By COSHANDRA DILLARD
Big-boned. Thick. Curvaceous. Voluptuous. Shapely. These are just a few words employed to describe a woman who has more than a little extra body mass. In some instances, it may be a nicer way to imply that one is overweight, obese or morbidly obese.
Women always have been told to love their bodies. Mothers would remind their daughters, “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not beautiful.” And they were right. Everyone has flaws, so we should celebrate what we do love about ourselves. We also can be thankful that we have opportunities to change the things we’re unhappy about.
It’s very possible to be beautiful and display confidence regardless of weight or body shape. But we should tread carefully because in an effort to feel good about ourselves, it can be easy to discount the correlation between body size and health. There are plenty examples in popular culture that show how vanity and denial can lead to an unhealthy body image.
For example, I recently read an article about a 420-pound Los Angeles woman whose hips have an 8-foot circumference. See the video here: http://bit.ly/WhrpZO
Her hips are supposedly the largest in the world. She said she will never attempt to lose weight because she has no health problems, she loves her shape and so does her husband. The 39-year-old woman told an English newspaper that “Men don’t fancy skinny girls. They like an hourglass figure.”
I’m glad that she feels good about herself, but how much longer can she enjoy good health with a BMI, or body mass index, of 72? (She’s 5-foot-4). You’re considered obese and at risk for chronic illnesses with a BMI of 30 or greater.
A local physician, Dr. Jonathan Cantu, once said health problems as a result of poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle can sometimes sneak up on us.
“On paper, it’s possible to look healthy, but that’s the false security that I will not allow my patients to believe in,” Cantu said. “It’s more like a little time bomb ticking off. Everything is quiet at the moment.”
Another example comes from Hollywood, a place known for its tendency to glorify any body shape and size except rounded and big.
Several years ago, larger-than-life comedienne and actress Monique would often rant about skinny women and how she embraced her big body. At 40, she topped 262 pounds.
In 2004, she wrote a book called “Skinny Women are Evil: Notes of a Big Girl in a Small-Minded World.”
Back then, she proclaimed that too often, plus-size women are ridiculed and expected to feel bad about themselves for being “blessed with a few extra pounds.”
That may be true, but here’s the caveat: We should avoid calling out a group of people who don’t look like us in an attempt to feel better about our own bodies. To me, that’s a sign of insecurity. If you’re truly happy with a size 20, then you wouldn’t feel the need to assume a woman is evil simply because she’s a size 4.
Fortunately, Monique evolved. Instead of demonizing thinner women, she sought good health for herself. She began to exercise and watch her diet. She’s slimming down and educating her critics about the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
In the meantime, she and many other women like her, try to find a balance. They still want to look womanly, with features like rounded buttocks and hips. You know — curvy.
These days, that word is tossed around casually. It’s been used to describe women ranging from size 4 to 20-plus. It could be a woman whose body jiggles or a woman whose body is firm and sculpted with bulging muscles.
So, curvy is subjective. But obesity and chronic illness are not subjective. We can’t trick ourselves into believing that a lot of fat around our waistline is not dangerous or that it’s normal to tire just from walking to the mailbox.
For some women, denial about the need to lose weight may be a rebellious reaction: “My body is fine the way it is. My culture upholds this standard of beauty and has done fine for thousands of years, thank you very much.”
I think those people feel that if they admit they need to lose weight, it proves they have a problem, that something is wrong with them. We don’t want to admit we’ve not been so kind to our bodies. It’s hard to accept our faults.
Ultimately, we shouldn’t equate our self-worth with size or body type, nor should we shame people who think they must choose between physical beauty and good health.
Instead, be a support and share knowledge about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. That’s what Monique’s husband did. He loved and accepted her for the way she was but expressed that he wanted her to be around to see their grandchildren.
And the woman with the oversized hips, for her health’s sake, I hope her husband does the same.
As for keeping those curves while getting to a healthy weight, you can strength or weight train to maintain that womanly figure. When in doubt, see a personal trainer.