Why I Love My Body
This is a post I've been thinking about for a long, long time. Why I chose to love my body. And my thoughts on the body positive movement.
In the health and wellness space, particularly those of us who are health providers, only occasionally talk about it- but rarely share our own struggles with it.
And I want to change that.
I want every person to love and accept their bodies.
And my hope is in sharing my story, it can help open up that door for others.
I've struggled to accept my body for as long as I can remember. I remember being a child and comparing the size of my thighs to other girls. I remember thinking I was not thin enough compared to my friends at a very, very young age. I knew, too young, that it was best to be smaller, to take up less space, and to be a good girl and not talk too much or too loud or with too many opinions. Just look pretty, okay?
For many years, I tried to change my body shape and size to fit in with what is culturally deemed acceptable. I've always been on the higher end of the spectrum of what's considered acceptable, and I hated that. I was never thin enough. Or good enough because of that. This desire to change my body is ultimately what led me down the road to yo-yo dieting, which led to some extreme restrict and binge eating behaviors, and then eventually led to orthorexia for many years as well.
Because I've always been on the higher end of the thin spectrum I did not get the help or support I needed for my disordered eating. Quite the opposite happened, actually. Friends, family, doctors, strangers, etc...all applauded me at the times in my life where I was undereating, restricting and binging, and too obsessed with my body and how to eat to manipulate it. Because at those times my body became "acceptable". I lost the weight that made me unworthy and less than. I was applauded for my horrible body image and disordered eating. And of course as a dietitian it was only further perpetuated because now I finally looked like how I should. I mean who wants to see a dietitian who them themselves isn't thin and "following their own advice?" (I'll come back to this concept.)
After a decade of this, I hit a breaking point and had finally had enough. I slowly began to recover. And of course, weight gain occurred. Over the course of 2-3 years, I gained the weight my body needed to be as its own natural set point. Not only did I deeply struggle internally with the weight gain, but many comments were made. I was asked so many times if I was pregnant, straight up called out by co-workers that I was gaining weight, even my own doctor made comments that my BMI was increasing and I needed to keep my weight in check (just to name a few of the experiences I had).
What I should have done was fight back. To share my story, of why I'm gaining weight and my struggle to have a healthy relationship with food. But instead I shrank. I internalized those comments for far too long and for so long, was miserable in my body.
Having a healthy body image and love for my body was the very, very last part of my recovery. Each time I would cry in despair for the way my body looked, I would ask myself, "is there truly anything I would change about the way I am treating my body?" And the answer was always no. I had begun to finally have a healthy relationship with food. I ate intuitively. Because I stopped restricting, the binge eating dissipated. I found a way to move my body, in a way that made me feel my best. I enjoyed wellness, but without obsession. I always had to remind myself of these values, because DAMN was it hard to accept that final piece. My body. The ultimate thing that had started all these terrible things to begin with.
When we recover from an eating disorder or disordered eating, there is truth that many gain more weight than their actual set point weight range, and then slowly become their bodies natural size. However for many of us, myself included, I gained weight and just kept it on. Because this is me. But for an incredibly long time I secretly hoped that that would change, I would eventually lose off the weight from recovery.
Its hard to admit that only in the past year I've fully come to terms with this. Living and eating intuitively have become such a huge part of my life, and obviously my business, but accepting myself as I was still so difficult. Slowly though, over time, this did change. For many years during recovery, I still hated my body. And overtime I became neutral towards it. Just okay. But overtime even this became to change. I started realizing that there was no single reason for me not to love my body. The only reasons that existed for me not to were the external societal expectations placed upon me.And when I realized this, things really began to change. I have a rebellious personality at my core, so when it hit me that the only reason I didn't love myself as I was was solely because I had internalized and given into cultural conditioning, I said a big F you to that and transformed. I actually, truly, began to love my body. To look at myself naked in the mirror and smile. To look at a body fat roll with so much happiness. To look at my cellulite with no feelings of hatred. To just love my body, simply because it is my body and therefore it is indeed beautiful.
So to the doctors that told me to watch my weight, I forgive you. To each person who made a comment behind my back about my body, I forgive you. To my friends and family who thought they were helping but instead further perpetuated my disordered mindset, I forgive you. I truly do. I send love and light to every single person out there. Because we have all been affected by these societal expectations. And change will not happen if we do not forgive. And it also will not happen if we do not challenge it.
So I challenge you.
The next time you are by yourself, say I love you to your body.
The next time you are with friends who are talking down about themselves or their bodies, stand up to it. Refuse to participate. Better yet, tell your friends how and why you love your body.
The next time a health care provider speaks negatively of your body, stand up to it. I definitely plan to do this myself. It doesn't have to be done with negativity, either. Be willing to be vulnerable and share a bit of your story, and why you wish to not have your health judged by your weight.
And to all my fellow dietitians, health care providers and health bloggers out there, let's be those role models.
For too long, as a dietitian I encouraged these behaviors in others simply by feeling like I too needed to shrink and be smaller. Can you imagine if we can be part of this change? To show the world that when we love our bodies and have healthy habits, we still come in many shapes and sizes. There is no one size fits all to health. If we can be the leaders showing all the beautiful sizes we come in, maybe dietitians as a whole can have less disordered eating behaviors ourselves. Because I know I'm not the only one who's disordered behaviors were made worse by this pressure to look a certain way because of my profession.
EVERY person deserves to love themselves. Always. There are NO caveats.
And to those who question the body positive movement and only accept it IF that person is healthy. No, that is not the purpose of the movement. The purpose of the movement is to say every person deserves to love their bodies. Not only under permissible conditions. As a dietitian of course I want people to have healthy habits. But in the way we are currently approaching it, by making everyone feel less than (especially for those in bigger bodies) and by fear mongering tactics, its obviously not working. Imagine the power and change that can occur if instead of focusing on weight we focused on love? What harm could ever come out of someone loving his or herself? Imagine a world where we encourage healthy habits that come from a place of love, not out of fear of weight gain or hatred of our body. I personally feel that we will see a huge shift in health parameters when this occurs. Not necessarily because people's weights will change (because trust there is plenty of research to show that this is not the predictor health we have made it out to be) but because people love who they are, and because of that, they do behaviors that make them feel their best.
As the owner of a women's wellness practice and podcast, I have to speak up for my fellow women. I recognize that men also have to deal with body image and not feeling enough if they don't meet our culture's masculine expectations of them. But I need to say this...to my fellow women. Please do not feel like you need to take up less space, to be quiet, and to not be bold. Body image is a problem for every person, but for women it is intrinsically tied to the feminist movement. For too long we have spent our entire lives manipulating our body and our eating to fit into the mold of what our society deems acceptable for women. Imagine what we can accomplish in this world if our minds aren't focused on the size of our thighs or the amount of carbohydrates we ate that day? We would be unstoppable.
We would be free.
I am free. And I truly hope every person can feel this way, one day.
P.S. and final thoughts:
I recognize that in sharing these pictures, I am still perpetuating body image issues in others so in an effort to be transparent I am sharing all the non-highlight-reel pictures in my IG stories today.
I also recognize the privilege I have that I am not near as marginalized as many. I will use that privilege to open up this conversation and challenge the paradigm. I also recognize that even discussing body image issues is a privilege. If you'd like to learn more about thin privilege, I encourage you to read this blog post by my business partner and bestie.
I ate so many chips and gauc and all the tacos the night before I took these pictures and woke up and ate the biggest breakfast ever. I felt somewhat bloated as result but did not care in any way. We should be able to share pictures of our bodies, always. Not only when we are feeling our "smallest".
Thank you to the best husband ever for taking these pictures of me. And for never making me feel less than, ever. For always telling me how beautiful I am and how much you love me. I love you so much.
No questions today. Just your honest thoughts. Comment below and let's continue this conversation.