Right now there seems to be a divide between the body-positive and health-at-every-size camps and those who want to lose weight.
Many argue that if you love yourself, you shouldn’t try to change yourself or your body. Or if you do lose weight, you can’t, or don’t, love yourself.
My advice is don’t pick one side or the other.
I lost weight without learning to love my body. I also tried learning to love my body without losing weight.
What I discovered was that, for me, neither of these two approaches produced the happy, balanced results I wanted.
Let me be clear: There are positive ideas to be taken from both of these extremes. However, I believe the truth is found somewhere in the middle, merging weight loss and learning how to be body positive together.
When I lost 170 pounds, I wasn’t body positive or grateful for my body. So when I reached my goal weight, I was miserable. I still didn’t see a body that looked like the ones portrayed in media. All the lines I told myself, like—”I will like my body once I lose weight, once my body is “fixed”—turned out to be lies.
So was weight loss the reason I wasn’t body positive?
No. I wasn’t body positive because I never chose to be.
It never occurred to me to like my body where it was in the moment. The idea of “liking my body” was always a future destination: I will like my body when…
So was losing weight wrong? No. My poor health and lack of mobility were making me miserable and preventing me from living life the way I wanted to. I needed and wanted to lose weight to help with chronic back and foot pain. At the time, I knew that as someone in my early 30s, I shouldn’t be having problems getting up and down from the floor while playing with my kids.
I needed and wanted to lose weight. I stand by that decision and I’m thankful every day that I did it. However, I do wish I’d known that even though losing weight would help with my physical limitations, it wasn’t going to help me love, respect, and be positive about my body.
In my podcast, The Half Size Me Show, I always ask my guests what advice they would give their younger selves. For me, the answer is this: I would go back to the 30-something me and tell her to build in a daily body-gratitude practice. I’d do this so that no matter what my body looked like in the future, I’d be able to love it.
I have learned that to love and respect your body is a choice. It doesn’t magically happen from achieving a certain weight or being a certain size. When I got to my goal weight, I fell into a depression for a while because I still saw sagging skin, fat rolls, and cellulite. I’d lost all that weight but I didn’t have a “magazine beach body”.
But I started changing how I viewed my body. I realized I had a body that didn’t hurt anymore. A body that could do all the amazing things I’d always wanted to do. I shifted my focus to maintenance and to feeling positive and grateful for my body. I started a daily practice of sharing my gratitude.
This daily act of gratitude helped make me feel more neutral about my body. I was less hateful, less negative, and I stopped obsessing over every “flaw”.
I made myself a promise: If I couldn’t say something positive about my body, I would say nothing at all.
I’ve taken baby steps toward my own body positivity (and two of these steps I’m still working on):
- Step One: Gratitude. It is not about how my body looks but what it provides me, my family and the world. (It took me 1 to 2 years to accept this.)
- Step 2: Focusing on the areas I like. I choose to not allow my eyes to go to the areas I find “flawed”. (I’m still working on this one.)
- Step 3: Learning to like and appreciate those areas I find “flawed.” This is the trickiest step for me. I can and do practice this now. I’m grateful for the rolls on my stomach that housed my three beautiful boys. Thankful for my larger limbs because they are powerful, and my larger calves because they have supported me at all stages of my journey. (I’m still working on this step too.)
I believe you can lose weight and still be body positive.
In fact, if you do want to lose weight, I believe you should learn to be body positive throughout the entire process.
If you are limited in mobility, in pain, or saying no to activities you would really love to do because of your weight, then weight loss can help. You should never feel shame for wanting to improve yourself or your life.
Losing weight does not have to be negatively charged. You can choose to be grateful for your body at any weight because without it, you can’t live life.
Focus on being body positive by showing gratitude and treating your body with respect throughout the process.
In my next post, I’ll share how you can actually lose weight and be body positive.