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Helena Önneby

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Health At Every Size

This is a vulnerable article for me to write. I’ve grown up in the 80s, surrounded by weight loss diets and a certainty that being thin is better and that it equals health. I know that I live healthily today, I work out regularly, I prioritize my well-being and I know that my body is well from the inside out. But I’m not “thin” according to the norms of my childhood and I’ve had to work quite a lot with my self-image. We are still fed weight loss messages from almost every direction. 

I found the #healthateverysize movement a couple of years back and it has helped me change perspective but it’s still a shameful subject for me. “Health at every size” is just that, focus on health, regardless of your size. If we discount for obesity and severe overweight, there’s plenty of different body types that can be healthy. And we do look different, while living in a society with a very thin, both in size and intellectual, ideal. But there’s not so many of us that fit into this thin ideal. 

I started dieting in my early teens and have tried all thinkable different diets to try to fit into this ideal and with a strong inner critic filled with self-loathing. For short periods of time I could hold the weight I thought I “should” be at but wasn’t feeling very good and was definitely not healthy. And I know that if I would starve myself down to some beauty ideal size I’d have to do it at the cost of my health and my well-being is so much more important to me today than any ideal. 

But health at every size is also about the reversed because our obsession with size doesn’t only affect those who are “bigger”. I recently talked to a friend who is naturally skinny, and she claimed she couldn’t live healthily because she was afraid of being too thin. What is too skinny? Who decides? What if her natural, balanced size just is smaller than the ideal? What if we would just skip size altogether and focused on how we feel, what we have energy to and how our bodies feel,instead of how it looks?  

I have, as previously stated, had to work quite a lot with changing my own perspective when it comes to size and health. I’ve cleared my social media and actively sought after positive role models. I’ve stopped reading certain kind of magazines and watching certain kinds of shows. I’ve turned down situations and people who make me feel less than because of my size. This doesn’t mean that I’m fully there or that I don’t get all caught up in fatphobia myself, still quite often, but my direction is clear. I sometimes still confuse size with health and the silly notion that there would be a one size fits all even when it comes to size. Health at every size is all that matters to me. 

Coming out like this is really scary for me, and my ego is trying its best to shame me for being this honest about a controversial subject. But I want to be part of the change. I want young boys and girls growing up today to have a different perspective on size and weight than the paradigm that I’ve grown up with. Smaller doesn’t automatically equal healthy, while it could. Bigger doesn’t automatically equal unhealthy, while it could. 

I’m tired of the shaming and the guilting going on in society today. I want to know if you wake up with energy in the morning. If you take care of your body in a loving way. I want to know that you prioritize yourself and your body because you love it, not because you hate it. I want to know if you are strong enough to do the things you aspire to do and that you don’t experience pain on a regular basis. I want to know if the home that your body is a nice place to live in, and that you make choices every day to make it as comfortable as possible. If so, you are healthy, regardless of your size. 

What do you think of the ideals in our society and do you think they contribute to more or less healthy choices in our everyday? 

This is a guest post. Any opinions expressed are the writer’s own.

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