Every day, on my walk home from work, I pass by a gym. Recently, this gym put a sign outside its doors, enticing people to come in and exercise. The sign reads, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the beach, you tried on your bathing suit. Join today.”
This reminds me of another advertisement from a few years ago, just as I was starting to discover size acceptance. The following ad comes from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The text reads:
Started going for short walks during lunch hour.
Stops ordering take-out and starts cooking healthy meals.
Just bought a bikini that challenges some obscenity laws.
Size acceptance: you’re doing it wrong.
Let’s ignore the bad grammar on the poster, and focus on the message, which equates being healthy with being thin. This is not always the case! There are healthy fat people, healthy thin people, unhealthy fat people, and unhealthy thin people. This poster, from the HHS, tells people that the purpose of getting healthy is to lose weight, and that by losing weight, us ladies will be smokin’ hot in our bathing suits.
Every day, we are inundated with messages that our bodies are not perfect, and every spring we are surrounded by words and images reminding us that summer is coming and that we should all start getting our beach bodies ready.
But you know what beach bodies are? Bodies that are on the beach.
I am not against people dieting, losing weight, or altering their bodies, as long as it is a personal choice. However, too often people take up exercise or join Weight Watchers because society tells them their fat bodies are unacceptable. If the weight doesn’t come off, they blame themselves, their lack of willpower, on their failure to have an acceptable beach body.
A recent tweet illustrates this point:
I’d like to add that the alternate is also true; all this talk of “fighting obesity” can lead to thinner folk not taking care of their health. A post on HBO’s Weight of the Nation at the Health at Every Size blog explains that this line of thinking does a “[d]isservice to thin people. Thinner people may get the message that their lower weight means they don’t need to take care of their health or be concerned about preventing chronic diseases.”
It saddens me when we have advertisements for joining gyms in time for swimsuit season, or messages in magazines claiming to give tips for losing weight and looking great this summer, or gossip columnists mocking celebrities for their pudgy bellies or jiggly thighs and “omg how dare she go to the beach looking like that?!”, not because I feel ashamed, but because I know someone else may.
Bodies are bodies, and, fat or thin, every person deserves to be treated like a person, to be allowed basic life activities like going to the beach and not being verbally or physically assaulted because someone adamantly insists that another person’s body is unacceptable.
A new photo gallery was posted today at xoJane, featuring “31 hot sexy fat girls in skimpy swimwear“. Gabi pitched the project because she knows “first-hand how inspiring it can be to see people with bodies that look similar to [her] own feeling confident and happy on the beach in something other than a Hawaiian-print skirted one piece.”
I don’t have many photos of myself in a swimsuit, because I am usually around water or sand and don’t want to bring my camera. The above is a three-year old photograph of me and my friend Joanna, on the beach at Coney Island. After years of being ashamed of myself, I now go out in public, in a bathing suit, fat belly and jiggly thighs on display for all to see.