Category Archives: Body image

If weight loss is your goal this year…

As the new year approaches my social media feeds are inundated with folks ready to start new diets, pursue new weight loss plans, and commit to reaching optimal health with a new and improved body. All these goals require a restricted approach to eating and exercising. Rules and regulations regarding what to eat and what not to eat, adhering to calorie counts and burns, and tracking weight, body size, and portion measurements.

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There is nothing wrong with wanting optimal health or wanting a smaller body. The question is why? I spent three and a half years in eating disorder therapy discovering why it was so important to me to be thin that I would starve myself to near death to stay that way. I was everything culture required me to be according to its definition of health and beauty. But in that I damaged my body, lost touch with my biological body cues, and was in constant angst over every pound and calorie, how my body looked, and if I was good enough yet. Why? Why did a thinner body matter to me so much that I would put myself through that life-sucking anxiety?

It was because I didn’t trust that who I was and the body I was given and the mind I was given was good enough to be of value. If I lived in a larger body, then nothing else about me really mattered.

Of course you could say I was an extreme case having an eating disorder. Maybe you don’t have an eating disorder, but if you are constantly frustrated with how your body looks or operates; constantly on and off diets; constantly worried or ashamed about what you’ve eaten; constantly up and down in emotions based on what you have or haven’t eaten and how you have or haven’t exercised, then I dare say you have disordered beliefs and habits around food and your body. A diet won’t ever remedy faulty beliefs about yourself.

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If your New Year’s resolution is to start a new diet I am curious to know three things:

1) Why do you want to be smaller?

2) What is losing weight going to give you that you don’t already have right now?

3) If you could find health and happiness in the body you have at this very moment, would you still pursue weight loss?

When I advocate for your body, whether large, small or somewhere between, without the use of diets and restrictive programs, I am not judging your desire to be healthier or thinner. I wanted the exact same things. I get it! What I am advocating for and trying to help you understand is there is another way to be and feel healthy and energized and joyful and whole inside the body you have right now regardless of your size. You are valuable and valid and lovable and sexy and creative and purposeful right now at whatever weight and pants size you are and regardless of what you eat.

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I don’t want to discourage you or boss you or judge you in whatever health journey you decide for yourself this year. I want to be brave and share the process of intuitive eating with you because not only did it save me, but it freed me from food and body anxiety. I know it will for you too. It’s a process of self-discovery and creating new beliefs about yourself that are live-giving instead of life-sucking. Maybe you will get thinner and maybe you won’t, but that isn’t the goal for once. Finding happiness and body love where you are right now, that’s the sustainable “new you” you’re going for.

Happy New Year! May 2019 be a year of curious discoveries and unexpected pleasure in whatever you pursue.

And don’t forget to check out the fun little gift I have for you!

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.