Category Archives: Body image

You are not bad, Dear One

You are not bad for being the size you are. Fat or thin or somewhere between.
You are just you.

You are not bad for loving food. A lot or a little or somewhere between.
You love what you love.

You are not bad for eating the cake or extra slice of pie or the whole box of cookies.
You eat what you eat.

You are not bad for craving the chocolate, the cheese, or the carbs.
You need what you need.

You are not bad for feeling sad, angry, scared, or depressed.
You feel what you feel.

You are not bad for not exercising or sculpting or shaping your body.
You move how and when you want to move.

You are not bad for pursuing health that looks different from the norm.
Your health is your health.

You are not bad for accepting or even loving your body even though it doesn’t match what your doctor, your partner, your friend, or your family says it should look like.
You love yourself the way you are.

You are not bad. Period. You were created to be the person you are inside the body you have now by a God who knew what he was doing when He created you. You are capable, powerful, and influential… regardless of your body size, your food, your level of health, or other people’s perception of how you ought to be. No one else gets to have a say in what your body looks like, how you should or should not be eating, or what healthy is for you. Don’t let others’ opinions, including those from your closest most intimate relationships, force-fit you into a mold that isn’t meant for you.

You are good. And if you don’t believe it now, if you are feeling bad because you perceive yourself as fat, ugly, out of shape, and unhealthy  thus making you “bad” in all your choices, I encourage you to go on a journey to find out why you believe these things about yourself. Where is the source of your body beliefs? I can tell you it isn’t from the One who created you because God doesn’t see you as all the negative descriptors culture uses against you. And also, fat is not ugly, out of shape, or unhealthy. Fat bodies have equal power to be as beautiful, strong, and healthy as thin bodies and all the body shapes between.

You are not bad, dear one.

For more positive messages in your life, click on that little golden gift box on the top of this page!

 

 

It’s okay to be fat

Does that statement make you cringe? Make you want to argue? Make you uncomfortable?  I saw the following on the Facebook page of one of my favorite people in the body positive industry, Christy Harrison. Below is her original post, and I am going to follow up with my own thoughts. Ready?

Does this statement make you uncomfortable? Do you find yourself resisting or arguing back with it in your head (or in the comments)? That’s because diet culture has inculcated all of us with fatphobia and weight stigma, and most of us have internalized those prejudiced beliefs to such a strong degree that we can’t possibly imagine believing that it’s okay to be fat. ———- But really, being fat is every bit as okay as any other human trait—being short, or being dark-skinned, or being highly sensitive, or being gay, or having brown hair, or being trans, or using a wheelchair, or sweating when it’s hot out, or having autism, or snorting when you laugh—which is to say, 100% okay, and part of the diversity that makes our world beautiful. And shaming or discriminating against someone for the size of their body is every bit as harmful as any other form of prejudice. ——– It’s our responsibility to create a world where this statement isn’t seen as radical. Where we can proudly and loudly exclaim that *all* bodies belong, and that people in larger bodies are just as deserving of respect as anyone else. ————-Thank you to @bampowlife AKA Victoria Welsby for this quote, and for coming on the show this week! Be sure to give the new episode a listen 🙂 If you want to hear more about HAES, intuitive eating, and body liberation, head on over to wherever you get your podcasts and download the latest episode of Food Psych today! ————- And if you’re ready for a deeper dive into all things anti-diet, come check out my intuitive eating online course at christyharrison.com/course ❤

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First thought: Diet culture says fat is not okay because it’s unhealthy. Mainstream science, which is also influenced by diet culture, often touts weight as the cause of many health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and even benign aches in joints and muscles. The problem is while these health conditions are correlated with weight, correlation does not equal causation, which is a concept rarely (if ever) considered. Additionally, all these conditions can be found in smaller bodies too. Larger body or smaller, no one is immune to unfortunate health problems. You can live in a heavy body and still be 100% healthy. Fat doesn’t necessarily mean you’re unhealthy; thinness doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy.

If weight is a contributing factor to poor health and poor quality of life, weight loss programs and diets are NOT going to be the answer. Diets and wellness plans have yet to be effective and sustainable for long-term weight loss, nor do they come without complications around feelings of shame regarding body image and food. When my weight was too low, compromising/complicating my health and quality of life, we didn’t focus on weight gain. My treatment was focused on body reconnection, food and body trust, intuitiveness around food and movement, and improving my relationship with my body and with food. With treatment my body found its natural weight, but more importantly my overall quality of life and health healed. The same treatment can (and should be) applied to folks who are struggling with poor health complicated by weight that is too high. Health care providers should NOT be medically and psychologically treating thin bodies differently than fat bodies.

Second thought: God made the human species with variety:  Blonde hair, black hair, curly hair, straight hair, wavy hair, light skin, dark skin, fat bodies, thin bodies, medium bodies; blue eyes, green eyes, blind eyes, big feet, small feet, tall bodies, short bodies, somewhere between bodies… shall I keep going? It’s okay to be fat just like it’s okay to have curly hair, freckles across your nose, and an adoration for the color orange. To believe fatness is not okay is like believing brown hair or black skin is not okay. Fatness cannot be and is not designed to be singled out as an upsetting moral value to be stereotyped and stigmatized and criticized. Body size and shape are merely physical descriptors. That’s it. Nothing more. The end.

Third thought: Culture says it’s not okay to be fat because fat isn’t beautiful, attractive, or sexy; fatness won’t allow for true love, good sex, or partnership for life with another human. I call skubalon on those notions. (That’s Greek for bullshit.) Beauty and sex appeal and attractiveness come from how you carry yourself, which comes from what you believe about yourself. If you believe you’re beautiful and sexy, then you’ll carry yourself as beautiful and sexy regardless of your size. Larger bodies are not unlovable bodies. Don’t believe the lie that says otherwise.

Let’s go a little deeper, shall we? If you treat people beautifully and live in a way that honors others without harsh judgement and with love, you will be regarded as beautiful, lovely, and attractive. The relationships that matter will be with people who love you, respect you, and honor you at the heart level without regard to your fatness or thinness.

And for those who find you repulsive or unattractive because of your body size and shape, you don’t need them. They aren’t the right people for you. It’s still 100% okay to be you when others say you aren’t okay.

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If you live in a fat body, that’s okay.  Seek strength, energy, confidence, and self-love in whatever body you’ve been given.

 

**For more body positive encouragement in your life, definitely add Christy Harrison to your social media feeds. You won’t be sorry.

 

Why I loathe before and after pictures

I loathe before and after pictures. The typical before and after story goes like this:

Before: Woman in larger, softer body wearing clothing too small looks defeated, sad, and tired.

After: Same woman in smaller, tighter body wearing perfectly fitting clothing looks strong, confident, and happy.

This story implies that one cannot be happy, strong and confident in a larger, softer body. And it also implies that if you live in a smaller, tighter body then you won’t be miserable. It’s a story of “either/or” with nothing between, no gray area: you’re either fat and miserable or skinny and happy. The end.

I used to believe these before and after stories without understanding how dangerous and limiting and misleading these pictures are. These photographs don’t tell the whole story and rely simply on physical looks to imply health and wellness (and that the only way to be healthy is to be smaller and tighter).

Let me share with you what my before and after “looks” like.

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BEFORE: I was in a tiny, tight body that barely took up any space anywhere I went.

I felt:

  • scared to be fat.
  • un-confident in my body, abilities, and intelligence.
  • worthless in value to this world.
  • tense around food, family, friends.
  • uncertain about my relationships, what I thought, and what I said.
  • indecisive about what to eat, where to go, what to do, when to do something and how to do it.
  • nervous around everyone and in anything I was doing, from grocery shopping to having a friend over for tea to speaking in front of a crowd.
  • anxious about how people felt about me, what food was going to do to me, whether or not I was good enough, acceptable, welcome.
  • hungry, yet I didn’t understand what that meant.
  • nauseous because I was hungry, had celiac disease, and was constantly anxious.

I was:

  • obsessive about exercise.
  • judgmental of my thoughts, feelings, and body size, weight, and shape.
  • judgmental about other people’s bodies, nutrition, and health.
  • controlling of my food, my husband’s food, and my children’s food.
  • restricting, counting, and tracking calories, fat, and sugar intake.
  • heavily influenced by mainstream media about nutrition, fitness, and health.
  • immersed in self-created food rules and disordered food behaviors.
  • prone to panic attacks at the grocery store and in restaurants.
  • distrusting of my body and how God created it to operate.

TODAY: I am in nearly four years into recovery from anorexia nervosa. I am still the same exact person at heart except I take up more space everywhere I go, which feels empowering! I don’t have  an “after” because recovery and health and life are ongoing. Sometimes I feel amazing and sometimes I feel like crap, but most days I live peacefully in the middle, feeling comfortable and confident in the gray area called real life.

Most of the time I feel:

 

  • strong and alive inside my larger-than-before body.
  • confident in my intelligence and abilities.
  • energized when I wake up in the morning.
  • valuable as a child of God despite what others may or may not think of me.
  • happy as a mom, wife, and friend.
  • relaxed around friends and most family.
  • satiated through the day as I eat meals and snacks as needed.
  • creative in the kitchen.
  • curious at the grocery store.

I have:

  • zero food rules or disordered behaviors.
  • zero panic attacks.
  • zero obsession with working out.
  • zero clue about how much I weigh and only vaguely know what size I wear.
  • more time and presence in the things I love to do, like write, advocate, and learn.
  • trust in my body, my intuition, and God.
  • insight and support and advocacy for my children, who are surrounded by peers, teachers, and friends who constantly judge their nutrition, intuitive living, and bodies.

I am:

  • human, which means I still have judgments of myself and other people.
  • more aware of when my judgments are actually harmful.
  • practicing how to re-frame my thinking when I am harmfully judge-y of myself and others, or when I am feeling judged.
  • prone to triggers yet aware of what they are and how to deal them.
  • anxious about my body and food when I feel tired, stressed, nervous, scared, or sad.
  • usually aware and understanding of my feelings, how important they are, and how they affect my thinking and behaviors.
  • respectful of my body when it needs rest, food, or movement.
  • respectful of my spirit when it needs prayer.
  • respectful of my heart when it needs tending.
  • the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life.

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Dear reader, ignore those before and after photos. Don’t let them get you down, and don’t let them give you misguided hope. Before and after pictures are missing crucial details that are far more important than how small one’s body shrinks. And there are more than two options for what health looks and feels like; there are more like 7.5 billion unique ways bodies can look and feel and still be healthy. Moreover, you can be the shape of one of the “before” pictures and feel alive, confident, healthy, and strong; you can live in an “after” body and feel completely miserable. Find the loveliest gray area where you feel your best in your life.

 

Before and After Photos

I used to really enjoy looking at before and after photos of makeovers and weight loss journeys. For a moment they would give me hope that I could look better too. But there was also a small part of me that felt jealous and disappointed that I wasn’t what the “after” picture looked like in the first place, and deep down I just wished I could be better.

What I didn’t realize, though, was the bias we tend to have when it comes to these kinds of pictures. We post and view pictures and videos of ourselves or others working out and eating healthy, touting our journeys toward good health and good looking bodies. We publicly announce how much weight we’ve lost, how much weight we can lift, how far we can run, and what the new letter or number is on our clothing. We’re proud of our hard work, our healthy attitude, and our new look.

But when we go the opposite direction and gain weight, well now we have a problem. Even if Person A, who lost weight, and Person B, who gained weight, end up at the exact same size, our cultural bias is to praise Person A and wonder about Person B. We see Person B as “struggling with their weight” on the outside, while they are struggling with shame on the inside… for what? Not watching calories? Eating too much evil sugar and fat? Not exercising enough? Person B looks the same as Person A, but because h/she went up instead of down, there is both societal and personal expectation to change.

The only exception is with pregnancy.  We love to post and view sweet baby bump pictures showing the beauty and progress of pregnancy. We love to see the miracle of a human growing inside another human. I mean, wow!  But what happens shortly after baby is born? All of a sudden that miraculous body isn’t okay anymore, and there’s pressure both within Mom and in culture to get back to “pre-baby” shape. There are no (or rarely) photos of the post-birth stretch marks or pillow-soft belly where that newborn finds safety  when she rests on her tired mama.

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I just want you, dear reader, to notice the bias, whether you love before and after pictures because they make you feel inspired or hate them because they make you feel inadequate. It wasn’t until I realized the bias of before and after photos that I understood how dangerous and unhelpful these kinds of pictures can be. Especially for people in recovery or in the throes of an eating disorder. These  pictures aren’t accurate measures of what health looks like or should look like.

It’s okay to be proud of the hard work we put into ourselves to feel healthy and good. I’ve spent nearly four years of hard work in anorexia recovery, and not only have I gained weight but also perspective. It is imperative to remember that life is deeper than the before and after pictures. The same drive and ability used to lose weight or meet health goals is the same drive and ability we use to love our kids, advocate for our loved ones, to spark change for justice, or to get out of bed in the morning during a season of depression. These are the deeper things that don’t show up in before and after photos, yet make all of us valuable…  regardless of what we looked like before or after.

 

 

Confession of a body advocate

“What does fat mean to you?” asked my therapist. My heart dropped into my gut with a giant ugh. This was the same question she asked me three-and-a-half years ago when I first entered recovery. I started to cry and replied, “Am I really back to this place again? I thought I processed this already… I thought I was over it.”  Problem is I was sitting in her office confessing that I had spent the previous day restricting my food, something I haven’t done in at least a couple of years.

Easter Sunday had been a tough day. While getting dressed for dinner, I was frustrated that none of my shirts were fitting comfortably. Since quitting Taekwondo last June due to a knee injury and restricting cardio exercise as per doctor’s orders until my knee is healed, my physical activity has waned significantly. I’ve been in physical therapy building strength and stability in my knee, hips, and core, but my whole body is in process of finding it’s new weight set point and shape. So my clothes are fitting differently and, in some cases, too small.

On Sunday my eating disorder simply told me I was getting fat. After a lovely ham dinner, I was comfortably full, but my eating disorder told me I am fat; I needed to eat less because I was eating too much; I am not exercising so I need to eat less; my body isn’t “changing shape” but growing fatter; and on and on and on. I was depressed all evening, and on Monday I couldn’t stand the feel of my body in my clothes, I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror, and I couldn’t stand the thought of eating a whole day’s worth of food. So I made the conscious choice to restrict my food intake, including skipping lunch.

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So why was fat such a big deal all of sudden and why wouldn’t it be okay if I was fat? I had come to terms long ago that fat and skinny aren’t terms that God sees or uses let alone attaches any value. So why did the size of my body matter to me?

Well, unfortunately it turns out cultural judgments about fat were starting to become my own judgments again. American culture says “If you live in a fat body, then you are unhealthy.”

I don’t want to be regarded as unhealthy. As a food and body advocate I fear people won’t trust me if I live in a larger body. I don’t know where my body is going to settle, but if it settles larger than what’s considered appropriate or desirable for “healthy” according to our societal standards then I may lose credibility… my value as an advocate. This feels scary and disheartening to me.

So, I did what anyone with an eating disorder and feeling lack of value does. I restricted my food in an effort to keep my body from getting any bigger. It was a terrible idea on many levels, and I felt miserable by the end of the day from starvation.

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Sitting here now a week later, after using my support network, I have a much clearer focus on reality that I want to share with you:

    • Healthy doesn’t come in one size. It comes in all the sizes, including larger, shapelier sizes. You and I can live in a fat body and be 100% healthy–feeling good, living well.
    • Fat and skinny don’t exist in God’s realm, but they do exist here on earth. We can’t get away from those terms, but we can change how we think of them. We need to learn to use them as neutral facts. The way a shirt is pink or shoes are black or hair is blonde, so can a body be fat, a pair of legs be thin, a butt be round, or cheeks be plump. Fat and thin are observable descriptors rather than judgments of value or desire.
  • The human body has an amazing feature where it adapts itself based on life circumstances. It is literally the smartest device we own:

~When a woman is pregnant the belly stretches to accommodate space for the baby and adds weight wherever necessary to support baby’s growth and dependence on our body’s resources.

~When we have an injury, the body adjusts appetite to promote healing and changes shape to accommodate new movements and build strength where needed.

~ When we’re sick, it utilizes stored resources (like fat and sugar), pauses internal functions in effort to send energy to sick or damaged areas… always with the goal of keeping us alive.

~ When we’re over or under weight, causing medical malfunction, the body works hard to send signals of what it needs in nutrition and movement to find its best natural set point based on the life we’re trying to live.

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I confess I lost my focus last week, and, worse, lost trust in my body, in where my value truly lies, and in what God is asking of me as an advocate. I judged fat and I got scared of what it might mean if I was fat. My only excuse is that I’m human… living in a disordered culture that values thin bodies and regards health on a single dimension… recovering from an eating disorder that still lives inside my brain and causes doubt sometimes. But thank GOD, literally, I have an amazing support network and an open line to the Holy Spirit to help me bring the truth back into focus.

 

 

Do you wonder:  What does Healthy Mean?