Curvy is(n't) the new black
"Your size is not an indicator of health. It's a fact." - Tess Munster (LA based plus size model and blogger)
I recently came across a blog by a plus size model, making a few claims about health, and needless to say I was shocked. Tess Munster may use her plus size to earn her living, and making these claims may help her build a following of similarly confused minds, but I beg you, Tess, to please refrain from passing off your own opinion as "fact", especially when people's lives are at risk.
Here is a fact that you can share - between 2000 and 2008 the annual economic costs of obesity in Canada increased by $735 million, from $3.9 to $4.6 billion in direct and indirect costs (PHAC, 2011b). Americans have the right to be obese. Privatized healthcare gives you that right because it affects no one but you, your family, your friends, your heart, your longevity, and not to mention, your wallet. If you want to kill yourself with food, that's your choice. But in Canada and other countries that practice universal healthcare, your health is everyone's business.
Suggesting that the body featured above is healthy, is unhealthy, and downright dangerous. Tess has 900 followers of her blog (theplussizelife.blogspot.ca), many of whom are themselves overweight. The last thing someone struggling with weight issues, or health issues related to their weight, needs to hear is the "fact" that being obese doesn't correlate to health problems. Make no mistake, it does. Visceral fat in particular (the fat that surrounds your organs -- or more commonly called a gut, a pouch, a spare tire, or a keg) can lead to cancer, stroke, heart attack, and type 2 diabetes, among other things. Any one of these can kill you, never mind the fact that you will likely end up with two or more. So, size IS an indicator of health. Notice the citation?
As a personal trainer and nutrition specialist, I am loathed to use the term "fat" as I strongly dislike the connotation towards a lazy, slovenly nature and would never call any of my clients, or anyone making efforts to improve their physical health, "fat". But by coddling a dangerous disease with euphemisms like curvy and voluptuous, the dire circumstances present are completely brushed aside. Obesity is an epidemic. We would never tell a drug-addict to love their habits and reference them as "narcotically-inclined." So let's call it what it is, people!
"P.S. Don't assume fat people don't work out. Don't assume that we eat junk food." - Tess Munster
You don't get fat from eating too much vegetables and going for a bike ride every day. FYI, "junk food" doesn't just refer to cupcakes and candy bars, it includes alcohol consumption, fast food (almost all), and eating out at most restaurants (butter and salt are the chef's go-to for taste). Many factors come into play that can make people overweight: stress, time constraints, or general lack of knowledge about what foods to eat/avoid or how to exercise, which is why Tess' "facts" are so upsetting. She is in a position to be a role model and is purveying deadly misinformation. You should be getting 60 minutes per day minimum of intentional exercise (ie. a bike ride, a brisk walk, calisthenics, etc) and the majority of each meal plate (50-60%) should consist of greens (a potato doesn't count -- it's more starch than vegetable and is not green) in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stay optimally healthy.
"Love thyself as thy neighbour" - God
Tess does have one thing right though, the path to a healthy self image and a healthy body is through loving yourself. Not loving the self you see in the mirror, but loving the self that can't be seen. So good God, yes! Love yourself! Love everything about who you are, but don't look at yourself and say, my body image is who I identify with and who I am. Associating self-worth with body image is unhealthy on any level. The first step in loving yourself is loving who you are (not what you look like). A great start is going to see a psychologist or a counsellor. I would recommend this to everyone, healthy or not. Being able to unload a world of stress and hurt, or just your thoughts on a stranger without any risk of judgement is extremely cathartic. In my experience, weight gain can often be associated with emotional trauma (not just misinformation about food), so getting emotional support (particularly from a professional) is a great first step for anyone looking to make a change.
Love yourself enough to make a change
So the message here is, love yourself! Love yourself enough to want to be alive for your friends, your kids, your significant other, etc. Love yourself enough to care for yourself and to be able to do anything you want to do, go anywhere you want to go, and not allow physicality to be a limiting factor. If your weight is stopping you from doing the things you want to do, being comfortable in places you want to be, or it is negatively impacting your life in any way, then love yourself enough to become a healthier you! 70% of North America's population is overweight or obese. That number has doubled in the last 30 years. So, unfortunately, Tess is right again, the "majority of women [and men]" look similar to her. The question is, do we accept that as the new norm, stating that overweight and obesity is a healthy body image for kids to look up to? We blame media and "society"-- such a loose copout term-- for skewing children's image of what is healthy (physically and psychologically), but as a sharp rise in childhood obesity will allude to, we are our children's role models. By pointing the finger at the fashion models, the toys (leave Barbie alone), the fitness and the airbrush industry, we shamefully shirk the responsibility of being a role-model ourselves.
This is not healthy
But neither is this.
'Healthy' does not only look one way, but I will tell you right now that it certainly does not look like Tess Munster. And being paid as a model to look glutinous is equally as concerning as being paid to look anorexic.
My message is not for anyone to feel shame, it is not for anyone to feel sorry for themselves, and it is certainly not that anyone has the right to judge others for their outward appearance. Rather, it is that we should look inside ourselves, as outward appearance can often be a manifestation of inward turmoil. Like it or not, we are ALL role models for the younger generation and we need to judge ourselves as such. Is the legacy we want to leave the next generation one of obesity and cardiac problems? Because that is the direction we are headed. By saying curvy is the new black, we are dooming the human race to dependancy on prescription drugs, liposuction and premature cardiovascular decline.
I really do care for everyone's health and wellness and many changes need to be made at a legislative level in our band-aid style of healthcare (a shift to preventative is critical). If you love yourself enough to make a change today, I've put together a few tips that might just help. Try doing 3 rounds of this basic at home workout and take a look at these helpful tips when it comes to meal time.
It is never too late to get healthy, inside and out.
PS. If you are struggling with your weight please don't hesitate to email me for help. I would be happy to give you free advice to get you going in the right direction. Obesity is everyone's problem, not just your own :)
At home circuit workout
Brisk 5 minute walk outside, on treadmill, or even just around the house
60 second rest
20 air squats or using a chair (sit and stand)
60 second rest
20 straight leg toe touches then reach for the sky
60 second rest
20 pushups from your knees (or use stand and use the wall)
60 second rest
20 bird-dog (start on hands and knees, lift opposite limbs as high as possible)
-Want to lose 5lbs and be noticeably healthier within a month? Switch all of your drinks to water. No soft drinks, no alcohol, no specialty coffee (black coffee or plain tea if you need it), and no juice. All of these drinks contain mass amounts of sugar, among other things.
- This is what a healthy plate looks like
If your first thought is "where is the rest of it?" then you are probably eating too much. Portion size is one of the most common mistakes of those who are overweight and obese. Your plate should be 50% (or more) vegetables and fruit, 25% grains or starch like potato, and 25% protein (meat -- if you eat meat). There is no portion size limit to veggies, although a minimum small bowl full is a good size. Your protein should be just under the size of your fist, and your grain or starch should be about a cup for men or 1/2 cup for women (cooked).
Veggies - The greener the better Meats - The leaner the better Starch & Grains - The browner the better
- Restaurants are tricky and can be calorie traps. The problem is that you just don' t know what is in your food. Chef's love to cook with butter (fat - which is good, but not in excess) and salts because they make things taste good. Even salads, which seem like a great option, can have way more calories than you think because of the dressings. So, here is a few general rules for eating out:
1) If it has a drive-thru, don't eat there
2) If the menu doesn't denote healthy options, don't eat there
3) Get your dressings and sauces on the side and use sparingly
4) Always opt for lean meats like turkey or chicken, or go for fish. If you are dying for a steak, get a small portion.
5) Don't be afraid to leave a little food on your plate...restaurants often give way too much food that is well-beyond proper portion sizes.
Finally, try not to eat out more than twice per week (for any meal, not just dinner). Try your best to eat at home as much as possible, and always opt for fresh foods over processed or pre-packaged.