Staying body positive

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I've been thinking today about the issue of commenting on others' weight loss. I started thinking about this after reading a blog post by a friend, and part of what I am posting here is also what I posted as a comment on her blog.

Complimenting people on weight loss is a sticky situation. I personally don't ever comment on anyone's weight (loss or gain) outside the setting of a weight loss support group (like Spark), because I feel the implication of those kinds of comments is that being thinner is inherently better and that simply isn't true. Our worth comes from what's inside, not what's outside. Additionally, our society is full of people who have eating disorders and body image dysmorphia. Commenting on weight (even positive comments) only makes those problems worse. I really strive to be body positive in all my interactions. I don't put down my own body, or anyone else's. And, I try to avoid ever engaging in diet talk--again, outside the context of a weight loss support group. I think it is far more important, and healthy, to celebrate what our bodies can do instead of what we wished they looked like.

When I am within the confines of a weight loss group I do congratulate people on achieving their goals, because when we join weight loss support groups we are specifically looking for support and encouragement. However, I have to admit it does still make me vaguely uneasy because I don't want to contribute to "thin is better" mindset. I prefer the message: "healthy is better". But I also know we want a quantifiable way to show we are achieving our goals. And weight loss is much easier to quantify in pounds and inches than it is in health benefits, so those numbers become our benchmarks for lack of a better option. It's a complicated issue.

I do think making our bodies as healthy as they can be is a very positive goal. And, for some of us weight loss is part of that goal. There's nothing inherently wrong with that as long as we are losing weight by adopting healthier lifestyle habits and not by participating in dangerous diet fads.

I have to wonder though, am I being hypocritical to make the distinction between how I conduct myself in day to day life and how I conduct myself within a weight loss support group? Is it ethical to make that kind of distinction? Or am I doing a disservice to my online friends that I wouldn't do to a friend in person?

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

ADDED LATER: I've been thinking about this some more and I think I know why I behave one way in a social context and a different way in a weight loss support context. I think it probably has to do with how I receive compliments. When I am on Spark or in some other weight loss support atmosphere I appreciate weight loss compliments because I feel like I am being complimented on making progress towards my goals. When I receive weight-related compliments outside that setting it bothers me a bit because I feel like that person is saying that I wasn't ok the way I was. That may or may not be the person's intent in either setting, but since I perceive it that way, I use that as a guide toward interacting with others.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I agree with alot of your points. I personally don't feel you are hypocritical and the subject is definitely complex but i feel your comments on this site are justified. we are all here with a common goal, and the words of support and encouragement can help people achieve this. You will find that for many people losing weight is bigger than just being thin and is actually about changing a persons lifestyle which can lead to people accomplishing things in life they never thought they would.
    2950 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

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