I’m Body Positive. Do I Even Care About Health?
The other night, my friend said something that really resonated with me:
“Every morning, I ask G-d to help me feel compassionate towards others instead of judgemental.”
I know that many of you want to lose weight and while this whole body positive movement is nice and everything… it doesn’t change the fact that you’re still looking to shed a few pounds. Either through dieting, or through exercising, or both.
So I’d like to use my friend’s line as a springboard to discuss why I don’t promote weight loss.
The first thing I want to make clear is that I totally get it! I’ve dieted for years, tried more programs than I care to admit, and understand the desire to be thinner.
I still hate shopping with my smaller friends and looking on as they find cute dress after cute dress to buy. I still hate looking in the mirror and knowing I’d be considered hotter if I had the same curves, but less flab. I still hate the way the doctor makes every random ailment of mine a weight related issue.
It’s true that I’m a huge proponent of positive body image, and I encourage others to learn to get comfortable with their bodies, and perhaps even take it to the next level and learn to love them!
That’s not why I’m against the concept of weight loss as a goal.
When I talk about the importance of being comfortable with your body, regardless of your size, it’s not because I’m against you being thinner. It’s because I hate knowing that there’s a really high chance that in pursuing weight loss, you will most likely end up gaining weight.
And with that comes the frustration of not being able to keep the weight off, the shame that comes with having just gotten so many compliments at the last family simcha and knowing that everyone will wonder what happened since then, the guilt that comes with feeling like you have no self control, and the self-hate that comes with wondering why you just can’t seem to get it right and whether you ever will.
These emotions I’m talking about… can you relate to them? I know I did. For a really, really long time.
And if you do, you’re so not alone – millions of Americans are right there with you!
Here’s the thing.
Regardless of BMI, doctor’s charts, and health & fitness magazine articles, there isn’t a standard weight that women of your height, age, and ethnicity “should” be.
Your ideal weight has to do with your genetics, your metabolism, how your body processes different kinds of foods, and how it reacts with exercise. Oh, and sleep, and stress, and other external environmental factors that are entirely out of your control.
The concept of calories in, calories out only plays a small role in how your body actually handles all this stuff.
On top of that, as we age and come by different life stages, the actual functions of our body change as well.
At a basic level, a teenager is physically and physiologically different than she was pre-puberty, a mother different than she was prior to giving birth, an octogenarian different than she was at middle age. Our bone structure, blood composition, and hormone levels are constantly modifying themselves.
These means that firstly, we need to properly support that with appropriate nutrition to ensure that we develop as we should in a way that dieting will likely not do, and secondly, we need to recognize that how our bodies look will change with all of that.
And to wish and pray and abuse our bodies in an effort to reform it to the way it used to be is not only not fair, but it’s simply unrealistic.
One of my favorite quotes that I live by is from Jim Rohn who wisely said:
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
G-d gave us this amazing vessel to contain our soul. He fashioned this being to exist in a physical world in a way that complements our mission to become the best spiritual being we can be.
He created foods that are colorful and tasty, pleasant to look at and enjoyable to eat. He inspired this concept of exercise that actually changes our emotional state on a chemical level, that leaves us stronger and healthier. He gave us the tools we need to incorporate healthy habits into our life so that we can take care of the body that he loaned us.
Yet, the reality is that most people who pursue weight loss have years and years of dieting experience. That typically goes hand in hand with a distorted relationship with food. And the same is true for exercise.
We don’t even get to appreciate the goodness He’s handed to us on a silver platter because we’re so busy looking for a way to “beat the system,” when if we would just focus instead on developing (or redeveloping) a healthy relationship with food and exercise, we wouldn’t feel the need to do that.
You can be the healthiest version of yourself and not be the size that you’ve been conditioned to think you need to be. But to do that, to take care of the body we were gifted, we need to be focusing on healthy habits, not on the flashy number the scale presents.
I know that choosing to explore what it means to have a healthy relationship with food and exercise and health overall will make all the difference in how you feel about yourself on a day to day basis.
I also know that it’s scary.
It’s true that sometimes I come across heavy-handed on the whole body positive stuff and sometimes it seems that I’m a total extremist.
But it’s only because I’ve looked into it, I’ve read the evidence based research, and I’ve worked (and continue to work) through my own issues with food and exercise. I know how much more balanced my life is and how much healthier I am as a person. Physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I see a bigger picture here and recognize that health plays a key role in all of this, but sometimes I fail to stress it enough.
I’m working on that.
So I’m here to say that I do get it.
I do understand the desire to lose weight. And yes, there are even days when I look into the mirror, suck my stomach in and imagine how good I’d look in a dress that I’ll most likely never fit into.
But I also know that my relationship with food, with exercise, with my body, with health, is so much more important than trying to lose ten pounds for the sake of it will ever be.