I have been an avid body positivity ambassador for a long time. To me the size of a person doesn't define us, we are more than our bodies. I hate diets, I hate talking about weight, and I dislike any part of my self esteem coming from what I do or don't look like. Recently I have decided that I need to make some changes for my health and the body positivity ambassador in me had a real issue with it!
Body Positivity and Weight Loss - while it’s rare to see those things as part of the same sentence, it doesn't mean they can't be a part of the same outlook. Body Positivity is a throwing off of the stereotypical ideas of beauty, of fully embracing every body type and not putting pressure on ourselves to change how we look in order to celebrate who we are. The difficulty for those of us in larger bodies is that we can feel we are betraying ourselves when we start looking at weight loss. It has taken us so much effort to throw off the expectations of a society obsessed with dress size, that when we start to think about making changes, the act of balancing healthy weight with body positivity can be really emotionally and psychologically tricky.
When I say I want to lose weight, people automatically assume that I am not happy in the body I have currently, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. I am about to turn 40, several stone overweight and I can honestly say this is the happiest I have ever felt in my skin. I genuinely think my body is amazing, it does some incredible things, has taken me to some amazing places and is and always will be my ultimate home.
So why do I want to lose weight if I am happy with myself the way I am? Well, because for me it’s not always about happiness, or size, or being beach body ready (by the way, if you have a body, then you are always ready for the beach!) and losing weight isn't just about the number on the scale. It’s because of the fact that I love myself exactly as I am that now, that I want to choose a different way of living that celebrates and reflects how I feel about myself. (And I don't think anyone who isn’t choosing to lose weight, doesn’t feel this way, you do you boo! )
Emotional eating has always been my go-to coping mechanism in times of stress or trauma. Eating is also how I celebrate, and what I do when I am bored, angry, in love, out of love, happy or sad, - over the last 39 years, it’s safe to say that if am awake, then chances are I am eating, or at least thinking about eating. I am definitely a foodie!
I have also been on every ‘diet’ that exists in western society, I have juice cleansed, ate space dust from a packet, only eaten one type of food for days, fasted, combined different food groups, been a proud member of every weight loss programme -In short, every diet provider on the planet has had me on their group register at one time or another.
But unfortunately, ‘diets’ don’t tend to work, deprivation doesn’t work, and losing weight from a mindset of dissatisfaction doesn’t work long term! The reason why diets usually fail is simply that as soon as we start to deprive ourselves, we want to stop that deprivation and in turn treat ourselves. Our sub-conscious shouts at us every time we come within 500 yards of a treat (in my case chocolate biscuits!)
Will power alone cannot help us, our subconscious will is to not be deprived, so, instead we must change how we think about healthy eating; as an activity of giving rather than taking away. Also diets can be a way of dealing with the dissatisfaction we feel about our bodies – we don’t love them as they are, so we want to change them – and sometimes the route to changing them is through various dressed up forms of self-punishment – this also won’t work – because punishing ourselves is ultimately not in our own self-interest.
How can we make lifestyle changes that do work?– For me it is all about the intention - the energy for the change has to come from a place of acceptance and self-love. For me I have to start seeing food as a way of giving something to myself -nutrition, life, energy, health and not a form of deprivation. And it is this intention that makes me want to choose better food choices than I have before, this is what makes me want to try new healthy recipes, put in the effort to up my water intake and take my weight down to a level that means my organs and joints are happier.
We have to stop looking at our bodies as part of a class system of attractiveness and instead see them as they are; fabulous works of nature that carry us through the world. Bodies are beautiful at any size, and though this isn’t always reflected in the world doesn’t mean it isn’t true. But body positivity doesn't need to be a way for us to side-step health, and yes you can be healthy in a larger body, you don’t have to be a certain size for this to be true. But if body positivity is about loving ourselves, eventually we have to make sure we are putting good stuff in it and not ignoring it’s warning signs.
What I am saying is eat the carrot cake but also eat the carrot!
We will be better off if we follow the signs and signals that our bodies are giving us, just notice how you feel after eating something you know is healthy and compare this to how you feel after eating something you know is less healthy, I've personally found there's a world of difference.
Health shouldn't be a battle between loving yourself as you are and wanting to be a few pounds lighter. Body positivity and weight loss can exist together.
Eating healthy food doesn't mean deprivation or dissatisfaction, it just means giving our bodies the sustenance they need for a healthy life.
April 20, 2021