Why You Can’t Determine Your Health (Or Anyone Else’s) Based on Shape or Size

The myth that thin=healthy and fat=not healthy is just outdated and based purely in a societal fear of fatness. This myth really makes my blood boil. There is SO MUCH research out there that proves this theory/bias/opinion/myth wrong. 

The reality is that health is multi-faceted. It is affected by many different factors and also changes over time. It is not stagnant. You cannot look at your body or any other person’s body and know anything about your health or their's. How do you define your health? How do you know when you are healthy or unhealthy? 

Science has shown us that size and shape are largely determined by genetic factors, meaning your body is mainly made up of the features that your momma and daddy gave you. We also know that genes and lifestyle make up a very small portion of what contributes to your size and shape, as well as your health and well-being.

The Association for Size Diversity and Health has outlined what actually has a true bearing on your health. They call these influences “social determinants.” They include:

·     Discrimination– have you experienced unjust treatment based on your race, shape, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.? 

·     Cultural stigmas– do you bear a mark of cultural disgrace based on a certain circumstance e.g. being overweight or drug addicted?  

·     Job status or class– do you have a job? Do you have access to financial resources? Do you struggle to find employment? 

·     Access to healthcare– do you have relatively low cost and convenient options for health care? 

·     History of trauma or abuse– have you experienced any form of abuse? Any form of trauma? 

·     Social connectivity– do you have family and friends who you feel connected to? Are you isolated and lonely? 

·     Stress load over a lifetime– have you had pressure and/or tension related to any factor over most of your life? 

Whoa, right!?! Are you surprised to learn that your health is mostly impacted by factors that have nothing to do with whether you are an apple or a pear, or how large or small your body is!? I know. It surprised me when I first heard this too. 

As you can see health is impacted by many various factors that are predominantly socially and/or culturally influenced. When you look at someone and judge their health based on their weight or shape it just doesn’t make sense because you have to also consider where they are from, what race they are, what their life experiences have been like, whether they have a strong social support network, whether they can access healthcare without limitations, and whether or not they have financial resources. Among many other things. 

So where do you go from here? When you make the connection that your health has nothing to do with your shape or size you may feel at odds with dieting behavior or excessive exercise you have been engaging in in order to achieve a more “healthy” body. 

It may help to read our blog on why it’s ok to not love your body. It may also help to think about what seems to connect each of these factors together? 

You may notice that most of the social determinants listed above really refer to cultural and societal norms and disparities. Discrimination, cultural stigmas, having a job or not, having access to healthcare, history of abuse or trauma, being connected or isolated, and stress are ALL health related concerns that do not necessarily need to be treated from a medical perspective, more so from a social one.  

Your health is so multi-faceted – there are many cultural and societal norms that either contribute to or detract from your overall health and well-being. Size and shape are mostly blessings from your gene pool. How can we move to embrace size and shape diversity while also working to change the culture that determines your health outcomes? 

More on the blog related to embracing size and shape diversity in the future!