How did we get here?
This is the question I asked myself while watching Shana Myara’s powerful documentary, Well Rounded. How did we arrive at a place where one body shape is valued far higher than another? When did we decide that weight loss - rather than health gain - was the ultimate goal? Why is society so fatphobic?
Well Rounded explores these questions by exploring powerful, human stories. We meet Candy, a comedian and broadcaster, Joanne, a tech specialist and comedian, Ivory, a dancer and actor and Lydia, a model and writer. They are all wonderful, beautiful, confident and engaging contributors - it is heartbreaking to hear their traumatic experiences.
Candy recalls, for example, two horrific encounters with medical “professionals'. Ivory explains how that the Canadia police's response to her rape triggered years of self harm. Joanne shares the effects of years of being made to feel ashamed about her body and Lydia describes the devastating impact fatphobia has had on her life and mental health.
Anti-fat attitudes, negative opinions and limiting beliefs in all areas of life - from the workplace, to relationships, from media to medicine - all take their toll. “It can weigh heavily on you,” Lydia explains before revealing that, in the past, she experienced suicidal thoughts.
Once again, how did we get here?
This question is also explored in Well Rounded. The documentary features a series of fascinating insights from medical experts. Dr Janet Tomiyama argues that our focus should not be on losing weight but on achieving better health. She informs us that there is no link between weight loss and health gain.
We hear how weight is just as heritable as height - that weight is not determined by laziness, it is down to a person's genes. Meanwhile, historian and author, Dr Jenny Ellison, examines how fat came to be regarded as inherently bad. She explores the idea of self control and will power and how stigmatising fat to encourage weight loss has seriously backfired.
For example, conscious or unconscious anti-fat bias in the healthcare industry has led to many people avoiding medical help. As a result, and through no fault of their own, their outcomes are markedly worse.
While set in Canada, the themes Well Rounded explores are, tragically, universal. The documentary’s tone is far from despondent, however. Candy, Ivory, Joanne and Lydia are here to confront the diet culture and spread an empowering message of body positivity.
These are stories that need to be told, lives that need to be seen. Only then can society begin to address anti-fat bias and ensure that all bodies are valued no matter their shape or size.