We need to stop praising thinness

19th August, 2016

We need to stop praising thinness because as long as we do, women will continue to feel that being thin is necessary to feel worthy or happy in themselves.

Of course there is nothing wrong with being thin, I am thin, but this doesn’t make me more worthy of love, respect, happiness or success. I image some people will probably think “well that’s easy for to say, you’re thin.” And in part, they’re right, but in the past I too wanted to be thinner.

It’s also completely fine to praise or acknowledge appearance, but when appearance is the main or only thing we praise, or it’s always about body size and shape, that’s when things start to get distorted.

I am also not saying that it’s wrong to want to be thin. What’s wrong is our culture’s belief that thinner is better, more attractive and more successful, and how this drives our want to be thin. But this is only the cultural belief of our time, a belief that has been shaped and that is constantly pushed by the many industries that make money off our insecurities and desire to be thinner.

It hasn’t always been like this, in the past bigger women were seen as more beautiful, and today, larger bodies are still celebrated in other cultures that haven’t been consumed by the “thin ideal”.

So no, thinner does not equal better, more attractive or more successful, or even healthier* for that matter. However it’s not hard to see why so many women (and increasingly men) feel this is so. In addition to the constant messages we receive from our thin obsessed culture, if one of the most successful, celebrated and powerful women in the world (Oprah) still doesn’t feel she’s enough unless she’s thinner, what message is that sending to the rest of us?

*While people’s health can improve along with the behaviour change that influences weight loss, it is the behaviour change rather than the weight loss that should be praised. Not everyone who loses weight through behaviour change experiences an increase in health, there are many cases where dietary changes and increased exercise have led to disordered eating patterns, eating disorders, body image disorders and decreased physical and psychological health. This is happening much too often.

Every time we praise someone for weight loss or thinness, we validate this idea that thinner is better or healthier and that we should all strive to achieve this at whatever cost.