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Obesity is Not Healthy and “Body Positivity” Won’t Change That

I haven’t been “skinny” since I was a small child struggling with asthma in the 80s and early 90s. I don’t come from a family of petite people. No one will ever accuse me of being “too thin.” My weight is something I have dealt with my entire adult life. It’s something I am constantly battling. And, for me, it is a fight worth having because I am a mother of eight children.

Obesity has real health risks

I know the damage of obesity on the body and I don’t want it. People with obesity are ten times more likely to have Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to host of other problems like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness, to name a few. Being overweight and obese can lead cause cardiovascular disease, liver disease, bone and joint damage. You get it. Being obese is never, and will never, be a definition of stellar health.

I don’t want the long-term effects of carrying dozens and dozens of extra pounds on my body for years and years. I don’t want my heart to work twice as hard as it has to. I don’t want to suffer from any of these obesity-related illnesses. So, as hard and difficult as it is to fight this battle, I will continue to fight. It’s tough. Anyone who has struggled with their weight can testify that losing weight and keeping it off is a monumental challenge. We live in a culture that celebrates with food – and I like good food. So, I do what I can to be healthy so I can be there to see my kids grow up and get old with my husband. I work out, I try to eat healthier, I mess up, I jump back on the train and I just keep going.

One thing I never do, not matter how tempting, is just throw caution to the wind and say, “Ah, just forget it!” That will never be an option for me. Why? Because my health matters. What I show my kids matters. Parents know kids miss nothing. They see what we do, what we eat, how we take care of ourselves – or our failure to do so.

Obesity never looks ‘healthy’

Unfortunately, we are living a lie with the current “body positivity” movement and we are greatly harming our young people.

Recently, Cosmopolitan magazine put out an issue with two morbidly obese women on the cover, stating “This is healthy.” This is a lie.

Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines “healthy” as “beneficial to one’s physical, mental, or emotional state conducive to or associated with good health or reduced risk of disease” and “free from disease, not displaying clinical signs of disease or infection.” The CDC says that a Body Mass Index (BMI), which indicates weight categories, says that 25.0-29.9 is in the overweight range and 30.0 is obese for women. This is one tool that helps calculate a representation of “health” objectively.

These women on the cover of Cosmo are not healthy. Being morbidly obese is never in any, way, shape or form, healthy. We know about the chronic and deadly health complications that come from living a life of morbid obesity. This is not news. So why are so many people and even publications like Cosmopolitan magazine lying like this? And why are so many people celebrating fatness?

I know I need to choose nutritious foods and exercise to be in that healthy BMI range and less susceptible to disease. I know that eating junk food and sitting around watching TV all day are bad decisions for my health. I don’t celebrate those poor decisions because I want to feel good about my body when I know I need to do better for myself and for my family. If I did, it’d be such a warped psychological trick. And yet, here we are, doing the same thing to obese women, celebrating the very fact that they are unhealthy.

From Super Skinny to Super Fat

I can already see the comments I’m going to receive about this post. “Oh, you’re fatphobic!”, “why shouldn’t we celebrate ALL women?”, “I hate your [insert body part here], why are you even talking about this?”. Because I’m a public figure, people think they have the right to criticize every part of me because they don’t like what I say. Speaking the truth is never easy.

But back to the healthy debate. Remember Kate Moss? She was a famous model, whose career peaked in the 90s. She famously coined the phrase, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” She was so tiny at 100 pounds and five feet seven inches tall, way under the healthy weight of 123-163 pounds for that height. And people noticed, saying things like, “She must be anorexic. You can see her bones! She is so unhealthy! This is not what people need to think is beautiful!”

In recent years, the fashion industry has taken note of these objections and some have even banned super skinny models from the runway, cancelling careers because people rightly called out that these models are unhealthy and present a body image that women should absolutely not aspire to.

So, then what happened? Well, we did what we naturally do! We swung that pendulum so far to the other side that now we are celebrating morbid obesity and calling that healthy. What a lie.

We know what is healthy and it is neither extreme. It is making wise choices with food. It is keeping your body active. It is not eating an entire tub of ice cream and saying to yourself, “It’s cool because my 350-pound body is beautiful. Hashtag body positivity.”

Our kids are watching us

We have to stop lying to ourselves and to our children. We have to embrace truth. We have to use common sense. Our children are watching us, and they are making poor choices because of us. Our kids are fat. They are sedentary, sitting around playing video games and shoving their mouths full of French fries. They will do better when they see us doing better, but we have to lead them.

I’m not writing this as a woman who wears a size two petite. I’m writing this a woman who has fluctuated between a size 12-16 her entire adult life. I know the struggle intimately and I know this fight is worth having. Stop believing the lies. Stop promoting the lies. Say it with me, “Obesity is not healthy.” Fight for your health, guys. Fight for your body. Fight for your life. It’s the only one you have.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Colleen

    Thank you for bravely addressing this issue. I also struggle with my weight and I see my teenager happily grasping after all the body positivity messages. Yes, love yourself. Yes, you have intrinsic value and it is not determined by the scale. But no, being obese is not healthy!

  2. Jane

    No one argues the points you googled and recited about type 2 diabetes and a plethora of other obesity related health issues. What you and this platform so ignorantly fail to see is the bigger health issue Cosmo is advocating for—the systemic body image epidemic that plagues women, in ways more than physical health. You are correct in stating the obvious that obesity is not healthy. But Cosmo isn’t making that claim so your “brave stance” against this is laughable and so amateur it’s cringeworthy. I suppose you think you can “pray the fat away,” too.

  3. Kay

    This is a very ignorant article making assumptions of health based on image. The people on the cover of cosmopolitan could be healthy. There are many, many reasons why a person might be overweight or even obese. Body positivity is not about promoting obesity but rather about not shaming people and making them feel like shit if their bodies are different. Some women have issues with weight due to their thyroid, or due to other issues maybe related to PCOS. There’s so much that goes into a person’s health and I think saying that someone not hating themselves if they are obese or overweight is not causing a problem in this world. They’re not glorifying it. They’re cherishing themselves as they are. They are recognizing that they are a worthy and beautiful individual. Also, someone can look overweight and still be healthy. Y’all are basing so much based off appearance and taking steps backward.

  4. Sophia

    I love you and your ministry. But I’m hurt. Hurt by this post and hurt by your words. Those “morbidly fat” women are still beautiful daughters of the King. Health is important. Our bodies are a temple. But I think before we cast judgment on any one over a size 16 we should stop and think about their story. Not every plus size gal sits on the couch and eats a full tub of ice cream. Again I love you Abby. I’m thankful for you but my heart is a little sad tonight after reading this post.

  5. Patricia

    Thank you for standing up for truth. So many people seem to confuse positive self image with complacency. Yes, I am a beautiful child of God, but I still have many faults I constantly work at to improve, to be a better mother, to be a better person overall. It’s the same thing with weight.

    The soul is beautiful, and the beauty of one’s soul radiates out so that our bodies also are beautiful. However, we should always strive for better. If we struggle with poor nutrition, then we should eat the whole, healthy foods God has given us. If we struggle with more weight than our bodies are designed to carry, then we must strive for better. Strive to provide a good example for the little ones watching us.

    It seems to me that these Cosmopolitan articles are stressing too much importance on vanity than what is objectively good for one’s health. They could’ve easily said the women are beautiful, which they most certainly are. Healthy is not the word to use. They separate mental health from physical health and leave a disproportionate priority for mental health. We are created by God with body and soul, as each affects the other. Our mental health does affect our physical health, but it also works the other way around. Unfortunately many people have lost sight of that.

    Thank you for the article, and pay no mind to the naysayers 🙂

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