Obesity Isn’t

I’ve received a fair number of troll comments in response to this post. (I’m explicitly not referring to any comments that were published there but rather the ones I deemed unfit for publication on my blog.) Not only were these comments hateful, but most of them appeared to be operating on an inaccurate understanding of the word obesity. Which, if there’s one thing in the world I don’t like, it’s hateful misinformation. (If there are two things I don’t like, it’s hateful misinformation and pickles, but as pickles seem to be content to live and let live, I’ll focus my attention on the first.)

According to the World Health Organization, obesity is having a body mass index equal to or greater than 30, where body mass index is a height-weight ratio “defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in metres.”

In other words, it is a measure of weight as a function of height.

It is not a measure of percent body fat.

It is not a measure of blood glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, or resting heart rate.

It is not a measure of what I had for breakfast, what my daily food consumption looks like, or how many Big Macs I’ve had in the last week. (From what I know, Big Macs contain pickles in two places.)

It is not a measure of how often I work out or what my yoga practices are “really” like.

It is neither a measure of whether I’m lying when I talk about running three miles nor a reason “why [I] should just stay out of the gym entirely, so people don’t have to look at [my] rolls of fat.”

It is not a measure of my strength, endurance, or flexibility.

It is not an excuse to keep me where you don’t have to look at me.

It is not a way to silence me.

It is not a signal that “Jesus stopped loving [me] a long time ago.” (Really? Really? Certain trolls might want to invest in beta readers. Just sayin’.)

It is not a reference point for my intellect, whether I’m “only deluding [my]self that yoga is actually exercise” or I’m “too stupid to understand all the damage [I’m] doing to [my] body” or “dumb enough to think that fat can be healthy.”

It is not a reflection of my hygiene.

It is not a sign that “no one will ever fuck [me]” or a good prediction point for whether I’ll “die alone.”

It is not an invitation to police my body.

It is not “gross.”

It is not a marker of lesser agency, humanity, or worthiness of respect.

And I realize that not everyone is comfortable with their body size, for reasons that may or may not be the result of healthy choices. But for me —

My body is the biceps that lower me into chaturanga time and again with precision and control.

It is the triceps hold me — against gravity — at length in down dog.

It is the dense thighs that give my warriors power.

It is the abdominals that let me reach for the sky in boat and to find length and balance in half moon.

It is the open hips and strong back that allow me to fly in grasshopper.

I cannot say to my self, in any seriousness, “I love you for what you are, but would you please be thin instead?”

I don’t expect that everyone wants my body, and that’s fine. But — in spite of its size or perhaps because of it — it’s pretty awesome just the same.

8 Women with a BMI of 30


I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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Posted in asana, backbend, balancing, core, satya, swadyaya
9 comments on “Obesity Isn’t
  1. Right on. (PS. I will eat any and all pickles that mistakenly end up with you. ^^)

    • Tori says:

      You may have to fight my sister and my partner on the pickles front. We’ve worked out a familial system over the years. 🙂

  2. Geo says:

    For Me – “obesity” – is an image, not a “reality”. It speaks to hurt, pain, guilt and more that my beloved struggles with. It speaks to me telling her she is beautiful, and she denying it in return. It speaks to fears of pain and death and similar – and fearing a narrow band (unclear) of years to try to deal with it. It speaks to memories of feeling “fat” when much thinner. While small morsels of the feelings relate directly to others, most of it is inward – related to (sad and often untrue) lessons of life she has taken personally.

    • Tori says:

      I’m sorry to hear that. For me, there’s been a lot of emotional baggage in sorting the image — as you said — of obesity from the reality of it.

      The reality is that I’m a certain height and a certain weight, and these two measurements coincide to give me a third measurement that is in the “obese” range. And to a certain extent, it makes me aware and reflective of whether I’m practicing healthy habits. As part of a construct of overall health — which includes mental and emotional health — I’m okay with that, for me.

      But, yeah. The connotations associated with the term “obese” can be intense and negative. There was a time when I was terrified to use the term to apply to me because I felt like it meant ugly and lazy and broken. It’s hard to reclaim it, even as a neutral physical descriptor.

  3. Alexa says:

    THIS. Thank you. I am appalled that people wrote you comments of the nature described/quoted! You have pretty much summed up why I hate BMI with a blinding passion/rage. (I have an BMI of 33 – obese, my ASS)

    • Tori says:

      For me, I feel like the sheer non-sense-making of the “Jesus doesn’t love you anymore”-type comment was amusing enough to make up for the others.

      Well, not really, but I do still sort of want it as a ludicrous bumper sticker.

  4. LP says:

    Yes! I recently lost a couple of pounds and am now no longer obese – I sort of miss telling people that I’m obese *and* I kick ass (I’m a powerlifter).

  5. R. H. Ward says:

    I’m particularly amazed by the “Jesus doesn’t love you” comment. The whole point of Jesus was that he loved everybody. Didn’t they read that book about him? I mean, I’m not even a Christian anymore and I read that book about him. Sheesh.

    Anyway, I admire both this post and your previous post. Obesity is a complex issue. The problem isn’t necessarily that Americans are fatter, but that we’re unhealthier. I hate the way that fat is demonized in our society. Glad you posted this.

    • Tori says:

      I’m amazed by that one too. A lot of the others at least seem to echo messages that are more or less prevalent in our society; it wasn’t the first time I’d heard any of them.

      But the “Jesus doesn’t love you,” it came sort of out of left field. There was also no attempt to explain it or connect it to sins of sloth or gluttony or anything. IDEK.

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