When a fat person, in particular a woman, posts a selfie on the internet, more often then not amidst a sea of "yas kweens" and "slay all day" comments, there will be that one, lonely, shit troll.
And because bopo babes stick together, they will rise to her defense in a myriad of ways — both of which can be productive and unproductive. One of these well-intentioned, but unproductive, ways looks something like this:
"As long as she is healthy, who cares what she looks like?"
"There is no weight limit on deserving respect," Michelle Elman, a body-positive activist and certified body confidence coach, told Revelist. "Health is not a choice, it is extremely ableist to not recognize that health is a privilege."
Granted, misguided bopo allies aren't the only ones who use health as a crutch in the pointless debate over whether or not a fat body is worthy of love.
From the "you're going to die before 50" comments to the "you not beautiful, you fat," armchair doctors, they are completely divisive in conversations surrounding the actual well-being of fat people.
The next time you see a fat person's selfie and feel compelled to defend them with health or attempt to shame them with the same concept, keep these four points in mind:
1. "Healthy" is a very broad term.
"First, I think it is important to define health and to come to an understanding that there is health at every size," explained certified licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist Carolyn Karoll. "If you look at social media and search some of the thinspo sites you will see lots people who have a host of health problems, a result of being malnourished/manipulating their genetic blueprint to fit an unrealistic, unhealthy standard, who proclaim to love their bodies. I believe appreciating what your body can do for you can contribute to body positivity, but I would not go as far to say those things are synonymous."
That isn't to say body positivity and health aren't connected at all, it is saying that just because you appear healthy doesn't mean that you are body positive.
"While health most definitely is an aspect of body positivity, it is not body positivity itself," clarifies Aarti Olivia Dubey, fat-acceptance writer and fashion blogger. "The term 'being healthy' is subjective although many do try to create an umbrella definition for it. Body positivity at its core will always ultimately boil down to doing away with diet culture and to embrace people of all abilities, appearances, and sizes. It is not as keen to look pretty in a picture. It started as a vehicle for change for those of us who are tired of being told to 'get healthier' which has most times been code for 'lose some damn weight.'"
2. The way your body looks doesn't always have to do with your health.
"When I have a client who is struggling with an illness/health problem, which can range from a contact dermatitis to stage-four cancer, it can lead to feelings of betrayal by their body," says Karoll. "It can lead a client to want to detach from their body, as allowing themselves to accept what is happening may feel too painful."
Fatphobia, which is truly at the heart of a lot of these troll-y comments, largely ignore issues that lie outside of physical appearance.
"As a fat eating disorder survivor, health is the number one question I receive on my page and in my direct messages," says Danielle Galvin, body positivity activist and founder of Choose Life Warrior. "Most people will overlook everything — my newfound confidence, my mental stability, my recovery, my proactive response to dealing with trauma, my newfound body love, my vulnerable posts, my belief that every person should live in the happiest way they can. Yet I consistently get told... 'but you're obese, so you're unhealthy; if you really loved yourself you would be a normal size.'"
3. Sometimes you really can't control your own health.
Though not everyone who is bigger has a clinically diagnosed disease, there are plenty of diseases that contribute to weight gain. But stepping even outside of fat bodies, implying that your body must be healthy in order to be loved marginalizes everyone from cancer victims to those who are physically disabled — all things people often aren't in control of — and you're "not allowing" them to love their body in-spite of these clinically diagnosed imperfections."When most people talk about health, they forget that there are people with chronic illness and chronic pain who aren't afforded the opportunity to not think about their health," says Elman.
4. And most importantly: There are no conditions when it comes to self-love.
"When people say 'as long as you are healthy,' they are marginalizing the disabled and less-abled populations by implying that we are not worthy of self-love because health is outside of our reach. I have had 15 surgeries, a brain tumor, a punctured intestine, an obstructed Bowel, a cyst in my brain, and a condition called hydrocephalus and I am just as worthy of self love lying in a hospital bed at my unhealthiest as I am when I am completely healthy," says Elman.
So the next time you lean on health to defend your approval of a fat body or to fuel your unfounded hatred of it, think.
Are you really concerned with that person's health, or are you compensating for something missing in yourself?