Focus attention on achievements, not body size

by Madison Hopkins

55th Annual Grammy AwardsDuring an award-winning night at the Grammy’s, Adele and Kelly Clarkson were praised for their hard work and talent with the most prestigious honors a music artist can receive. Fox News, however, had a different take on their success. Fox News dedicated an entire segment to debate the artists’ weight and the detrimental effects their “fatness” would surely have on America’s youth. They even brought on a nutritionist, Karen Gilbert, to provide the illusion of legitimacy.

Gilbert isn’t affiliated with Adele and Clarkson , but is simply speculating on the Grammy winners’ health based on tabloid photos and random gossip. She explains how, in her expert opinion, both women are “beautiful” but she fears fans will look up to heavier celebrities and think, “I can be overweight like her.”

In between shrill laughter and blatantly superficial underlying messages, Gilbert did prove one legitimate point. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the one she was trying to make. By exploiting her title, she managed to exemplify everything that is wrong with entertainment news. Today’s media has managed to manipulate the insecurities of a nation obsessed with attractiveness into an inescapable ideal we repeatedly shame ourselves into desiring.

We give our attention to an unfamiliar woman who claims to know what is best for two other women she has never even met before. And why do we do this? Because we want to believe her. Our obsession with aesthetics and the belief that one body type fits all leads us to judge harshly anyone who doesn’t fit in.

What’s more, we label overweight individuals as weight terrorists   who are out to bring about the demise of those around them. We act as if fatness is a contagious disease just waiting to infect the nearest person with a muffin top and back boobs.

I’m not blaming the individuals for this. We are just a product of the brainwashing we see repeated time and again. It’s always either some emaciated starlet on the cover of a magazine looking like she has the body of a 12-year-old boy, or a middle-aged former star boasting about the new diet system she’s receiving millions of dollars to endorse. There is  exactly one body type that people unquestionably idolize, and insist that achieving it should be everyone’s top priority.

Gilbert even mentions how both Adele and Clarkson are obviously hardworking, dedicated women and it perplexes her that this doesn’t translate to their physique. Never once does she stop to consider the ladies’ weights may not be their only concern in life and that possibly they are a little more proud of their vocal chops.

The problem with the prevalence of such messages is that it’s impossible for everyone to achieve this ideal. Putting aside the fact that it undermines all other aspects of peoples’ lives, it sets them up for failure. Those who want to be thinner can take it to extremes with anorexia or other eating disorders. Those who feel ashamed of their bodies can turn to food as an escape, resulting in eating disorders on the opposite end of the spectrum.  By obsessing about one image of beauty and health, we alienate the majority of the population.

But we continue to give fuel to the fire. If we collectively decide to stop enduring this mental torture, we could end the conversation once and for all. By accepting a range of body types we can put a stop to the lifelong struggle of never quite getting it right.

That’s not to say there aren’t some exceptions. When public figures are clearly presenting dangerously unhealthy lifestyles, it’s a problem.

Just like how a stick-thin model promotes unrealistically skinny ideals, a severely overweight or obese celebrity should not be applauded either. The idea is to allow people to find their own perfect mold among a range of sizes, but not while turning a blind eye to severe health problems. Overweight people are at higher risks for certain diseases. But unless we know the real details of their diet we can never truly judge their lifestyle based on looks. Too often, we confuse appearance with health and jump to inaccurate conclusions.

The bottom line is our fixation on this mythical ideal body isn’t doing anyone any good. We need to stop the habit of commenting first about someone’s weight, and then about his or her actual accomplishments. Unless there is a serious health issue in someone’s life, there is no reason to assume they are unhappy with their bodies. Forget what is considered perfect and find the right fit for you.