**trigger warning: if you suffer from an eating disorder or body dysmorphia, this post may be triggering for you**
2016 was a big year for me in many ways, but one area where I had a serious mental shift was how I view my body.
I came into 2016 somewhere around 200lbs, 8 months pregnant, and naively certain that I could lose the baby weight lickety split. I had lost 30lbs pre pregnancy (you can read more about that journey here) and thought my healthy metabolism combined with training for a family 5k just 3 months after having my baby would get me back to my ‘pre-baby’ body in no time. Now 10 months after having my daughter, I’ve learnt so much about how I really feel about my body, and have grown so much in my self-image journey. I’ve realized the entire idea of a ‘pre-baby’ body is a ridiculous standard set for women by celebrities (who are back in the gym immediately after having a baby, have personal trainers and cooks, and nannies) and a fat fearing culture. What the heck is a pre-baby body? Isn’t it a body that HASN’T had a baby???? And how exactly am I supposed to get one of these, AFTER having a baby? It’s no wonder women feel so much pressure to lose the baby weight in the first year! We are told to get ‘back’ to something we can never have again – a pre-baby body! That’s like trying to have a pre-puberty body, after puberty! Not doable ladies.
After getting back to running and yoga a little too soon post part (my recovery ended up being much longer do to running too soon and training for a 5k before my body was ready), I had to reevaluate my exercise goals. Consequently, I had to realize my ‘baby weight’ hold on a little longer then I had hoped. I had told my husband and my self that I wouldn’t even think about losing weight until a year postpartum, but I was weighing myself regularly immediately after coming home from the hospital. Around 3 months postpartum I was already determined to lose the weight, and eventually was honest with myself and my husband about my unrealistic expectations. I was eating well, exercising once sometimes twice a day, and didn’t lose a single pound. I even gained weight one week!! I eventually came to realize that losing weight while breastfeeding wasn’t going to happen for me; thankfully I was able to put my baby’s needs before myself and didn’t even consider weaning her in order to lose weight (this is not to say that weaning in general is selfish, but my motivations would’ve been very selfish). This is when I started to think: if I’m eating well, exercising regularly, and feel good, why am I being so hard on my body? Why do I think that healthy = losing weight? If I’m working out and eating well, isn’t that enough? I realized I only wanted ‘healthy’ is healthy meant I would go down a few pants sizes.
This began my journey into the body positive community online. I started following some pretty fierce women online and listening to a lot of body-positive podcasts in the last 3 months, and I’ve really been influenced by them. I’m learning a lot about self-acceptance on my journey of authenticity, and with that comes accepting myself NOW, before any changes are made, weight loss or otherwise. These two things combined have lead me to rethink how I view my body, my paradigm around ‘healthy’ living and eating, and the pervasive way that culture influences us in every way around food, fitness, healthy living, beauty, body image and weight.
Body image is a touchy subject, obis. How we view our bodies is so deeply tied to our self worth, so any comment on how we should or shouldn’t view our bodies is going to feel like an immediate comment on our self worth. Which is why letting the culture dictate how we feel about our bodies is SO dangerous! Media, celebrities, and mainstream thought should not be the defining factors of our self worth! Beauty DOES NOT, in fact, lie in the eye of the behold (thanks Uncle Jake!), it lies within the heart of each of us, and isn’t something to be achieved or gained by losing 5 more pounds.
One area that I think we’re all being influenced around the issues of fitness and body image is HEALTH culture. I used to think the extreme elimination diets, fear of all things gluten and diary, and intense fitness regimes (P90X and the like) were all in the quest of wellness and balance. Recently though, I’ve started to wonder if this is just another form of obsessing with our bodies and orthorexia. Is it really necessary to be this extreme, regimented, and obsessive in order to be healthy? Is this really what healthy looks like? And how can ‘healthy’ even look a certain way….? Isn’t healthy more internal than external? (This post speaks more to that and it is ON POINT)
Maybe a strict diet and a regular work out plan is what healthy looks like for some people. But maybe it’s not what healthy ‘looks like’ for ALL people. If it comes from a place of self-love and acceptance and a drive to honor our bodies no matter what shape or form they take, that’s a step towards health. But when it comes from a shame or guilt driven place of self-hatred and self-denial, is that really healthy??? Maybe what drives a lot of our obsession around ‘fitness’ is the idea that if we let go of these ‘diets’ and beliefs around ‘healthy living’ we will lose our control, gain the weight back, and become what society says is the worst possible thing ever, especially for a woman – FAT.
Our culture is so obsessed with fat shame and fat phobia, and I don’t think it has as much to do with ‘health’ as it does with how our body image is tied to our self worth. Our culture believes that being fat is BAD, and therefore if we are fat we FEEL bad (note: you can BE fat, fat is something you have on your body, not something you ARE). I’m starting to wonder, what would happen if we gave up this preoccupation with our bodies? What would we do with all of that time, energy, and money? Are women, collectively, doing something worthwhile by being so focused on our bodies, our vehicles for this life? Or are we wasting our resources by treating our bodies as ornaments instead of instruments? What would it look like for a group of women to get together and not have one word spoken about negative self image, or weight, or what they’re doing to look so good? What if we NEVER spoke another word about how fat we are, and instead used our words to change the world, and raise our children to have positive body image and balanced views on health and wellness?
The post I wrote on Instagram and Facebook was as much for others as it was for me. At this point I am confident and afraid that women don’t realize how much fitspo/diet culture influences us to hate our bodies (read more on the pitfalls of fitspo here). I am just waking up to this reality myself, and that post was my way of inviting women in my life, online and irl, to question how much we are influenced by these things. I also wanted to be clear that I will not, now or ever, support businesses that I feel use shame or fear based advertising or marketing to make money off of women’s low self esteem. I know so many great women who work for fitness companies, and I love them! A lot of these companies are great companies and I’m sure genuinely really want to help women love their bodies!
But a lot of them don’t. A lot of them deal in lies and fear, trying to sell us ‘one more quick fix. Do we realize that these companies only make money if people keep hating their bodies and if their diets don’t work? Think about it. If you buy a diet product from Company X, they make money, and if the diet doesn’t work (and 95% of them don’t work) then you keep buying and they make MORE money! Maybe a $60+ billion dollar industry with a 95% failure rate isn’t going to come through on all the promises they offer after all…
There really there are no quick fixes; there is just the deep and difficult work of coming into the truth that your body is beautiful, powerful, and deserves your respect. It’s going to take time, years even, to undo the conditioning that the media has done to our minds and heart. But I am onboard for that journey. And in the meantime, I’m not buying into the lies anymore. Because maybe we don’t need a new product / diet / special magic pill to love our bodies more. Maybe we can just LOVE OUR BODIES. *gasp*
This is why losing weight isn’t on my New Years Resolution list. This is why I am breaking up with my scale, unfollowing accounts that promote negative self-image, and not supporting companies that make a profit off of women being unhappy in their own bodies. Nope, nuh-uh, no thank you. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again – I am not going to be 60 and still obsessing over my weight and pant size. That’s just not going to be my story.
Here’s what I am going to make my goal for my health and fitness in 2017: keep it simple. I’m going to move my body in ways that I like and that feel good. I’m going to focus more on my overall well being and less on my weight. I’m going to eat food I enjoy and that nourishes me. I’m going to celebrate my body and what it can do, and what it has done. I’m going to treat my body with respect and not disrespect it by believing the lie that a woman’s body is supposed to look a certain way. And I’m going to shake things up in my sphere of influence by challenging the inherently anti-women, fat-phobic, capitalist machine that is the diet industry, over sexualized media, and our body obsessed culture.
I invite you to do the same.
“I decide if I’m beautiful. I decide if I’m strong. You will not decide my story, I WILL.” -Amy Schumer