I have been skirting around wholeheartedly embracing the body positivity movement for various reasons, but I realised that the only way I can properly support women to grow in confidence while getting more active is to establish my take on it.
We all have a body. The size of our body doesn’t define how intelligent, kind, happy or sad we are, however much society might try to tell us otherwise. The inherent message is out there that if you are anything bigger than a size 12, you are a failure, you must be miserable, and you can’t possibly be living a fulfilling life. Furthermore the message is that you are unhealthy.
Let’s unpackage that a little.
If size 12 (or 10, or 8) isn’t your natural size, then you will be constantly depriving yourself to achieve the clothes size society wants you to be in. That doesn’t sound intelligent, kind or happy to me.
The idea that being larger than BMI 25 (don’t get me started on BMI – that requires a whole separate soap box!) immediately makes you unhealthy is unhealthy in itself. Yes, there are some conditions that can be exacerbated by carrying extra weight. Absolutely, I accept that. However, losing weight just to be within the correct range of numbers is just as unhealthy, both mentally and physically.
There isn’t much research into the effects of yo-yo dieting, but this article is worth a look https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323723.php if you’re interested. Add to this that only 3-5% of all dieters keep all the weight off long term, and I hope you’ll agree it’s time to attack the fat stigma and embrace the positivity.
So, what is my understanding of body positivity? It’s about accepting the body you are in. Being kind to it. Limiting the negative self-talk. Asking yourself “would I say that to a friend?”.
I absolutely understand that when you’re surrounded by messages telling you that you should be slimmer, younger, blonder, smoother-of-skin and so on, it’s pretty hard to break the cycle of negative self-talk. I also understand that for many of us, being surrounded by those messages only reinforces the desire to eat more, because we’ve already “failed” so we may as well eat all the cake.
Where do we start to change this? Well, each and every one of us can make little changes. Rather than constantly looking for the negatives (“I’m so fat, I can’t do X,Y,Z”, for example; “I’m such a failure because I ate more than 3 lettuce leaves today”; “I must have no willpower cos I can’t lose weight”; and so on), let’s start looking at positives: “My body is awesome, it can do A,B,C”; “I need more than just lettuce to survive – my body knows what food it needs”; “If negative dog training doesn’t work, why do I think depriving myself and constantly treating myself negatively is going to work – let’s start being positive”.
So what positives can you cite about your body? What can your body do for you today? How can you start to focus on the good things, and treat yourself like you’d treat a friend?
And yes, I know that the body positivity movement is way bigger than this, but for today, that’s enough of my take on it.