Body positivity is an amazing movement that supports people in experiencing greater love and acceptance of their bodies, regardless of their size, weight, or shape. But can you be body positive and also have a desire to lose weight or pursue fitness goals? Keep watching to find out!
Hi everyone, I’m Laura Brown from Heart & Oak Therapy, supporting better, brighter lives. We’re therapists who do regular videos on mental wellness, and give practical ideas and tips to make your life happier and more fulfilling – so hit the subscribe button to keep in the loop!
Body positivity is all about loving and accepting your body at any size and shape. It’s an empowering movement that has offered people an alternative to the very limited and oppressive idea that only skinny equals healthy, beautiful, and loveable.
I personally love this point of view, but I know some people struggle to feel at peace with loving their bodies while also having the desire to feel different on a physical level. So, can you have the desire to look or feel fitter, healthier, or leaner, while also loving and celebrating your body for what it is? Or is that just one big contradiction? Let’s get right into that!
For starters, the body positivity movement really came about in response to mainstream western beauty standards, which tell us that for women and femme folks, thinness is god. Just think of all the magazine covers in the grocery store, and all the ads on the TV and online that tell you that you need to lose weight! We’re so inundated with these messages that they often blend in to the landscape and we don’t always realize that they’re even there!
Unlike all those ads promoting weight loss and lean physiques, the body positivity movement tells people of all genders that you’re a-ok just the way you are! It’s about appreciating bodies for qualities other than those that get celebrated by the mainstream culture, and saying “you’re good enough” no matter what package you come in. In fact, from a body-positive perspective, the package you come in is GREAT!
But things get complicated when we start wondering, “Can I want to lose weight or strive to achieve fitness goals AND be body positive?”; “If I have a desire to lose weight, does that mean I’m being body-negative or hating my body?!” It’s tricky, but it’s ultimately about your reasons for wanting to make those changes.
For example, wanting to lose weight so that someone else will like you more, or to gain outside approval, or to finally be “good enough”, sounds much more like it’s about measuring up to negative mainstream beauty standards.
On the flip side, reasons like wanting to feel fitter, or to be able to do more with your body in terms of movement, or to have more energy, are about creating a more satisfying existence. They’re not coming from a place of “Your body’s not good enough so you need to make it better!” They’re coming from a place of “My body would feel better if this thing changed”. That doesn’t mean it’s inadequate the way it is, it just means there’d be some tangible benefit to releasing some fat, or gaining strength or flexibility.
If the idea of body positivity is new to you, then start by considering how you want to feel on an emotional, mental, and physical level. It’s about separating culture’s idea of what an “ideal” body looks like from how you feel in your body – what your experience of living in your body is.
When I talk about your emotional relationship to your body, I’m referring to the ways in which you want to feel about your body. Some feelings you may yearn to have are love, care, appreciation, happiness, or joy. So, ask yourself - how do you want to feel about your body, with no strings attached? You can also ask yourself how you want to express those feelings toward your body, and what makes it hard for you to feel that way all the time?
When it comes to relating to your body on a mental level, I’m talking about how you want to think about your body. Perhaps you want to think of it highly, respecting all that it does for you on a daily basis. Again, ask yourself – how do you want to think about your body? What do you want to appreciate about it most of all? What makes it hard to do this now?
Considering the physical needs of your body requires open and honest communication between you and your body. The struggle for all of us is that the body doesn’t tend to use words to communicate. Instead, it uses physical feelings and sensations to send us messages about how it is doing. This often looks and feels like a sense of wellness or illness.
If you are struggling to communicate and hear your body’s needs and wants clearly, then please feel free to check out our video that goes into detail about how to strengthen this bond.
A great way to start is to really consider how your body feels, and how that relates to standard measures of physical wellness. Some basic physical markers of wellness to consider are:
- Energy levels
- Hormonal balance
- Comfort versus discomfort
Once you have come to realize what areas of your physical health you would like to improve, there are a ton of resources for supporting you in making these changes. I’ve linked to some good ones in the description below.
Body positivity is all about feeling good in your own skin – accepting your body in spite of mainstream ideas about what is beautiful, healthy, and ideal.
In order to improve the way you feel in your body, it could mean dropping a few pounds. It could mean gaining some. But, it is important to note that this all dependent upon you and your unique physiology.
Now I’m gonna turn it over to you, the Heart and Oak community! If you’re already family with body positivity, how have you found these ideas helpful? If body positivity is new to you, how might it help with your own relationship to your body? Make sure to let us know in the comment section!
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Take care until next time, and keep doing the things that help you live a better, brighter life!