I would love to see myself as a body positive person however, I don’t know if I have ever been positive about anything in my life. By nature, I’m a super Negative Nelly and especially when it comes to loving myself, I lean towards being an Abysmal Annie. In general, I think I’m more of a Self-Loathing Susan.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about body positivity and what that even means. I think when we hear the phrase “body positive” we think we have a good idea of what it might mean. However, the more I learn, this is an incredibly multifaceted, complex and dynamic thing that is fraught with sensitive pain points.
Honestly, I hesitated even writing this because I recognized that my own experiences come from a place of privilege (I have had a couple of major weight loss successes and consider myself mostly recovered from some eating issues and disordered behaviors), and I would never want to unintentionally be an asshole.
What is Body Positivity Anyways?
When I think Body Positive, I think being happy in your skin, being comfortable with yourself regardless of what magazines are telling us is sexy and not putting all your confidence eggs in the skinny basket.
Sounds great right? And I want to be that. I want it so bad.
But I’m not.
I have struggled for years with my body image. I have gone on crazy out of control binges that have caused me to gain massive amounts of weight in short periods of time. I have starved myself into having abnormal bloodwork. I have been on waitlists for eating disorder treatments, stuffed myself with diet pills and supplements that were total chemical bullshit and even once had to “sleep on it” before politely declining being prescribed medication that would likely make me shit my britches.
All in the chase of the skinny.
The problem with this messy and complicated relationship with food and weight is that for me, the quest for body positivity looks a lot like Sisyphus rolling that rock up the hill—minus the cardio, leaving only the struggle.
Riding the Body Positivity Emotional Shame Train
In order to recover from my issues, I had to learn to feed myself properly and let go of my emotional stake in my appearance.
At the same time, I want to be more fit. I want to fit my old clothes. I currently want to lose some weight that I have gained.
And how can you reconcile that? I feel like I am constantly caught between wanting to shape up and trying my damnedest to not give a fuck what I weigh/look like. And it’s not just the scale—I can tell when I am not eating the way I want to, I can tell when I am not as active as I want to be, I can tell when my clothes are tight.
This ends up looking like a lot of self-sabotage, conflicting internal messages and feeling guilty about my health goals and the messages I communicate online. I find that I cycle between feeling really great about myself, and feeling guilty about my desire to lose weight.
I got to thinking about these things after seeing a Twitter thread about the body positive community and weight loss surgery. People were sharing their feelings about loving themselves and the potential for feeling betrayal for losing weight (or wanting to lose weight), and as a person who has gotten past a lot of issues in that regard, I realized that I could identify with this somewhat.
Last summer, I had this moment where I wore a bathing suit and instead of tearing myself up for my large swinging thighs, the vicious pattern of my stretch marks, and the multiple other glaring “errors” I could see written all over my body, I took a deep breath and chose to feel proud of my body and how far it has come.
But that was after a large weight loss. I’m heavier now and would like to have that feeling again…but is that a betrayal of my mental progress?
Stop the ride—I want off
I would love for this post to be a hilarious or helpful look at some of this shit, but sadly it’s not. I have zero resolution to this issue. I think this is just another complicated life thing to make up as you go.
Ultimately we all have the right to be happy and to be healthy. Both of those things don’t come easy, so we’re left to really plug away the best way we see fit.
I know for myself, a goal moving forward is to take the next step in untangling emotions from my weight—this is to realize that I am not betraying my own progress by wanting to improve my health and physical fitness. I don’t really desire to be a certain size anymore, it’s more about wanting to feel better and stronger.
Ok, and a little bit of wanting to fit my existing clothes because FUCK MALLS.
I think for me it is about intention. I want to love my body by treating it in a healthy way. Sometimes that means walking more and jiggling less and that is ok. Sometimes that’s resting and eating what the fuck I want because I’m awesome and deserve to just be sometimes.
Mostly it’s me learning what things are important to my overall physical and mental well being and DOING THOSE THINGS.
Remember, love the skin you’re in or someone else might love it for you.
This post originally appeared on Healthy Living for Hot Messes. It has been reprinted with permission.
Mandi Em is the mind behind Healthy Living for Hot Messes, and she aims to make healthy living and functional adulting relatable and accessible to the average Jane. She is a hot mess mom of three and has had her work appear on Sammiches and Psych Meds, Blunt Moms, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.