This is something I know a lot of people struggle with. It’s something I’ve struggled with before because I was looking at things from the wrong perspective. Something I’ve written about before a long while ago is the idea of size vs. health. I still think this is true. The idea of being size-positive is, in my mind, about promoting health at every size as well as allowing yourself to love your body at the size it is, regardless of whether you are working to change your body or not.
Advertising society wants us to hate our body the way it is so they can promote their product and we will want to buy it. If we feel incomplete as people and have been told that in order to be complete we must consume than that is exactly what we will do. We are taught it’s okay to shame fat people, that being fat is a choice because it’s “so easy” to lose weight. Obviously it’s easy, otherwise it wouldn’t be a billion plus dollar industry and we wouldn’t have diet pills and other “easy” ways to lose weight that may or may not actually work for you but will almost definitely not be healthy. It’s difficult to escape from those pressures that are put on us, the capitalism, body-hatred, and, really, self-hatred that is sewn in to our cores.
We are also taught that in order to change our body we must hate it, you can’t lose weight and love or be happy with your body, those two things cannot coexist according to the values of society, but I say this is wrong. You can love your body and be actively wanting to change it, but it requires a consciousness shift. Unfortunately that includes giving up the idea that losing weight is going to be quick and simple, because if it’s quick and simple it’s usually not healthy and won’t last.
Because I love my body I want to be healthier. I am actively trying to get healthier, which does, for me, include losing weight. Not everyone needs to lose weight in order to be healthier, no matter what size you are. I’m looking at weight loss as a by-product of becoming healthier, not the end-product. Looking at weight loss as the end-product can lead to unhealthy habits.
I have lost about twenty five pounds in the last six plus months, I’ve been doing it slowly and I am not doing it in a way that is unhealthy or (hopefully) going to rebound on me. It’s not as simple as eating less and exercising more, people say that to fat people all the time but, unless they are fat themselves, they don’t really understand what that means. Fat bodies store fat in different ways, otherwise you couldn’t have two people eating the exact same diet (and I don’t mean “diet” in the sense of “weight-loss diet” but in the sense of “what we eat”) and becoming different sizes, hell I know many skinny people who eat way worse than I do, yet weigh over a hundred pounds less than I do.
In a way I’ve been eating better and exercising more, but it’s more than that. I had been doing that for years, actually. I started seeing a personal trainer in 2008 and I wouldn’t say I’m exercising any more now than I was then, but I wasn’t losing weight then and I am now. I wasn’t eating much different than I am now either, and yet now I’m losing weight and then I was staying the same. A few periods in time in the last few years I tried calorie counting and was eating under what my calorie intake should be to maintain my current weight along with doing a fair amount of exercise. I was drinking lots of water. I was going to the gym at least three times a week doing, usually at very least an hour and a half each day. And yet I wasn’t losing weight and I am now. What’s different? I would say my attitude is different and I’m less depressed, and that alone is probably the reason for the shift. The brain is powerful. There are many other factors as well, and although I’m eating similarly there are probably some different eating habits, but it’s hard to quantify, and I know that is not the entirety of it.
Back to the point I’m really trying to make for a moment, though. We can love our body and want to change it, the two ideas are not mutually exclusive, it’s all about looking at it from a different and, dare I say it, healthier point of view. Most people who try to lose weight are doing it from a place of body-hatred so they end up going on extreme diets or making radical changes which will not hold up in the long run. Six or so years ago I lost upwards of fifty pounds by changing my eating habits pretty drastically. I was still in “plus size” clothes, but I could shop at “small size” clothing stores mostly without a problem (I was around a 14/16), but just like most diets it didn’t last and I ended up gaining around a hundred pounds over the next five or so years.
I’m slowly working my way down, but I think that mental health is drastically overlooked when we look at weight loss. Our mind needs to be on board and we have to find ways that work for us as individuals, encourage positive reinforcement, not think in absolutes, etc. There isn’t some magical formula that you can apply and make weight disappear, it won’t happen overnight or in a month, and if it does it probably won’t last. Eating less and exercising more isn’t the answer, eating better (notice I didn’t say “less”) and exercising more is a good start, but only if it’s something you can do forever.
If we love our body, if we can love our lives and come to existence from a generally positive point of view than we can achieve more than otherwise, and do it in a better and healthier way. Health is extremely important, and you don’t need to be “small sized” in order to be healthy, and you can be size-positive and still want to be healthier.
A side note: the automatic reaction, I think, when someone expresses losing weight is to congratulate them regardless of how they did it, if it was healthy or unhealthy, etc. I think this is bullshit and simply perpetuates sizeist ideas. Next time you have the urge to do that I suggest you try finding out the underlying reasons for the weight loss rather than assuming it’s a good thing and congratulate their healthy activities rather than their weight loss itself.