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Mad Positivity | We need to talk

 Image reposted from @the.wing (artist unknown)


Mad Positivity | We need to talk

By Jessica Vander Zaag


Please. Let’s talk. It’s not you, and it’s not me. It’s something bigger.


See we live in a society that cares about how big you are, often under the guise of “for your health.” We are constantly being told what to eat and how to exercise to make sure we don’t commit that horrific crime of “becoming overweight/obese.” Heck, maybe that’s the reason why you started coming to MadLab in the first place.


But fun fact: it’s bullshit.


Before we jump into the dismantling of a cultural cornerstone, you should know my back story. Almost two years ago I walked into MadLab for my first intro/consultation. I met with Emily and she asked me what I was looking for from the gym. The answer I gave was something like, “push myself, get stronger, faster,” whatever, but that was a lie. In reality I wanted to get lean again and, looking around the gym, I distinctly remember eyeing everyone up and wondering, “if this is how cut the people are here maybe it’s not for me.” I still decided to give it a shot because the last time I was happy with my body composition was when I was doing CrossFit (and Barre classes, and rugby, sometimes all three in the same night) and I was desperate.


See, I had recently referred myself to the Vancouver Eating Disorder Clinic, and while I was ready to stop torturing myself through food, I was terrified of gaining weight. What started years before as a simple desire to shed some extra fat had spiraled hard and fast into obsessive calorie counting, binge-purge cycles, and compulsive over-exercise. I truly believed that if only I could find the right combination of meals and workouts my waist would shrink and my abs would show and I would be beautiful and happy and loved.


It was f*cked, but it’s not a stretch to understand, and definitely not uncommon. It’s the narrative we’re sold by diet books and TV “doctors” and exercise programs the world over. If we eat this certain way and follow these simple tricks and spend this much time at the gym we won’t get fat, and we all know being fat is lazy and dangerous. It’s simple marketing; make us dissatisfied with what we have, make us scared of what we could be, make us spend money to “fix” a “problem.”


            Before you start thinking about a rebuttal or the articles you’re going to cite talking about the “obesity epidemic,” ask yourself this: if losing weight is the key to health, why not cut off a limb?


            Seriously. Go chop off your leg. You’ll lose somewhere between 30 to 50lbs, permanently.


            Now has this made you any healthier? Has it helped your blood pressure or diabetes or cholesterol or depression?


            Probably not, eh?


            Weight is not the problem. Fat is not the problem. Our bodies are wonderfully complex meat sacs that get us through this thing called life, and to reduce the basis of our health to something so simple is the opposite of good science. I’m a scientist by education, and I cannot wait to bombard you with experiments and meta-analyses and sweet sweet literature, but for now let’s talk as people.


            I am not anti-exercise. I truly love it, especially the brand that MadLab is all about. We come to the gym to move, to improve ourselves, to become stronger, faster, and more skilled. We also come to laugh and play and make connections within this community. And I guess that’s why I’m writing this. I want to start this conversation because I think our community is capable of making a change in how we view our bodies, because seeing such amazing people believe that their bodies are anything less than wonderful just the way they are breaks my heart.


So let’s talk.


            xo Jess


More body-positive perspectives coming your way soon