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Tougaw: Don’t let body acceptance hold you back

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in the following column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the views of the Collegian or its editorial board.

It’s really great that we can have positive conversations about body types, as long as we don’t hold each other back.

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Have you ever seen a Greek marble sculpture that depicts the human body? The Greeks revered the human form and made sculptures to represent what they felt was the absolute pinnacle of the human body; the epitome of what the human body can be when a person puts in the work. This week, we have heard a lot about body acceptance and accepting the ‘natural’ way that we are made. But, while this is a positive message for many people, it also promotes complacency, mediocrity and laziness, which are aspects of society that we should not glorify at all. In many cases, where there is a will to improve your body, there is a way.

When I was in high school, I was six feet tall and 130 pounds. To put that into perspective, a six-foot tall male at the age of 18 should weigh somewhere around 165 pounds, putting me unhealthily underweight. This may be a shock to some, but high school was extremely tough for me socially. The bullying and physical contact was pretty unbearable. Girls made fun of me, saying they would never date me because they outweighed me. The guys were even worse, saying that they’d like to snap me like a twig, among other things.

This gave me two options: my first option would be to complain, bitch and moan. I could have said things like “This is how I’m made naturally! Accept me for who I am!” Which is technically true. The problem with saying that is that it does not drive me to strive for greatness. It makes me complacent with how I was made.

My second option was to do something about it. I chose option two, and that is something I am proud of. I seriously changed my diet to consume mass amounts of calories and high quality proteins, and coupled it with intense lifting. I am now 160 pounds and I am damn proud of the 30 pounds I gained through intense dedication and serious pain.

The point is this: If you have the ability to better yourself, you should do so. Strong bodies create strong minds. Strong minds are confident, happier and healthier. We hold ourselves to this standard in all things, such as education, personal relationships and other skills or hobbies. However, for some reason, we think that not bettering our physical form is perfectly acceptable.

Physical prowess is the one thing that our society says is acceptable to not try and make better.

There are a lot of people in this world who don’t have the physical ability to create the change they want to see in their body. This is okay, as that is something outside of their control. This column is for those who have the ability to better themselves and choose not to.

When people drive and push themselves physically, they exemplify dedication, discipline and determination. These are all extremely valuable and attractive traits in people, and those that have an impressive body prove that they have those traits. By physically exemplifying attractive traits, they become physically attractive. By looking physically complacent and mediocre, you exemplify complacency and mediocrity, which is inherently unattractive.

It is easy and very fair to note that people can exemplify dedication, discipline, and determination in other aspects of their life that aren’t physical. Things such as research, reading, education, and other skills or hobbies take these same characteristics. It often a general assumption that people who are overweight, or who don’t have an above-average body are lazy. This is not true, as there are a multitude of ways to not be lazy that don’t focus on one’s body.

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However, the people who find validation in these other areas of life are not the same people who vociferously cry that the rest of America accept poor body types above all else. These people often find personal validation in what they value in life, which isn’t always physical. Those who are insecure in their physical appearance often are the same ones who demand that the rest of society accepts them for who they are.

While writing this column, I spoke with Logan Clark, a competitive bodybuilder. Clark is 5’9, and weighs around 200 pounds right now at 4 percent body fat.

“I know I’m unhealthy,” he told me. “I know that most people don’t like how I look. A lot of people think I look unnatural. The difference is, I don’t complain about it and demand that people call me attractive. I put in a shit-ton of work to be stronger than everyone else, I don’t care if you don’t like it.”

Many people love to talk about how models and other celebrities don’t exemplify a natural body. This is 100 percent correct; those bodies aren’t natural. They’re better than natural, because those people put excessive amounts of work, just like how a college education is superior to a high school education.

It is extremely important, at this point, to note that eating disorders and other illnesses are real and persistent problems. This column should, in no way, advocate anorexia, bulimia, or any other eating disorder, especially coming from someone who has been severely underweight. Hard work and pain are supposed to help strive for healthier and more impressive body types and should serve as a guideline to keep people away from both extremes of body weight.

Health is an extremely important part of the body weight argument too. Heart disease is far and away the number-one killer of Americans. Excess body weight and obesity are the most frequent causes of heart disease. We, as a society, should be so scared of heart disease that we do everything in our power to run as far away from it as we can. Accepting obesity and being mildly overweight should be seen as heading down the pathway to the number-one killer in America, which is absolutely terrifying.

Body acceptance week is about being confident in what you have been given. This is very useful, to a point. No one should feel bad for what they have been given. And, if a person is unable to work out or just doesn’t care about physical appearance, then that is their prerogative; they should not feel bad about their decisions whatsoever. However, for the rest of us who do value body image and have the physical ability to do something about it, it is irresponsible to settle for mediocrity and then request that others do the same.

Don’t hold yourself back. The Greeks didn’t make sculptures of average couch potatoes.

Collegian opinion editor Taylor Tougaw can be reached at letters@collegian.com and on Twitter at @ttougaw.

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  • H

    Hank StowersMar 5, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    Also, you’re totally being unbiased about historical body representation, and the Greeks were the only civilizations that made statues of humans
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/07e6eae0aaf30dbb05d1ee96ef97002d6140911c030a0412e12d423b002a57cd.jpg

    Reply
  • H

    Hank StowersMar 5, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    Sweet white male anecdote for an unrelated issue. body positivity and personal fitness are super related, and you definitely understand the motives for a dialog of acceptance.

    Reply
  • L

    Lauren WillsonMar 2, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Taylor, while I agree with you in some respects (i.e. that the Body Acceptance Movement has the potential to promote laziness) I do not agree that “When people drive and push themselves physically, they exemplify dedication, discipline and determination.”
    Think about these words. What if you were a competitive eater? These individuals certainly push their bodies to the point of breaking (literally, their stomachs can rupture) but I doubt you would characterize them as dedicated and disciplined.
    Furthermore, I am a little perturbed by your comments on celebrities and models. The reason why the majority of these persons have “abnormal” bodies is because they often use unhealthy means of attaining their physique. Indeed, a study conducted by Model Alliance found that over 30% of models suffered from eating disorders, while nearly 65% had been asked to lose weight by their agencies. Similarly, many actors and actresses have admitted to being denied roles due to their bodies, which in some instances led them to develop unhealthy behaviors (eating disorders, drug abuse, plastic surgery, etc.).
    I don’t disagree that obesity is a pertinent issue. Hell, I wrote an entire article about it. But Body Acceptance, to me at least, is not a means of condoning unhealthy lifestyles. Rather, it is about loving (or merely tolerating) one’s physical being regardless of what it looks like. Some people do not enjoy working out every day, or lifting weights, or “eating clean.” We are autonomous individuals entitled to their own decisions and opinions. If someone else wants to love their Dorito-cheese-covered body at 300-lbs, that should not have any impact upon you or anyone else. The problem only arises when such an individual begins preaching their lifestyle as the pinnacle of health, and thus far, I have not encountered this.
    Anyway, this was overall a wonderful article. You had a respectful tone throughout and did a great job of addressing the multiple perspectives concerning this issue. If the opportunity ever arises, this article would make a great piece for discussion in, say, a Sociology or Media Cultures class. Well done!

    Reply
    • T

      Taylor TougawMar 2, 2017 at 9:45 am

      Third paragraph from the bottom:

      It is extremely important, at this point, to note that eating disorders and other illnesses are real and persistent problems. This column should, in no way, advocate anorexia, bulimia, or any other eating disorder, especially coming from someone who has been severely underweight. Hard work and pain are supposed to help strive for healthier and more impressive body types and should serve as a guideline to keep people away from both extremes of body weight.

      Reply