I am today both internally and externally. Even though there are days where I look in the mirror and am not happy with how I look, for the most part I am. To be honest, I was kind of obsessed with mirrors when my weight loss first hit me. It was a version of myself I had never seen. I remember seeing my reflection in a window while walking down the street, and at first it didn’t even register that it was me. I think that was when I first really saw myself differently. I think seeing myself without realizing it made me able to see myself for what I really look like.

I think being overweight has made me appreciate clothes more. I actually enjoy shopping now. I like to wear things that I find flattering. I feel more comfortable playing with new patterns, colors and styles. I use clothes to highlight the parts of myself that I love rather than hide what I don’t like.

Learn to see challenges you face as obstacles to overcome rather than barriers preventing you from reaching your goal. Rather than focusing on your problems, focus on the solutions. By making this simple shift in your thinking, you will be able to become much more resilient and be able to appreciate even the difficulties you face in life.

Instead of looking at the mistakes you regret, appreciate and become grateful for the lessons you have learned from them.

Can you be fat and fit?

Can you be both fat and fit? On one hand we have plenty of statistics linking excess weight with multitude of chronic illnesses. On the other hand there are plenty of examples of  overweight people who are in good physical condition.

Physical and mental health is an interplay between various behavioral factors, genetics, social and environmental factors. Excess body fat is just one risk factor.

What does fat do?

Body fat insulates your body to help regulate core body temperature. It surrounds the body and organs to protect them from sudden movement and act as a protective cushion. It is a source of energy when your body is depleted of glucose. It helps maintain healthy skin and hair.

Why is excess fat bad?

There comes a point where increased body fat provides no function and only adds physical stress on the body. It is dead weight. It also over insulates the body (which is why fat people sweat more) and inhibits movement. It presses up against your organs causing stress. It is also associated with a lot of other behavior factors that increase the risk of disease.

What do they mean by fat?

Most studies involving obesity measure with BMI. BMI is a measurement of your weight in relation to your height. Body fat percentage is a more reliable measurement of health. Even within BF%, there are still other factors such as muscle mass and bone density which play a role. While there is a correlation between BMI and BF%, there is not a direct link. A lot of fit guys in particular are technically overweight because of their high muscle mass.  A lot of people with healthy BMIs that don’t exercise have unhealthy BF% along with having  weaker bones and less than ideal muscle mass.

What did they find?

What many of these studies indicate is that people can simultaneously be “metabolically healthy” and “overweight”. When they say “metabolically healthy” they mean they didn’t have unhealthy numbers for enough of the set of factors they quantified to be considered “metabolically unhealthy”. Basically they have not developed disease… yet. Metabolically healthy overweight people have lower risk for disease than metabolically unhealthy people who are not overweight. Metabolically healthy non-overweight have a lower risk for disease than metabolically healthy overweight people.

Metabolically Healthy vs Fit.

Being metabolically healthy is not the same thing as being fit. If health received grades, to be metabolically health you would need a C, satisfactory and passing but not necessarily ideal. To qualify as being fit you need to have more like a B+. I still think people with more than ideal body fat can still be fit, but they would most likely be healthier if they lowered their body fat to an ideal level in a healthy manner.

While excess body fat is a risk factor, it is only one form of physical stress on your body. If a person has a higher BF% but exercises regularly and eats clean foods (just more than needed) then they probably will be somewhat healthy. Certainly healthier than a skinny person that eats processed crap and doesn’t exercise.

Conclusion:

Ultimately the message is the same. Being fit is dependent on a number of factors and it isn’t  black and white. Regular strength and cardiovascular exercise is good. Eating a balanced diet full of vitamins and nutrients is good.  Your body is constantly working to achieve homeostasis (balance) and is pretty good at tolerating the crap we put it up to. The more stress we put it under either by having to much or too little of something, the harder it has to work to maintain homeostasis and the faster it burns out (illness/ death). Some people are genetically designed to better handle certain forms of stress so will react differently than the average person.

Ultimately each individual has a choice. While excess body fat is a stress on your body and a risk factor for disease, it is not an indication of their health as a whole.  If they are okay with taking some risk, then that is their own choice. If they just want to do enough to be at a low risk for disease, that is their choice. I think if a person is participating in destructive behaviors, then trying to help them is probably a good thing. But they need to make the decision on their own. I personally strive for optimal health, I want to be the best version of myself both inside and out. I like having the higher levels of endorphins and energy. I enjoy looking fit, it makes me feel good. But that is my decision. Not being fit, less fit  or taking different risks than you does not make them less worthy of a person. While it is important for people to be informed about the facts and occasionally given a little push in a different direction, ultimately everyone deserves respect. Everyone should be accepted and treated well regardless of the way they live their life.

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