I write on here a lot about body positivity. I follow a lot of people on Instagram who do, too, and I’ve noticed there’s a lot of discussion around what terms are the “best” to use. I’ve heard the discussion on some of my favorite podcasts, too, and have seen some people shift away from using the term body “positive.” While some people find their niche is posting about self-love and loving your body, others feel that may not always be feasible for people. Others argue that body positivity focuses too much on, well, bodies, which reinforces that bodies and how they look are important.
I don’t really feel like I fall in either camp 100% of the time, and I don’t think we have to. As much as I would like to live in a world where bodies are just neutral, we live in a world that praises some bodies and looks down on others. I think that many of the accounts celebrating all bodies and body love can be extremely helpful.
It can be validating to see someone post their stretch marks and think, “I have those too! Maybe I don’t need to ‘fix’ them after all.” Many of these accounts highlight people in larger bodies, which helps normalize body diversity. I think that’s so important in our world where people in larger bodies are made to feel ashamed, and those bodies are way underrepresented in the media. It also helps widen our view of what counts as beautiful, which can help with body image across the board.
However, I do understand the argument that focusing on celebrating all bodies still keeps the attention on bodies. In reality, our bodies are just our outer “Earth suit” as Julie calls it, so should we shift our focus elsewhere? That’s where the body neutrality argument lies.
Body neutrality is pretty self explanatory-just feeling neutral about your body and focusing on other things. This is how I feel most of the time. I acknowledge that I am more than my body and it does not determine my worth. I try to focus on how I feel and react to my body in a factual way rather than placing value on how it looks. For example- “These pants are tight, I should buy a pair that fits better” rather than “These pants are tight I hate how my body looks I need to change it” or “These pants are tight, I love how I have rolls over my waistband.”
I’ll be honest, I’ve never thought that last statement! Maybe I will never get there. I think that’s okay. I’m more likely to just go get some pants that actually fit and make me feel good, then go on with my life. That’s a big accomplishment for me; not too long ago, I would have started doing things to try to change my body rather than work through the thoughts.
Sometimes I do feel positive about my body. Sometimes I don’t. When that happens, I sit with the discomfort. I don’t want to diet or do workouts that don’t mesh with my lifestyle and values. So sometimes I just have to think about why I’m having a negative thought. Maybe I don’t come up with an answer, and maybe I feel uncomfortable for a while. That’s part of the journey. I also know that I don’t have to love my body all the time to treat it with kindness.
Celebrating body diversity is certainly a good thing. Being inclusive of all people and all sizes is a wonderful thing. But it’s not realistic to expect to love your body all the time. That can be hard for people when they express disappointment with their body and hear “no no no, just love your body!” It’s really not that easy, especially in our culture. Or they may feel frustrated, like they’re “failing” at body positivity, if they have any negative thoughts.
I never want to say that body love is unattainable for anyone, but I know it can feel impossible. Body neutrality can seem like a really big goal if you’re consumed with hating your body. Maybe you’ll end up in body neutrality and hang out there most of the time, and simply enjoy living your life without judging your body too much either way. You may want to work towards body love and find that it’s accessible to you. Maybe you want to work towards simply not hating your body all of the time. I don’t know that the terminology really matters. Work towards what you feel like working towards. Either way, I think it’s better than being trapped in body hate.
Maybe body acceptance would be a better term for me to use. I don’t think that means you just wake up one day and say, “Alright, body, I accept you! Let’s do this!” It’s still a journey. I like the term because it acknowledges that there is active work going on. It’s about moving away from fighting your body and learning to work with it.
I feel like we are all on the same team here. We don’t want to be consumed by thoughts about our body, no matter what those are. We’ve got more important things to do! Maybe one perspective is helpful to some people, but not another. Or maybe one perspective is helpful at one part of your journey, but not another. We are all so different and we are all at different parts of our body peace journey, so I think it’s understandable that we identify with different aspects of the non-diet culture. Embrace what helps you on your journey, and leave the rest.
Tell me what you think- Does it matter? Do you identify more strongly with one phrase or another? Does body positivity sound nice, or unattainable and frustrating?
Psst–Most of the pictures in this post come from Instagram via Christy Harrison and Haley Goodrich, two awesome non-diet dietitians. Give them a follow if you’re looking for some positive people to help you along your journey!
Chip and I recently set a date for our wedding and we are so excited. On October 6, 2018, I am marrying the love of my life after 9 years (!) and it is going to be the best day ever. My size will not be a factor in how amazing that day is or how happy I am. Contrary to what diet culture will tell you, it does not matter.
I’m pretty sure Chip is going to marry me no matter what I look like, and I would rather not stress over my body for a year just so I can look a certain way for a 24 hour period. I want to look back on my wedding pictures and see the real me. I do not want to look back and remember being stressed and unhappy with my body. I do not want to spend one minute of my engagement worrying about how muscular or not my arms look, or one moment of my wedding day sucking it in because (gasp!) I have fat on my body. So no, I’m not “sweating for the wedding” or embarking on a crazy diet plan or focusing on my body more than I need to-which is not a lot because our bodies are very smart and don’t need to be micromanaged.
I’m not going to lie-some days it can be hard to stick to my values on this. How could it be easy? Bridal culture is all tangled up in diet culture. More about that in a minute. I’m sure that as that day gets closer, I may be tempted to just squeeze in one more workout here and there. I can recognize that feeling, trace where it comes from, and remind myself why I don’t need to do that. It’s not your fault if you feel that way, either.
It’s no secret that there is unbelievable pressure on women to drop weight for their wedding day. It’s total BS and it’s everywhere. It’s on Pinterest when I browse wedding décor. It’s in every bridal magazine I’ve looked at. Every time a celebrity has a wedding, we hear about their “bridal bootcamp” plan the next day. I did not see any size variety as I flipped through wedding magazines or looked for dress inspiration on Pinterest. It is NO WONDER we feel so stressed about our bodies as we think about our big day. Let’s discuss an ad I saw on Instagram last month. Before I do, I would like to say that Chip has not seen any ads targeting him to slim down or tone up for our wedding.
I was minding my own business, scrolling through Instagram when I saw the ad below. I have never had Halo Top and I don’t follow them on Instagram, but it popped up anyway. Boy was I relieved to find out that the food gods have approved Halo Top for wedding season because it is low in calories and sugar. Because to be ready for marriage, you need to worry about those things. Oh and don’t worry! “Wedding prep doesn’t have to be a drag” since Halo Top makes it all sweeter without all the WORRY and CALORIES!!!!!
So much rage. I shared the following response on Instagram stories, so I won’t go into my whole rant again.
We see this messaging every day. It is so frustrating and makes loving your body-even being okay with it-a radical idea. One simple step I took here was to hide the ad. Sometimes if I see diet-y things on my feed I’ll report them as inappropriate. I don’t need companies telling me how to take care (or not) of my body. I don’t know if it really does anything, but it makes me feel good. It infuriates me that food/diet companies and gyms take advantage of this exciting yet vulnerable time in a woman’s life.
I want to acknowledge that I can imagine this is a much harder stance to take if you are in a body that is not socially accepted right now. I was able to go into a wedding dress store, try on samples, and order my size at no additional cost. So many women are not afforded this privilege, which should not even be a privilege, because designers only make samples in a small range of sizes. It is so wrong. Many women are unable to really see what their wedding dress will look like when they purchase it. On top of that, they are often charged more than a smaller bride who orders the same dress. They don’t charge a size 10 more than a size 2, so why is this a thing? Every single body deserves to be respected. Every single bride deserves to feel beautiful and comfortable in whatever she wants to wear on her wedding day.
celebratory drinks and sliders after finding the dress
I am not here to shame anyone who did lose weight/diet/work out more for their wedding or is trying to. I cannot say what is right for you-I’m here to say that it would not be good for me. It would not be good for my health, which includes mental health. In order to pursue changing my body, I would have to eat less than what I need. I would have to exercise more than I enjoy. I would have to neglect caring for myself, and I’m just not going to do that. It would take a lot of my time and mental energy that could be better spent literally anywhere else. I would undoubtedly have a worse relationship with food, exercise, and my body, which I’ve worked so hard to improve.
I’m going to celebrate this time with my family and friends, and sometimes that will involve a champagne toast and a 2am run to Waffle House. That totally happened when we got engaged. I want to go get ice cream with my fiancé just because we want to, not because I budgeted my calories and could “afford” it. I want to go into marriage as my best self, and I know focusing on my body would not allow me to do that.
On October 6, 2018, I’m going to say “I do,” dance all night, eat cake, and drink mimosas because I think they are appropriate at all hours. I’m going to start a new chapter of my life with my husband (wow that still sounds weird). I’m showing up in whatever wedding bod I’ve got, and it will literally be the least important thing about that day.
The first couple weeks of my internship have been great. I’m getting used to a real adult work schedule and I’m enjoying having the evenings and weekends to myself instead of working on school.
I feel like I’m bursting with so many blog post ideas but just haven’t taken the time to type up my thoughts. I’ll get there. A lot of this inspiration comes from wonderful podcasts I’ve been listening to lately! I’ve professed my love for podcasts before and included some in my blog post about body positive resources, but I figured it’s time for an update since I’ve found some new ones. I’m including the repeats at the bottom for the sake of having all my favorites in one place.
I’ve mentioned this one in passing in another post, but I’ve listened to a lot lately and just love it. I had a 5 hour drive on Saturday and Julie kept me company for most of that time. The gist is this: listeners write in about their complicated relationship to food, in the form of a letter to food. Julie reads it, offers some of her wisdom and often calls other RD or therapist friends to lend their advice to the letter writer. In the end of the episode, food writes back-and signs it love, food. Ah it is just so good and refreshing. She is a dietitian, but also has a degree in counseling and you can tell. I feel like I’m in a wonderful therapy session when I listen.
I follow Jessie, the host, on Instagram but just started listening to her podcast recently. She is an RD and personal trainer living in Boston, and she’s all about helping you develop a healthier relationship with your body and food. Her first guests were the authors of Intuitive Eating, so I knew it was going to be right up my alley. I’ve only listened to a few of her episodes, but I’ve found them really helpful. It’s especially great for those times you are being hard on yourself/your body. It happens, and this podcast reminds me it’s okay to feel that way and work through it.
Heather is a Registered Dietitian and invites other RDs to come on and talk about their career, nutrition perspective, and recent nutrition studies or articles. She is intuitive eating oriented and so are many of her guests. As a nutrition student I enjoy hearing about all the different career paths out there, and I also enjoy Heather’s rapport with her guests. She seems easygoing, and I would totally go drink a margarita with her.
Ok, now I’ve provided you enough listening material for the year. I hope you find one (or more) of these helpful! Let me know if you do and we can start a podcast fan club 🙂
A few weeks ago, I saw an Instagram post by Jennifer Rollin that caught my attention. She is a psychotherapist, specializing in eating disorder and body image, and her posts are always great. She shared an article she wrote for Huffpost called “You Don’t Have to Try To ‘Get Your Body Back,’” and in the caption she said something that really stuck with me- “Our bodies are not slabs of marble.” They aren’t meant to always stay the same! We change all throughout life, yet we often become discouraged when our bodies don’t stay the same. Whether it has to do with the shape of your body or the smoothness of your skin-it is going to change at some point.
I’m assuming most of you here reading are women, and you know we have several transitions that bring body changes. Men do too, obviously. During puberty, girls gain weight. We NEED to! It is necessary for proper reproductive health. I really wish we included this as part of health education for young girls. Maybe they do now? Many women gain weight during menopause, and it is hypothesized that it helps women produce more estrogen. For more on that, check out Jennifer’s linked article above. Your body will probably change outside of these biological phases, too. The good thing is that your body knows what it needs to do. You don’t need to stress about it.
Another time of body change is pregnancy/delivery. I don’t have personal experience with this, but I am often frustrated by how women’s bodies are discussed around pregnancy. I recently read an article by Chrissy Tiegen about postpartum depression. She made a comment that everyone congratulated her on losing weight quickly after having her baby, but in reality she was too ill to eat. Why don’t we focus on getting women support they need during this special and challenging time rather than put the pressure on to lose weight? Why are we telling women to go get their body back? Where did it go, anyway!?
We are not meant to look how we did in high school for our whole lives. When I was in college and my body changed, I panicked. This is one of example of how scaring the bajeezus out of incoming college students about the “freshman 15” can be harmful. Instead of realizing that I was maturing and growing into my adult woman body, I panicked that I did all of the “wrong” things we were warned about at orientation. I suddenly was scrutinizing photos of myself, comparing them to others from a few years prior. This is just an unhelpful exercise-comparing ourselves today to our past selves in a negative light. We change internally and externally throughout life, and we don’t need to freak out or try to micromanage it.
This is a good lesson for me, too. I don’t typically look in mirrors for very long. I don’t wear makeup to school so I’m usually just putting on moisturizer and running out the door. Earlier this week, I noticed some lines under my eyes I hadn’t seen before. Even though I preach self love it made me panic a little!
Ok feel free to roll your eyes at me. You may be wondering, “Why is this twentysomething complaining about aging?” I share this because it was a reminder that we change throughout life. At first, I was like, “Oh gosh, I’m definitely getting older!” Once I thought about it a while, my thinking shifted to, “Yeah, I am getting older. This is what happens. Why would I expect to look the same forever?” I’ve laughed with my family and friends, cried, and struggled through some hard classes to get those lines. Our “signs of aging” are really signs of LIVING. They show that we have been through stuff to get where we are today.
I know that getting on board with body changes throughout life isn’t easy. Our society tells us do to everything we can to take up less space and to fight changes in our bodies. It has taken me years to be as comfortable in my skin as I am today, and sometimes my insecurities still sneak up on me. When I have a moment or day that I’m down on my body or appearance, something else is usually going on. I’m stressed, or feel inadequate, and instead of facing it I take it out on myself. If that’s what is going on, acknowledging it can help.
Beyond that, getting through those bad feelings about your body/appearance, especially during times of change, really comes down to knowing that you are so much more than your body. Of course it is important to feel comfortable in your skin, but when it comes down to it, your body is just the vessel that allows you to do awesome things. I’m pretty sure at the end of my life I won’t wish I had spent more time trying to get rid of wrinkles and cellulite. 1) Those things are normal and don’t need to be fixed, and 2) I want to do so much more with my time.
Your body is good how it is right now. You are good just as you are. Now get out there and do something awesome, and thank your body for allowing you to.
It’s March, and in North Carolina that means sunny skies and comfortable temperatures. It also means the beginning of body shaming disguised as advertisements to convince us that we need to change our bodies for the summer. These messages are backed by a lot of money, and they can be convincing.
A few years ago, around this time of year, I would think about the approaching bikini season. I would feel unhappy with my body and beat myself up for not “working harder” in the months prior. Maybe I should have made my workouts ten minutes longer. I would look so much better. No matter how much I tried to change my body, I was never 100% satisfied. It’s a losing game, really. Diets don’t work and what we strive for is often not in line with our genetics/body type. I spent time and energy chasing an image of perfection that doesn’t exist.
In the past, I wished for the body I had when I was 16, when I wasn’t even a fully developed woman. (I was never 100% happy in that body, either.) I’m almost 24, and I’ve gone through many life changes since then. Our bodies change with us. In addition, size diversity has always existed, and it always will. We should celebrate that rather than idealize one type of body. I’ve come a long way with my body image, but that doesn’t mean I never struggle.
Today I’m headed to a bachelorette weekend for one of my best friends. We are planning on going to the beach one day. As it got closer, I had a moment of panic about wearing a bathing suit. I wondered why I felt this way. I know I don’t want pursue changing my body. I’m happy and healthy as I am. The truth is that giving up the “perfect body” ideal can be hard, even when you know that it doesn’t exist. I mean, hello-we aren’t born hating our bodies. Society teaches us to, so it takes work to unlearn what we’ve heard our whole life.
I decided to try on my swimsuits and purchase a new one if I wasn’t comfortable. Of course, I found myself picking out parts of my body I wasn’t happy with. Honestly, I do not spend much time looking at my body on a day-to-day basis. I love what Kylie has to say about a good body image day- it’s a day when you do productive things and don’t even think about your how your body looks. I’m happy to be in a place where most days look like that. I feel good in my body, but I’m not obsessed over how I look. So sometimes, when I’m “forced” to take a good look, my inner critic gets louder. Unlike years before, though, I got past it and didn’t leave the experience vowing to “do better.” I picked out the swimsuit that made me feel my best and set it aside to pack. Then I moved on with my day.
Our inner critic is always there, but we can learn to fight back and give it less power. Here are a few ways I combat my inner critic when it tells me my body isn’t good enough:
I tell myself I’m great the way I am, right now. I get mad at the diet industry instead of myself. I remind myself how unproductive and harmful pursuing changing my body would be. I tell my inner critic that my worth as a person is unrelated to my appearance. I surround myself with body positive messages on podcasts, Instagram, and blogs. I follow people on Instagram who are in bodies that look different than mine. This reminds me that all bodies are good- there is not a “perfect body” to strive for. I get mad at the discrimination that many in larger bodies face EVERY season of the year, which reminds me that body positivity is a much bigger movement than my own body concerns. All of this puts my inner critic in her place, and allows me to move on to more important things when I have a bad body image moment/day.
I know I’m rambling, and these are all things I’ve said before in some form or another. I’m writing this because I know that feeling of dread every year, and I suspect you might, too. I don’t want you to feel like that. Your body is good just how it is, right now. You deserve to rock whatever swimsuit you want. If accepting and loving your body seems too far off right now, maybe you can start by trying to not hate your body. It’s not easy, but I promise it is so worth it.
So this year (and every year) I’m vowing to let myself be, and I hope you’ll join me. I’ll take care of myself, mentally and physically, and let my body do what it wants. And I’ll continue my work to be confident with whatever that looks like.