Obesity Matters takes a deeper dive into our 10 Predictions of What the Future Might Look Like and attempts to decipher how, and if, our predictions might come true.
Predicting the future can be a fool’s errand. Nobody knows who the Prime Minister will be 20 years from now, or what the stock market will do a few months from now, or even what they are going to have for dinner two Tuesdays from now.
But if we follow the signs and signals society provides us, it’s not impossible to gain a little insight into our future. And right now, the world is telling us to love ourselves.
You probably hear the terms “self-love” or “self-care” everywhere. But they are more than buzz worthy terms thrown around in marketing campaigns and lifestyle blogs – self-love can have a profound effect on how we live our lives if done properly.
Self-love means many things to many different people, and it can be as simple as a bath at the end of the day and as extensive as a complete lifestyle change. But in the end, self-love is completely subjective. You will find a million articles online titled something like: “14 Ways to Practice Self-Love”, but the truth is it’s different for everyone – it just needs to point you down a road toward self-acceptance, self-appreciation, and self-confidence.
Going down that road isn’t always easy for people living with obesity, though, and the journey toward loving and accepting ourselves is often filled with barriers and detours.
Aashni Shah knows all about these roadblocks because she has faced them on her own journey. Shah, a young entrepreneur, CEO, and founder of multiple tech companies including HypeDocs and MIDO Technologies Inc, sat down with Obesity Matters for a recent interview about her experiences and the future of self-love.
“At some point we need to stop and say, ‘I am enough, and what I do, what I offer, what I enjoy doing is enough for who I am,’” Shah says, whose own journey to self-love has involved pushing the boundaries of what society says people in larger bodies can and can’t do.
“I’ve always loved and enjoyed doing things that you wouldn’t normally see a person my size doing, like scuba diving, or quad biking or hiking. And the fact that I’m a girl usually means I’m less likely to do those things anyway, or at least people don’t expect me to do them,” Shah says, “So I think the self-love aspect there is giving myself permission to love me for me and let myself do the things I want to do, when I want to.”
Shah’s point about giving herself permission to love herself is an important one, because getting to the point where one can accept that they are allowed to love themselves is one of the barriers many people face on their weight journey.
Not everyone thinks they deserve to love themselves. Others don’t think self-care is important enough, or doubt that they have the time and energy to practice it. But much of this mentality stems from a society that has, for so long, prioritized weight over taking care of ourselves.
That mindset is being flipped on its head by people like Shah, who don’t see weight as a barrier.
“There are large people who are able to do incredible and miraculous things. They are still stunning; they are still beautiful, and they are able to live their best lives and a lot of that comes from confidence that they’re building,” Shah says, “And so if a person is just focusing on weight, really they’re just focusing on a number on a scale, and that isn’t helping them in any way.”
That is why our first prediction is that future generations will be filled with more people like Shah, who will continue to prioritize their mental and physical wellbeing by practicing self-love in all forms.
Pushing society in this positive direction is a lot easier when people who have influence, and the platforms to share it, are furthering these narratives and changing the conversation around obesity and weight stigma.
And luckily, we are starting to see more of this with celebrities from Beyonce and Michelle Obama to Lizzo, Selena Gomez and many more speaking up about body positivity, the dangers of weight stigma and the power of self-love and acceptance.
These types of movements are growing both in quantity and in impact, which is why our fifth prediction is that as more celebrities speak up and make headlines, obesity will no longer be seen as behavioural disorder, but a disease with behavioural symptoms.
Shah already sees encouraging signs that our prediction could come true.
“You have entire beauty lines that five years ago, ten years ago would never have used a model that wasn’t a size zero, and now they have an entire range,” Shah says.
Social media, of course, has a major role to play in this arena. It is in part because of social media that we can hear the messages of love and acceptance sent out by various celebrities, but it’s hard to ignore the magnitude of negative voices online.
So how do we keep moving forward and pushing toward a place of societal acceptance of people of all shapes and sizes? And how do we stay positive in the face of what sometimes seems like an ocean of adversity?
“It really just starts at home,” Shah says, “It starts with us reminding ourselves about our own self value and our self worth, which is a really, really hard thing to do when you’ve got people in your life that are constantly saying the negatives.”
Shah does just that by using social media to practice self love and promote positivity by participating in an Instagram initiative called Project 365 where she posts a photo every day of her life. The project has grown into a library of photos that she can look back on to remind herself of all the things that went well in her life, along with some that didn’t, as a way to reflect and grow.
“Finding little practices like that can help people find their own version of self love,” she says.
Shah’s company HypeDocs deploys a similar concept by giving users a space to track all of their achievements, big and small, to build a portfolio of positivity that can be shared when negotiating with an employer, or just with friends and co-workers as a way to work toward goals.
Young people like Shah are central to our prediction of a future filled with self-love, and you don’t have to look far to find other examples.
Pop culture is filled with younger people paving the way toward a more accepting future. Television shows and movies geared toward Gen Z reflect a far more realistic society than what was previously the norm. TV and movies made just 15-20 years ago rarely, if ever, incorporated the BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ communities and would make a point of making any characters from these communities, along with people living in larger bodies, the brunt of jokes or the centralized figure that made them the “other” person in the show’s regular plot lines.
But now, shows such as HBO’s Euphoria push back against what was the norm by incorporating people of all shapes, sizes, races, or genders as they appear in real life: Simply a part of society. Each character’s particular gender identity, race or size is inconsequential to their character development.
It’s encouraging to see this shift away from outdated and harmful tropes in media, and that growth has begun to expand into other areas of our lives as well.
Views on exercise are also changing rapidly, which brings us to prediction seven, that people will begin to decouple weight loss and exercise, and instead focus on the many benefits of exercise that don’t necessarily lead to weight loss.
There is plenty of evidence showing exercise does not in and of itself help you lose weight, so when we make working out and weight loss synonymous with one another, we may be encouraging some unhealthy weight-loss practices.
And if people aren’t seeing results from all the exercise they’re doing, they may be discouraged from working out altogether, and lose out on the benefits.
Getting some daily Vitamin D can also do wonders for our bodies, but many people don’t get enough of it because of the climate where they live or because they spend a lot of time indoors.
Both exercise and getting outside for some Vitamin D can be seen as an essential part of practicing self-love, and we think that mentality will become more common as people sever the long-held belief that weight loss is dependent on exercise.
So, how do we get to a point where our predictions come true, and it becomes common to forget about that number on a scale and focus on ourselves and our own well-being?
Shah thinks the tools of today can help, along with a mindset shift that includes spreading as much joy and love as possible through open and honest conversation.
“With the ability to talk more about mental health and obesity, with the tools that we use today whether its social media or just apps that get you connected to other people. There’s more space for us to have these conversations, and to me that’s really exciting,” she says.