Loving You at Every Shape and Size

TW: weight, weight loss, scale, disordered eating, restricting

It’s not an overstatement or exaggeration to say that I have struggled with my weight my entire life. In fact, I think I was in the 8th grade the first time I joined Weight Watchers and started dieting. I’m sure I was one of the youngest people there sitting in a circle surrounded by adults, talking about what I ate that week, and then stepping on a scale that would tell me how much I weighed and, in turn, how much I was worth. Since then, I have taken Alli weight loss pills, joined Beachbody Fitness and Peloton, spent hours in the gym having consumed fewer than 1200 calories, and participated in more weight loss challenges than I can count. I have spent years poking, prodding, measuring, restricting, and comparing myself to whatever celebrity or friend was within my line of sight. Hiding my body in baggy clothes or behind others in group photos, covering my rolls with objects, sucking my stomach in, watching my angles, and wearing shapewear in an attempt to shrink it all away. It was so bad, I couldn’t even accept a nickname my grandmother had given me: bubbly. To her, it was a comment about my bright and boisterous personality, but to me, it was a comment on my size: bubbly = fat.

I was consumed by my weight, how other’s perceived me, and how I perceived myself. I’m sure being a product of the 1990s and early 2000s exacerbated my desperation to be thin and subsequent low self-esteem, which makes sense because the fat-phobic messages were everywhere. Sex and the City, America’s Next Top Model, Heavyweights, airbrushed magazine covers, “nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels,” and sitcoms where being fat was the butt of just about every joke. If being wafer thin was celebrated, admired, and widely seen as the standard of beauty, and I didn’t fit that description, then I wasn’t beautiful, desired, or valuable like my thin counterparts. It took years to unlearn all that I had absorbed, and even today, some days are better than others. But shifting the focus away from what my body looks like to what it can do has changed everything, and I attribute most of that to the body positivity and body neutrality movements.

While we certainly aren’t living in idyllic times, the move towards a more diverse and inclusive society has, in many ways, liberated and inspired people to be their authentic selves and love who they are, regardless of what they look like or what society says. With musicians like Lizzo and Sam Smith and body positivity influencers who have openly shared their self-love journeys and made it their mission for people to love and accept who they are, I oftentimes wonder if my formative years would have been different if I had public figures like them growing up. Would I have learned to love myself sooner? Would I have developed a positive relationship with food and my body earlier? Would I have fully embraced my grandmother’s nickname? What a difference represenation and affirming messages can have and how beautiful is it that so many young people growing up today hear that message day in and day out: that your body type, hair, identity, ethnicity, ability, and appearance should and does not prevent you from being loved or deemed worthy. You are inherently valuable just by being you. It’s also important to know that how you look is the least interesting thing about you. So if you’re struggling with accepting, loving, and celebrating you at every shape and size, here are some tips to increase body positivity and neutrality.

8 Steps to Increasing Body Positivity and Body Neutrality:

  1. (Re)define a sense of health and wellness that is more holistic and takes into account your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.
  2. Post positive affirmations in places you can easily see and access, like on your mirror, water bottle, or phone screen.
  3. Make a running list of qualities you love about yourself. Note: the limit does not exist.
  4. Block negative and toxic social media accounts and replace them with more positive and filling content.
  5. Identify and challenge negative thoughts about yourself. For example, when you notice a negative thought, ask yourself “Is this thought accurate? Is this helpful? Would I say this to my best friend?” and see what new and more balanced thought you can come up with. Watch how it changes how you feel.
  6. Surround yourself with people and do things that make you feel good–people who support and appreciate you, media that uplifts and empowers you, and activities and projects that make you feel like your very best self! Move your body because it makes you feel good, put good things in your body because it makes you feel good. Don’t do it because you’re chasing a number on a scale or a size on a tag. Those numbers don’t define you!
  7. Take it moment by moment. This self-love journey isn’t easy or pretty, and some days are better/easier than others. Be patient with yourself and the process.
  8. Work with a trained professional who can help you foster a healthy relationship with yourself.

Over the years, we have been told so many stories and have been given so many messages about who we are, what’s important, what’s beautiful, and what’s valuable. Isn’t it time to change that narrative? What story have you been telling yourself? What has your relationship with your body looked like and how will you rewrite that story? Comment below.

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