In what seems to be a global Barbie-backlash, sites and books and magazine covers seem to be decrying the “over-thin” body. “You’re all beautiful!”, they scream.
So let’s step back a second here. I’m not going to claim to understand the concept of physical beauty. Anyone who does is probably trying to sell you something. Beauty can amorphous and fleeting, and certainly in the eye of he or she who is beholding. Primarily these sites and magazines and show hosts focus on women (and to a lesser extent, men) who are overweight (I would argue the proper term would be overfat/underfit, but I digress). They yell at and shame any and all who argue their point. Media is blamed for an over-focus on weight loss. Commercials get made, fingers are wagged.
Fine. I will agree that the general media presentation of the human form is skewed and occasionally alarming. As I said, I will not claim to understand the concept of ideal human beauty. However, I very much would say I understand the concept of the ideal human form. What’s ideal? Let’s talk about that.
In my opinion both sides are missing the point. One side shows off emaciated models so Photoshopped in their glossy pages that little is left of their actual flesh. On the other, carte blanche is given to be whatever shape and size you’d like to be, generally focusing on the larger shapes and sizes. Usually quite larger than the frames carrying that weight are built for.
So what’s ideal? Let’s for a moment consider function. The body is a machine, and here in function is where I can see beauty. Our muscles, joints, tendons, all work in concert to create something that can run, jump, swim & climb. Are we all extreme athletes? I would say yes, potentially. We are all given the tools and materials to play with, to build with, to work with.
Crossfit as a movement can occasionally exasperate me, but they have one thing right. A well built Crossfitter is nearly always a well built human, able to interact with his or her environment with aplomb and vigor. Crossfit understands that if what you’re looking for is to be generally good at a wide variety of physical actions, you must tune your body to work well, and not over or under build it. Somewhere along the way a whole lot of those bodies end up looking quite nice, but I argue that it isn’t the point of the endeavor.
So what’s wrong with being overweight, eh? You got something against big people, Mr. Fat Panther?
Let’s clear one thing up, I once was a very large person. At just under 6ft I weighed just north of 265lbs, and very little of it was muscle. I took a fist-full of pills each night. Walking upstairs in my house winded me. This was in my early 30s. At that rate my 40s would suck and I probably wouldn’t see all of my 50s. So I’ve been there, and I refuse to go back.
The funny thing is, people generally at the time didn’t consider me morbidly obese (the technical term for the BMI category I was in at that weight). I carried the weight well. Even now, 30lbs from my goal body-weight of 170, people shake their head and ask where the weight will come from. Believe me, there’s plenty more fat to lose.
So the visual part of it wasn’t the issue. The idea of seeing abs never even entered my mind at the time. But the lack of capability bothered me. And even more so, the inevitable health problems that would arise.
I was on the path to heart disease. I was already well on the way to Type 2 diabetes. My liver function was poor. I had extensive and occasionally debilitating digestive problems. The pills I took had side effects. My life span was going to be on the bad side of the bell curve. This was not ideal.
The human body is built to do work, to move and lift and throw and get from place to place in a dynamic fashion. All of us. If you’re beautiful now at the weight you’re at, great. Fantastic. Are you capable? Are you functionally fit? Can you go out and run a few miles without keeling over? Get up stairs, lift furniture? If not, you can be. You should be. And here’s the secret: you’ll still be beautiful, even more than before. Not visually, but from the inside, functionally healthy and fit. Beasts can be beautiful, and we’re all human beasts ready to be unleashed.