Orthorexia and The Culture of Fit-Shaming

by Skye Dawson
Orthorexia and The Culture of Fit-Shaming

Nobody is more pleased than me that over the last couple of years, body image activists and other generally compassionate folk have done good work making us question how we think about different kinds of bodies.

So often, those with disabilities, “real” body shapes, post-pregnancy bods, injuries or just not fitting the “standard size” have been excluded and made to feel like crap.

Maybe it always happens this way, but I’ve found the trend of increasing body acceptance also has a nasty side: We’ve tipped the scales and now consider strong, healthy bodies to not be “real.”

We think it’s fine to call female lifters “gross” or manly, and we assume that fitness junkies must secretly hate themselves or be obsessed. We scoff at skinny supermodels while calling chunky women on Tumblr “goddesses” and we’ve even coined the term “orthorexia” for an eating disorder that means you eat… uh, too healthily.

Whereas before people accused fashion magazines of promoting an unrealistic body image, the other side of the coin is that people who work hard for their strong, toned physiques are now also accused of doing the same. Confused? So am I.

What’s going on here? Why can’t we all play nice?

Perhaps it’s a question of priorities. When Maria Kang provocatively asked other new moms, “What’s your excuse?”, while posing with her toned and awesome body… and three small kids, she was being a little bitchy, sure. But I don’t agree that people should take her attitude as offensive. After all, we don’t all strive to be Maria Kangs. Not all of us care that much.

What I mean is, we all have different priorities.

Some people decide that what’s really important is to take charge of their physical health. They make sacrifices, they put in the work. Is it unhealthy? Is it obsession? Well, maybe… if your priorities are different.

Tuning into your own goals

Deciding who’s winning at fitness is a losing game. My advice? Choose your own threshold. Choose your own goals and your own priorities. And then tell everyone else to STFU. Will you offend some people who think that you trying to be better means you think you’re better than them?

Yup. Doesn’t matter, though.

We’ve made a lot of progress as a society learning to accept and embrace all body types – maybe the next step is to start learning to embrace our different choices, different priorities and different goals for ourselves, too.

Have you ever been “fit-shamed”?

Come on now, don’t be shy, you can tell me.

What to do now?

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