Why Is Society Afraid Of Big Bodies?

Fat and fit women are real and working hard to break society's expectations and perceptions of what 'health' constitutes. Influencers and fitness coaches weigh in.

Tanvi Akhauri
Oct 06, 2021 16:17 IST
fat and fit influencers
It is possible to be fat and fit. This may seem like a concept too bizarre for many to wrap their heads around, given how society's false correlations between health and attractiveness have forged toxic standards of physicality that forgo well-being. What comes to mind when one mentions a 'fit person'? In all likelihood, an ab-toned, thin-waisted, lean mean machine who looks like they scrunch their nose at pizza.

A bigger body size apparently never fits the bill for what a physically active and able build looks like. For Diksha Singhi, a body positivity Instagram influencer, living through each day as a girl in a thin-obsessed system meant weathering storms of painful judgment too often.

"I did not know anything about fitness and people would come give me different gyaan ever since I was a child," she tells SheThePeople in an interview. 'Try this shake' or 'run for a few hours everyday' or 'go to the gym'  "That made me hate my body. It started with eating disorders and ultimately what happened was I could never successfully start my fitness journey because it was all about losing the damn weight!"

And so it has been, and is, for so many people sweating it out to burnout at gyms and homes, obsessively targeting at a 'goal weight.' How much of that exertion and effort is then about maintaining fitness? About ensuring rounded well-being and a healthy lifestyle? About yourself and not for the benefit of a society for whom body-shaming is second nature?


Women with big bodies : What's with the shaming?

"Only when I started working out not with a goal but that I need to ensure my body is in a good position is when I always continued working out," Singhi says. It has been four years now and she is exercising well without any physical troubles and continues to build on her fitness.

"I'm fat and I box," Ameya Nagarajan, one half of the hosting pair at the Fat. So? podcast, a sanctuary for self-loving fat people, says. "I am a lot stronger and more flexible than most thin people I know (men or women). Being fit means your body is strong, flexible and mobile enough to do all you want to do, whether that is stand in a concert for four hours or climb Mount Everest."


What Is Healthiness? Fat And Fit People Will Tell You

There is a lot that determines fitness but sweeping perceptions about Body Mass Index (BMI), which measures body fat basis height-weight relativity, have created a disadvantage since factors of importance - such as gender or muscle mass or bone density - aren't taken into account. Though health experts hold there are risks attached to excess weight, it is also simultaneously agreed that a person's BMI cannot always be held up as the most accurate indicator of their health.

A famous paper by award-winning researcher Frank Q Nuttall, Body Mass Index: Obesity, BMI, and Health, argues that BMI was not originally developed as an "index of fatness" and that "It is time to move beyond the BMI as a surrogate for determining body fat mass."


"We thrive in a culture of size zero! What we observe around us is how we think. This is one of the worst transitions we are witnessing," fitness coach Priyank Mehta tells us. "The fitness and the beauty standards are so deep-rooted that people find it hard to accept fitness beyond kgs and inches." Self-esteem, confidence, social interaction - everything is staked in the process.

For our society, thin=fit. And this tiny falsehood has big implications - not just for fat people, but thin ones too since it conveniently blindsides health issues that come about with bad lifestyles.

"Collectively our society is terrified of becoming fat because we don't want to be treated the way we treat fat people": Ameya Nagarajan, Fat. So? host


"A thin person can have a bad lifestyle with bad habits like smoking and drinking, not working out or eating well. Does that make them fit? No, they are as prone to as many health problems as they claim a fat person is," plus-size influencer Bhavya Arora says. "Thin bodies for decades have been considered beautiful and fit. People will question a ">fat body as soon as they see it but will compliment a thin body. What if a person who looks thin is starving themselves or has a food disorder?"

Nutritionist Krystal D'Souza opens up to SheThePeople about her battle with such experiences. As a collegegoer bingeing on sitcoms like FRIENDS and How I Met Your Mother, D'Souza, like so many from her generation, aspired towards a certain kind of life. "But those shows in turn also told me that for me to be loved or accepted, I need to look and dress a certain way. I need to be skinny."

"Those are things you subconsciously absorb. And that’s why I developed an eating disorder growing up, starved myself through my college years and became unhealthily skinny. ‘Oh my god, you’re so skinny you look anorexic’ would be a compliment to me."


There's More To Fitness Than Meets The Eye...

"It’s sad we don’t accept a realistic body. Everyone knows there’s photoshop and what we see in magazines is not real. But we still aspire towards this unrealistic image, both men and women," D'Souza says. Today, she is a fitness enthusiast promoting healthy lifestyles on social media, telling people the value of a good diet, good mental health and good distance from society's beauty standards.

She says she knows so many people who do not fit the "ideal physique" but can work out like "absolute beasts" and are breaking every stereotype out there.


"There are two ideologies that run parallel here," Mehta states. "One that uses weight and inch loss as the ultimate yardstick to judge fitness. Another that focuses on strength, stamina, mental health and eating wholesome. So it really depends on which ideology you are looking at. If your fitness plan is sustainable, makes you feel good, promotes acceptance then I would personally rate it the best."

A world of opportunity and equality is being lost in the diabolic web of airbrushed bodies and ideal waists. Fat women existing up close to that reality know it best. But they also know, firmly, that what they are seeing is only an illusion. As the fog dissipates, clearing the vision on fitness being more and beyond what meets the eye, fat women are showing what it means to self-love, be fit and demand all they deserve.

Arora puts it well when she says, "Our bodies come in many shapes and sizes, with cellulite, stretch marks, body hair and whatnot." These are neither flaws nor aberrations. They are what make us human, and if there is any beauty that exists, it does in all that makes each of us different.

Featured image: Ameya Nagarajan, Bhavya Arora, Diksha Singhi

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