There is a specter haunting the tiktok– the specter of body shaming. The innovate and creative ways people can tear down someone who is trying to build themselves up still amazes me. Today I saw a young man on tiktok doing one of the most vulnerable things I think you can do on a social media platform. Document your body transformation. Record your rise from the fatty ashes as the phoenix of physical perfection. Or cry trying. And yes I mean crying. The video I saw displayed young @fattohealthy doing push up’s on the floor with a sound that still reverberates in my heart chambers even now, “5 is all I can do! But I’ll keep trying and putting in the work until I perfect this! Every single hour, because I want it this bad! I wanna be healthy! That’s what I desire!” The young man is on the verge of tears as he completes his 5th rep in his 2nd set while recording this video. I was fortunate enough to pop into one of his lives along with 300+ others to hear him say this, “If you’re not willing to cry about your goals, or the things you want in life, do you really want them?”. Thereby proudly standing in a second vulnerable act, one that is especially sensitive for men, displaying an emotion other than anger and amusement. Yes, there are many men that cry, however, how many of us are willing to do it on a camera in front of strangers? And this is not 100% men’s fault! This point I’ll attempt to aggressively tackle later in this article.
This video resonated so strongly with me because I have always been extremely health conscious and cognizant of my nutrition and exercise. And let’s be real, that was me. At numerous times in my life when I crawled out of a burger pit of self pity and Dorito dust covered self indulgence. And I believe that’s why he’s become so popular. So many people have been in that place of struggle between the stresses of life and the allure of nummy delectables. Brave @fattohealthy admitted to utilizing the numbing effects of junk food to cope with his traumatic childhood experiences. And we can all relate to escaping the harsh realities of modern life with the mid-night drive for an Oreo McFlurry with extra Oreo (insert your own coping confectionary if you don’t fuck with McFlurries). And yet again another example of how vulnerability begets vulnerability. So many creators have already made duets with the young creator in solidarity of his journey from fat to healthy, myself included (I stopped writing a few sentences ago to make mine). In the age of the selfie and snapchat filter body-ady-ady-ady-ady-ady is king and or queen. However, tiktok is furiously taking a stand against picture perfect physiques. #bodypositivity seems to be a recurring trend which brings hope and light to those whose average body-ady-adies. Those that are not sufficiently lit with amazon ring lights to accentuate the poses they’ve been practicing for the past hour and a half. While the trend towards making average bodies fashionable on tiktok is still very much a ‘thing’, the haters and trolls are always afoot. @fattohealthy actually created that viral video in response to a comment saying “bro calm down you did 5 pushups”. Now let’s all join in unison to guy, “Fuuuuck you!”. And again I am not alone in the sentiment as of Dec. 8th there are dozens of people who have made duets in support of this young man’s journey. And that my friends, is the glory of tiktok. Vulnerability begets vulnerability. @fattohealthy shines through on tiktok with the heart of a person in deep pain battling his own bad habits in pursuit of a life that he desires. To be healthy. And that pain, those battles, that desire are things that everyone can relate to. There is no question why he is going viral.
Our traditional American culture of masculinity affords very little in the expression of deep sadness. Growing up, young men are told by their parents and peers to “man up”. Parents will instill in their young boys that they need to be strong, they shouldn’t cry because girls cry. They need to bottle those emotions up out of pride and be a strong shiny representative of the family. Men are groomed to be stoic in American culture yet are also pressured to be more emotionally available. This contradiction can leave many men confused and frustrated in relationships. At certain points of their lives, especially the generations prior to Gen Z, men struggle with balancing the societal pressures to be more emotionally open while holding onto their traditional identities as men that were ingrained in them from childhood. The shining ray of hope being young men like @fattohealthy who are challenging traditional masculinity through their tiktok presence. And I don’t believe that he is the only one. Emotional openness seems to be a lot more acceptable in the younger generations. Among themselves I see many vulnerable and emotionally expressive trends on tiktok that both girl and boys as well as men and women participate in. In conclusion, I commend and will continually support @fattohealthy as well as many other creators who are challenging the status quo through their content. Whether that be a visceral announcement of the desire to be healthy or an emotionally open discussion of the struggles one is experiencing or has experienced. The one word of caution I would offer to fellow creators is to understand that there are some issues that should be handled with extreme caution so that we do not retraumatize ourselves by oversharing things we are not prepared to share. If you are solid in who you are, are strong emotionally, mentally and spiritually and can handle the trolls and haters that will come after you, then by all means brother or sister, I will be there to duet the shit out you!
By : Passi Iafeta; @passifiasili_ on IG; @passii3 on TikTok
Domestic Violence Specialist, LMHC student