Recently, I was a part of a discussion about the body positivity movement. Men and women chimed in with a host of encouraging and supportive comments. But there was a surprising voice of alarm and concern that went like this:
- It’s unhealthy if you’re overweight.
- This is a dangerous mentality for obese people. We can’t lie to them and say they’re okay if they’re not.
- Body acceptance encourages an unhealthy lifestyle for people who are overweight.
- Adopting body acceptance will only add to the obesity upswing.
- People will lose motivation to be fit and healthy.
- You won’t find a partner because your body is too fat to be attractive to anyone except perverts.
- Your partner will lose interest unless you’re average size.
- You are setting a bad example for children.
You’ll notice they didn’t include any body acceptance concerns for average or underweight people. It’s not because the concerns don’t exist, but because they simply didn’t come up. Every concern voiced was about people who were larger than (the media subjective) average.
Several years ago, I lost a significant amount of weight. I gain weight easily due to PCOS and a low thyroid. But I took extreme measures to lose dozens of pounds. My hair fell out. My muscle mass deteriorated. My energy initially spiked but then crashed. I had to go to extraordinary lengths to maintain my lower weight and my cholesterol was still high and so were my inflammatory markers.
People told me how good I looked. They told me how pretty I was, and told me that I HAD to feel good being so thin. My husband must really be enjoying my new body because of course I lost weight to keep him sexually interested.
And the truth was, I was obsessed with every bite of food that crossed my lips. I berated myself for indulging in a beignet in New Orleans over vacation, or eating chips and salsa at my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant. I despaired at my new body that still failed to fit a normal, single digit size. I believed my husband found me repulsive, and that tanked our sex life for a minute. Sounds healthy, right?
To be clear, I was balding and physically weak at this moment in time. I gained 10 pounds in spite of myself and started feeling better. My energy started seeping back into my bones, and I was able to exercise and get strong again. My cholesterol lowered and so did my inflammatory markers. I got pregnant and was able to keep the pregnancy.
As soon as I had my baby, people asked when I was going to start losing my baby weight. I was stressed and feeding my newborn, who almost died of a stroke shortly after birth, around the clock and feeding myself poorly. But when I reached my pre-pregnancy weight within 10 days, I just received compliments and atta-girls.
Let that sink in for a minute: My baby was suffering from a severe brain injury and somehow my thinness was still a focus.
It’s sick. All of it. I was sick with diets for a long time, too. And what’s worse is I pushed this sickness on other people. (Sorry about that, friends.)
So, to Oprahs and Dr. Ozs and one million diet supplement and pill companies and programs aimed at making a fast buck off of my fat belly, I say this:
F*CK YOUR DIET.
F*ck your outward standards of health.
F*ck your pressure to be average or smaller than average.
F*ck you for marginalizing bodies and making the acceptable standard so small that it is unattainable for many of us.
I’m not even mad at the Victoria Secrets or Abercrombies of the world (much). They are selling an image. You, peddlers of diets, are selling failure and inadequacy and shame wrapped up in tamper-evident bottles and tan-skinny-people-running-on-the-beach commercials. You are making a fortune off bodies you know nothing about other than it’s fat. THIS IS DANGEROUS FOR PEOPLE OF ALL SIZES.
So, how about we focus on true health and less on unattainable perfection? We ditch our addiction to skinny and embrace our bodies as lovely? And I say this with all the gentle kindness I have in my soft and powerful body:
F*ck the points. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. If you can’t tell the difference, find a support system to help you like a counselor or Overeaters Anonymous.
F*ck the special diets. Eat what makes your body feel good. Eat what you enjoy. If that’s paleo, vegan, pescatarian, omnivore, whatever. Eat that. Feel good. The end.
F*ck the shame-based exercise programs that never work. Move your body. Feel the earth beneath your feet. Take a deep breath and move with gratitude.
F*ck the impossible standards. Your body is amazing. Wear that bikini. Swing those hips. Admire your perfect lips as you pass the mirror and feel pride that your body has brought you this far.