I don’t want to live my life treating my body like a project.
More Than a Body
is a weekly chat on a private Facebook page where we cover topics on body image and body positivity.
The point is to create a community where we can all support each other in a goal of body acceptance rather than a goal of weight loss. Without support it’s nearly impossible to fight the expectations for thinness, extreme dieting and fitness that culture has put on us.
My hope is that we can build genuine relationships that can grow outside of the weekly chats. If you find that you click really well with a person in the chat, add them on Facebook or get their number and stay in touch during the week. That way you can have at least one person who isn’t pressuring you to change the way you look and bonus! new friendships!
The chat will be completely private among members on the private Facebook page. During the chat, there will 3 or 4 questions that we can all respond to and engage with each other on.
The Chats will be held weekly on Tuesday evenings from 7-8pm MST. To be a part of the chats, subscribe to my blog and I’ll be sending out weekly reminders before the chat, outlining what we’ll be discussing.
If you want to learn more about why body positivity is the focus of this group, I’ve written out my personal experience with body image struggles below as well as what it means to be body positive and how it correlates to health.
I’m so excited to meet all of you! See you Tuesday!
Since the age of, I don’t know, 12 probably, I’ve been hyper aware of my body. The second I noticed stretch marks on my thighs, I slathered them with bio oil every night. When I noticed a tiny bit of belly fat, I spent every night in front of a mirror doing crunches. Life got a whole lot more stressful when I became aware of the pressure of the beauty standard my body was supposed to mold to.
In my teens and early twenties it became an obsession to analyze every bite of food I was putting into my mouth. I would spend my days counting macros and writing down what I could and couldn’t eat, creating Pinterest fitspiration boards meant to inspire me to get skinny, when really they were a means of punishing myself for not having the willpower to change my body. I went through diet and binge cycles. I went through obsessive fitness routines that made me feel physically ill. I struggled with bingeing and had I not had a difficult time forcing myself to throw up, I would have purged regularly as well. It was all for smaller thighs, better abs, and that perky butt, Oh, and the pursuit of a ‘healthy lifestyle’ of course.
Health was the excuse I would use to tell myself that my obsessive tendencies were good. That pushing myself and punishing myself mentally would be good for my body in the end.
I was wrong.
The Correlation Between Mental Health and Physical Health
We’re constantly being told what to eat, what not to eat, how to eat, what that food is doing to our bodies. We’re coached on how to exercise, when to exercise, how often to exercise and it’s all under the banner of health.
Now hear me, I don’t believe that letting your weight sit at 600lbs and being a coach potato can be considered healthy but I don’t believe that weight or size is the problem. It’s the habits and mental state of a person that leads to a lack of health and often these habits and these mental states are a result of shame or dieting cycles.
I mean, we’ve declared “a war on obesity” and what this really looks like is erasing the right to peace, dignity and respect for people of size. I don’t see how this could possibly lead to a decrease in obesity, or even the prevention of obesity. All it’s created is a fear of getting fat, which we already had long before the ‘war on obesity’.
Furthermore, it’s created self-hatred among people of size.
We need to throw out this idea that we can SEE health because we can’t. Health is not measured in weight or size. Health does not LOOK like anything.
I know many women of size who are in far better shape than I am. I have friends who regularly attend spin classes, hot yoga, cross fit, who participate in marathons, all who have bigger bodies and all who are shamed for those bodies regardless of their fitness and health.
I can hardly climb the stairs in my house. I certainly can’t finish a spin class and the only hot yoga class I ever attended, I spent laying on the mat swearing under my breath. Yet, my friends, regardless of their fitness and dedication, are expected to constantly push harder, eat less, spend more time obsessing over food choices, spend even more time at the gym until they fit a standard of beauty that has nothing to do with health. They are expected to achieve thinness.
We’ve been taught that fat bodies can’t be healthy until they are thin.
Of course, we all know people of size who have poor eating habits and exercise habits but we automatically attribute their habits to their size. How many of us stop to analyze our thin friends eating or exercise habits with such criticism? I think if we took a good hard look at the people around us, we would see that there are some thin bodied people who lead just as unhealthy of lifestyles as some fat bodied people.
The is why body positivity can be so important to our health. Here are 3 reasons why loving our bodies at any size positively affects our health.
1. Mental health is the engine behind self care.
No matter our focus on the importance of physical health, we can’t bring about change with the tactics of fear and guilt that we’ve built into society. Guilt and fear are never proper motivators. They’re much more likely to be enablers of unhealthy behaviours.
In fact, I would go as far to say that the diet industry with its mechanisms of shame and fear, has caused more health problems than it’s has helped. From eating disorders, to an unhealthy relationship with food and fitness and the negative effects on mental health, dieting has played a far larger role in creating destructive behaviours than it has in creating healthy people.
***I would never go as far as to say diet culture has CAUSED eating disorders. Eating disorders are a mental illness. However, I do believe diet culture has created an environment where people with predispositions to eating disorders have a much harder time resisting and overcoming them.***
All of these factors create stress in the mind and therefore stress on the body. Stress not only prevents weight loss but is the culprit of many physical problems such as high blood pressure and chronic muscle tension which can lead to life threatening illnesses such as heart attacks, cancer and kidney disease.
So, how effective do you think it is to declare “a war on obesity” (aka a war on a certain body type)?
When a person with a fat body looks in the mirror and has the shame of not only being considered unattractive, but also has been stigmatized as lazy, having poor eating habits and is essentially immoral based on the way that they look, how could they possibly be in the right state of mind to change unhealthy habits.
If we can accept our bodies as they are now, even if we are living with unhealthy habits, it can be a step in the right direction toward understanding what real health looks like.
We work on loving them and finding attraction outside of the beauty standard. We appreciate our bodies for what they do for us and we let go of stigma. We work on letting go of pressure to change the way we look. We shut out fat shaming and comments on what we can or cannot wear. We shut out comments on what we can or cannot do.
This is the goal. To have a healthy view of our bodies. To separate the way we look from who we are.
Weight loss can’t be the goal. We need to accept that if we work on changing habits, adding exercise in moderation, adding a balanced relationship with food, and our physical appearance or weight never changes, that we are still leading a healthy lifestyle.
If we can’t learn to understand this, our mental health suffers and we begin the obsessive relationship with food and exercise.
Self care needs to be at the centre of this movement and self care includes loving yourself. I certainly don’t believe that you can fully love yourself if you’re ashamed of your body. I certainly don’t believe we can call diet and fitness ‘self care’ if it comes at the cost of your mental health.
You have as much right as any thin person, no matter your size, no matter your physical health, to love the body that carries you.
Your body doesn’t need to be a work in progress.
2. Social habits aid in mental health
You are more than a body.
The shift in thinking from health being visible, takes away this need to focus simply on diet and exercise to attain health. Diet and exercise are only parts of health. An equally important factor, as mentioned before is mental health which has many elements.
One being social relationships. When the obsession with food and exercise is so time consuming, we leave out time to focus on healthy relationships. Healthy social habits look different for everyone. For me, going out to eat with friends or sharing a bottle of wine has become routine. Of course, this could look differently from person to person but what I’m saying is having to be so obsessively conscious of what I’m consuming would have a drastic effect on my relationships. I don’t want to have to sit and obsess over what that glass of wine is doing to my body or whether that piece of cheesecake will make me look bloated in the morning. I just want to enjoy my wine and cheesecake, that’s the purpose of indulgence, for enjoyment.
All of us should have the peace within ourselves and respect from others to make choices on what we consume no matter our size. A fat bodied person should have as much right to eat their cheesecake among friends in peace as a thin bodied person. They shouldn’t have to worry about what others are thinking of them when they put something in their mouth. But they do.
Indulging can be as much a part of health as choosing to nourish with healthy foods.
3. A Balanced Life is a healthy life
All of this is to say that balance is the key. We need a balanced view of health. One that doesn’t come in a one size fits all box. Mental health is so important and without a significant focus on it, we can’t lead healthy lives. We can’t have an obsessive relationship with food or exercise and keep a healthy mind. We can’t hate our bodies, live in shame or fear and keep a healthy mind. A healthy mind is what will lead to balance. A healthy mind is what will lead to a healthy body.
So yes, it is possible to lose weight. You can go on a restrictive diet, you can exercise twice a day and your body might reflect that which society deems as beautiful but your obsession won’t leave room for a healthy mind. Your obsession won’t leave room for healthy relationships. Your obsession won’t leave room for happiness.
Because mental health looks so different for everyone, we can’t stigmatize the way people look or even the way people live as being healthy or unhealthy. We need to let each other find that line. We need to support and encourage each other, not shame each other.
We can’t let the media’s portrayal of health dictate what health is for us individually.
Is your relationship with your physical health obsessive? Are you using health as an excuse to feed your obsession?
These are the sorts of things we will be discussing in our weekly ‘More Than a Body’ Chats. The chats will be held on a private Facebook page on Tuesday evenings at 7-8pm MST.
To join the chat, subscribe and I’ll send out weekly reminders before the chat outlining some of the things we’ll be chatting about.
I’m genuinely excited to get to know you all and to build a community where we can work towards accepting and loving our bodies instead of asking for change.