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Body Acceptance... or Not?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Original HERE:

(Below edited for 'profanity' of sorts... I missed it when I read it because the message was so much bigger, but SparkPeople wouldn't let this blog entry post because of it)

“Each of you is perfect the way you are… and you could use a little improvement.” — Shunryu Suzuki, Sōtō Zen monk and teacher

Fat shaming. Fat acceptance. Get a bikini body. Love your curves. Obesity is a lifestyle choice. Obesity is a disease.


I am.

If you spend any time on the Internet, you’ve likely seen or participated in the conversation about weight and body image. To read most blogs posts, opinion pieces, or news articles is to be bombarded with contradictory messages.

Lose weight and look great! Love your body just the way it is!

I find both messages tiresome.

First, I don’t like being told how to think or feel about anything.

More importantly, the polarity is patronizing and divisive.

Where in this “conversation” is there room for individuals to have their own feelings, independent of what other women (and men) insist is the “correct” way to think about one’s body?

Judging other people based on their weight – or any physical trait – is senseless and inexcusable. If you disagree with that, you might as well stop reading. Otherwise, bear with me.

Let’s say I complain to a friend that I’ve gained weight.

She says, “Stop it. You’re beautiful.” While those words are well-intentioned, they are also dismissive.

They will not convince me that I am fit or beautiful. They can’t change the fact that I feel uncomfortable in my body.

Likewise, demanding that I love my body does nothing but make me feel guilty that I don’t love my body.

I believe an ideal scenario is one in which friends could openly and empathetically discuss weight, rather than sidestepping the topic with “You’re beautiful.”

We do this out of discomfort, which would be fine if it didn’t stop the conversation.

When we refuse to talk about fat, we let it control us. And in that moment, there is judgment disguised as support.

Eliminate the judgment, and talking about weight becomes easier and healthier.

We need to talk about weight.

Roughly two out of three U.S. adults are overweight, with one out of three considered obese. American obesity rates have more than doubled since 1980, and remain the highest among all of the high-income countries in the world.

Meanwhile, the U.S. weight loss industry has always been big business, playing on consumer susceptibility to fad diets and get-fit-quick schemes. Marketdata Enterprises predicts the market will grow to $66.5 billion this year.

That’s a lot of people who not only don’t love their bodies, but feel compelled, coerced, even desperate to part with a great deal of money along with unwanted fat.

The American Medical Association recently voted to define obesity as a disease, a controversial move.

Proponents claim the decision will encourage physicians to take obesity more seriously and provide patients with medical treatments including counseling, drugs, and surgery. The costs of these treatments may or may not be reimbursed by health insurers.

The AMA’s own Council on Science and Public Health disagrees.

They say the definition could push overweight people toward costly drugs and surgery rather than lifestyle changes. They also say the measure used to define obesity, the body mass index, is simplistic and flawed, and that otherwise healthy people might be over-treated because their BMI indicates they have a disease.

It appears there is no more consensus in the medical community about how to treat overweight bodies than there is in the larger community about how to feel and talk about our bodies.

The medical arguments are noteworthy, but I’m more interested in the ongoing public dialogue about body image.

Initially, I shared photos on social media that contrasted the curvy and voluptuous celebrities of yesteryear with the gaunt and emaciated stars of today.

That a single image could show how our society’s version of the “ideal” female body has shifted over the years was shocking.

Granted, some of those comparisons were offensive to naturally thin women, but that seemed like collateral damage in a push for much needed change.

What followed was a campaign – on the Internet, in print advertising – celebrating women who refused to be defined by their body size. Again, progress!

I wanted to virtually high-five all my sisters demanding to be recognized as whole, beautiful, proud women who didn’t give a sh!t about what society expected them to look like.

Because h3ll yeah, we are so much more than our stomachs and thighs and butts, our skin and hair and teeth.

More recently, the loudest voices insist that we all love our bodies regardless of size or shape.

We shouldn’t call ourselves fat or believe that we are anything less than perfect.

What began as a backlash against a society that made women feel unattractive if they didn’t look like models or celebrities has morphed into what sounds like a rallying cry for mandatory self-love.

I think that’s fantastic for people who are ready to love their bodies.

But body image is personal and complicated and everyone should be allowed to feel love or hate or indifference about their bodies without pressure to conform to the latest cultural shift.

Otherwise, how have we really progressed from hating our bodies because they weren’t thin enough?

Some people have struggled their entire lives with being overweight. Teased as kids and publicly scrutinized as adults, they are tired of being judged. They deserve to be accepted by everyone, including themselves.

As a friend said, “I think most of the time, I could be fine with my body just the way it is if the rest of the world was okay with it. But it’s the constant reminders in the media, in life, in clothing sizes and comments and looks when I decide I’m going to enjoy an ice cream cone with my family. People go out of their way to let you know you’re fat.”

I have had body image issues since I realized bodies were different and there were issues to be had, but I have rarely been overweight. Mostly I’ve been slim, something I compulsively tell people I’ve met in the last two years.

Some ask, “But were you healthy?” And I was. I ate well, exercised, and felt great.

But thanks to a newly sedentary lifestyle and a penchant for burritos, I’ve gained enough weight in the last couple years that I am no longer just uncomfortable, but unhealthy as well. I’m not ready to accept this new me.

It’s not easy to navigate the in-between place of feeling bad about my body and not knowing what to do with those feelings.

I try to think in terms of choices.

I can a) continue to hate my body, b) decide to love my body the way it is, c) accept that I am unhappy with my body right now, which would ideally lead me to d) make some changes, not just to look better, but to feel better, and to feel better about myself.

My self.

I am more than my body, yet my body carries me through life in many roles.

As a mother, I want more from my body. I want to feel strong and energetic instead of limp and sluggish. I want to be active and fun and outdoorsy.

Above all else, I want to be a good role model so that my daughter will keep looking in the mirror and saying “I look good!”

I’m trying to find my place, a halfway point that will allow me to accept my discomfort while working toward health, and genuine love for my body.

Because there is more than one way to love your body.

You can love how it looks, and you can love it by taking care of it.

Health Coach Meg Worden works with clients from all over the world, people with diverse cultural perspectives of health and beauty. Her holistic approach focuses on small actions that will start increasing comfort and acceptance.

“The answer is not just acceptance without action, or white-knuckled, shame-based actions, but a fluid marriage of acceptance and actions that are deeply tied to your core values,” Worden says.

“Consistent practice creates an intrinsic reward system so you want to feel the way you feel when you feed your body well, and move it around. You are, inevitably, more comfortable. You get back up faster, and keep going with intentions that supersede the ‘lose weight so I’ll be lovable’ story. Acceptance isn’t just accepting your size, it is also accepting your humanity.”

Most important, Worden believes that being healthy isn’t the end result, but a vehicle to get what you want out of life.

I ask myself what I want out of life.

I want to swim with my daughter without getting winded in five minutes and being sore for two days. I want to take her hiking and kayaking and camping. I want to teach her to love preparing and eating healthy meals. I want to live long enough to see her grow into a world where she will not be judged by her appearance.

I want to love my body.

Eventually, I will – on my terms.

My body, my choice.

I won’t love it because someone told me I should.

I will love it by taking care of it and then appreciating how it helps me get what I want out of life.

“Each of you is perfect the way you are… and you could use a little improvement.” — Shunryu Suzuki, Sōtō Zen monk and teacher
(..but you get to decide how, where, and when!)

Food for thought...
(...because I don't believe we are encouraged to consider these things often enough.)

More food for thought:

I have a confession...

Honesty can erase shame.

Dear Women of the World...

Skinny? Enough?

...Because YOU determine how all of this plays out, and honouring our own voice is the first step!



UNTIL. (My 'Just Do It' blog)

'BEFORE' Pictures (May 31, 2009 - September, 2011) & Continuing PROGRESS (February 2012)! Next pictures SEPTEMBER 2013!

(I'm now keeping these right under my nose... in addition to being part of every blog I post, they are printed off and taped to my bedroom mirror... and I update whenever I feel the need - likely the end of September, 2013... to either see for myself what feel like significant changes, or to encourage myself to keep the faith when I feel no change at all despite my efforts)

Measurements, Musings & Motivation to MOVE!

(UPDATED/rewritten: JUNE, 2012)

I've Reached My Goal Weight!!!!!!!

NOTE: My weight tracker is NOT a truthful representation of my weight. Instead, I am using it as a tool to help me visualize my goal as though it's already been achieved!
(Tom Venuto)

DONE Girl Love...

(the footsteps into which I place my own feet)

Leaving NORMAL... In Pursuit of Happiness

Why I'm STILL here... my SparkJourney Saga


Words CAN Be Enough... page 3

Paleo... Do you really know what you're talking about?

Comparison Chart: Primal/Paleo/Ancestral, etc.

Sweeteners - Take a Closer Look!

PDF Comparison Chart of 300 Sweeteners

Breakfast is Served! (RECIPES)

Focus on LUNCHES... for school and YOU!
(& parent resources regarding nutrition for children)

P.S. Perhaps I'm having 'a day'... and while I am not a user of gratuitous profanity (you all read my blog) (nor do I appreciate reading/watching anything liberally peppered with such expletives) (and I support in general terms SparkPeople's commitment to keeping this a 'clean' site), today I am pushed to wonder when/why SPARKPeople became a police state of sorts, catering to those who would choose to report on everyone else's business? I really do think that a person's blog should be their place to express themselves as they feel moved in the moment (sometimes it's a bit of a swearing day, ya know?) There are some really talented bloggers who have stopped writing here simply on principle.

Why do so many people on this site take it upon themselves to be the 'moral majority' in all things, rather than simply living their own truth, and allowing others to do likewise?

...But I suppose there are also ways around everything. Just sayin'...

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Amen!! I liked the bit at the end when you noted that will choose to love you our body, your way. I completely agree with that mentality and need to commit to doing that for myself.
    Great blog!
    1610 days ago
    Everything started with the vocabulary to describe and define the world: tall, short, fat, slim, pretty, ugly, etc.
    We went through different cultures: some praise overweight bodies, others emaciated, some praise clear skin, others dark one.
    Some cultures offer help when somebody falls, people from other cultures tend to laugh.
    In some cultures people tend to offer words of sympathy out of courtesy, in other cultures honest words are of great value regardless that those words might sound rude.
    It is so hard to say who is right and who is wrong. Is our love, hate, and/or acceptance of our body learned? cultural? personal? embedded in our feelings and mind by somebody else or personal reasoned?
    Is our response to others' words, thinking, behavior etc. also learned, cultural, or reasoned?
    Those are questions that I have all the time.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1612 days ago
    1615 days ago
  • GRACE1054

    I commented on another blog about how it amazes me that so many of us here on SP have traveled a similar path to get to this point in our life. But this journey is individual and we all have to come to our own definition of body acceptance. It's easy to say "love your body" but it's just as important to "love your life" and if your body is holding you back from that, than you need to do something about it. It's taken me many years to get to the point where I am not going to wait until I am a certain weight or certain size to get out and start loving life. That said, I am going to keep working on getting my body healthier and stronger to take me through the rest of my life.

    As for feeling judged on SP, Coach Nichole in a recent Spark Coach program video stated "Let go of judging self or thinking others are judging you". It's courageous to put your thoughts and feelings out there for people to read and you can't let the negativity of some stop you from doing so because there may be one person you reach.

    emoticon emoticon
    1615 days ago
    AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! You have spoken out about two VERY important issues to me. My weight gain was due to health issues - one was my choice of diet, with drs. guidance, that allowed me to wait for a kidney transplant instead of choosing dialysis (I was blessed with a transplant). After the transplant, I underwent a number of surgeries (unrelated to the transplant) that required lengthy recuperation's & limited activity. Last I was and am at the age where exercise is needed to maintain a healthy weight. Do I want to go back to the weight I'd maintained for 3.5 decades prior to these life challenges? No! I will and am loosing weight but for energy, health, and life goals I have yet to meet.

    As to the language issue, who am I to judge?

    Thanks as always dearest Ramona. Wishing you a wonderful week filled with peace, harmony, laughter, and love!


    1615 days ago
    On a Christian perspective, I am learning, that my body is a gift that I can appreciate it , even appreciate it more by really making the best decisions I can to take really good care of it, if that means loving my body, so be it, but it is more loving the potential I can be, knowing I am on my way with every decision I make.
    1616 days ago
    Acceptance definitely is individual. I have a friend who is about a year ahead of me on the weight loss journey...and he has a very different perspective. He did not celebrate the journey much...only when he got very close to his goal did he see the value in his body.
    So when I reached the third of the way to my goal this spring and said that I enjoyed where I was at and appreciated how far I had come, he didn't understand that perspective, because he just saw how much farther I have to go. I figure I can start to learn to love me. Because in some way I'm always going to be a work in progress.
    Great blog!
    1616 days ago
    Great blog - one I will need to come back to a number of times to review the extra links emoticon
    1616 days ago
    Amen! Wonderful blog Ramona!Have a great weekend! emoticon
    1616 days ago
    Interesting article. That means there is a lot to consider in it. Thanks.
    1616 days ago
  • JUNEAU2010
    I don't love my body yet and I don't love myself, but I agree with you! YET ANOTHER awesomely powerful blog! I am thinking, meditating and moving forward because your blog is another nudge for me (which I need!).
    1616 days ago
  • ERIN1957
    AMEN! and thank you!

    I came here(SP) to lose weight, or at the least find a method I had not already screwed up . During this journey of coming and going, I left the rear behind and had to start getting healthy as I developed MS.
    To heck with shape and size, I just want health.

    I gave up on looks the first time, I looked into my own eye, after giving birth to son #3, at the stretch marks I earned when he came out weighing 10#10 oz. The only issue was, is that they were also on those eyes balls looking back.

    Never wanted to be a beauty, just wanted to be OK to fit in. Never wanted to be Barbie and wanting her Ken. I just wanted to not stick out and not have to be a joker laughing at what truly hurt me, because I was not thin.

    I love your blog and love the finish. I pray they allow this to stay up, so others too can come here and shout AMEN!
    1616 days ago
    Yeah I hate the dismisive "You look fine" comments. I might "look" ok but I feel bad. I was fit, active and healthy once and I'm bound and determined to get there again, and then appreciate it when it is there. I'm not doing the whole weight loss thing to look good. I am doing it to be healthy and feel good. Looking good would just be a biproduct of my end goal. Yes, I do not like what I see in the mirror physically, but I am happy with who I am as a person. Changing my exterior doesn't change that person inside. So much of what people see on the outside is often tied to how someone feels about themselves on the inside. When you stop listening to the outside world tell you who you should be and start being the person you want to be, then things change for the better.
    1616 days ago
    First off HUGS huge hugs cos I am where you are. went to naturopath ate super clean, started to add sugar back, wt back, aching not much worse but still, and now back to nearly square one.
    I want to eat clean and healthy, but gf seems to be okay, although make too many gf muffins lol but when I add the sugar back OMG.
    So back to the drawing board, some say just eat healthy and clean and moderately. Well yea I know that but isn't easy for me... not saying it should be but find re starting every other day or so isn't really going to help much. Anyway hugs and we will figure it out!

    1616 days ago
    AMEN! emoticon
    I'm so tired of the rhetoric around that blasted scale and just how much it controls how we feel about ourselves. Ditch the scale, I say. Like you, I want to love my body by "taking care of it and then appreciating how it helps me get what I want out of life."

    1616 days ago
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