Friday, 3 January 2020

Body* Positivity...

* but only if you have the "right" body...

A few months ago I was told in a comment on social media that I had no place taking part in a conversation about body positivity. This is apparently because a) I don't appear overweight and b) because I used to be, and made a conscious and deliberate decision to lose weight, and then maintain that loss. (No effort was made to find out my reasons for point 2.) Apparently this meant that I could not make a comment in support of someone else who had made similar choices, and for similar reasons, to mine.

The body positivity movement is often seen as a "fits any size" inclusive environment, where people -  mainly women, but open to people regardless of gender - are supportive of others choices around their bodies and appearances, and also are united in decrying fat shaming, fat phobia and negativity around those of a different size and shape to the "perceived ideal". I put that in quotes because to some extent I think that is the first issue - what is "ideal" for one person will be very different to someone else. The size and shape of body that is comfortable for an individual is probably close to unique from person to person - and by comfortable I mean both mentally AND physically. In reality though it seems to be evolving into a movement that champions only those with "larger than average" bodies, and is perfectly content to shame those who for their own reasons are seeking to change their appearance. Weight loss is seen as "letting the side down" and "giving in" and those who mention the idea of losing weight for health reasons are regularly told that they don't have to lose weight to be healthy - usually without ANY effort to ascertain WHY they feel that being lighter might also - for them - be healthier.

Regular readers here (well - as regularly as I give you anything to read, anyway!) will perhaps recall that my own weightloss was almost accidental at first - I decided that I wanted to get fitter, a decision that was purely prompted by health concerns. My size had never bothered me particularly in real terms - other than when I encountered negativity for example when visiting the GP when whatever I went in for, weight got mentioned whether it was relevant or not. Shopping for clothes could be a bit of an issue - the difference in shaping of garments between a size 10 or 12, and a size 16 is ludicrous. If any clothes designers are reading this please take note - most larger women have no desire to, nor should their only option be to wear something that resembles a sack. Fitted garments are far more flattering than "tents" regardless of the body size they are being worn by! If you're of average height then you can perhaps get away with a bit more - but at just a fraction over 5', the tendency for clothes with no shape to them to swamp my frame often made clothes shopping an truly unpleasant experience. So in the first instance I simply started making an effort to move a bit more, and the side effect of that was that my shape started changing, purely because a lot of the time, all of a sudden, I was burning more calories than I was consuming in a day. It was quite a few months before I even noticed - because it was a gradual loss things weren't suddenly looser - and when I did first notice the first thing that stood out was that I was physically more comfortable. My knees hurt less (I have arthritis in both), and the movement I was doing was easier, more natural. I had more energy. It was at around that time when I also started thinking more about what sort of food I was eating, and how much of it. I did some research about portion sizes - not the ludicrous portion sizes that food manufacturers recommend to fit in with the "traffic light" system (30g of cereal, or half a tin of soup etc are NOT realistic!) and which are so often what restrictive diets steer you towards, but what is really recommended by those who are actually qualified to make suggestions on such things. I took the decision to start eating more complex carbs, less saturated fats, and more fruit and veg. I began to understand that for a lot of years I'd had a disordered relationship with food in a number of ways - and also for the first time ever realised that there was a path out of that relationship. The activity was hindered somewhat by what turned out to be critical level anaemia - already written about previously on here - but once that was sorted I took to running with gusto and now take great delight to think of myself as a runner.

The key thing for me is that I didn't diet. I eat a wider range of foods, with a lower range of guilt, than I EVER have before. Through the reading and research that I was doing I learned why diets don't work in the longer term (because they invariably have an "end point" after which habits revert to previous), and why a balanced lifestyle does (because it is sustainable, and just something that you continue with as a result).

Naturally, the result of all of the above was that yes, I lost weight and my body changed. Technically I still  show on the utterly ridiculous BMI charts as being "overweight" - but then so would an awful lot of super-fit professional sportsmen & women, so I'm none too worried about that. More importantly though, my mind changed too. The size I am at now feels far more natural to me - I started feeling as though I'd reclaimed my own body after temporarily living inside someone elses, that was a far from good fit. I have more energy because I'm eating better. I am - without question - healthier. So allowing for all of the above, why on earth would someone else - someone who claims to be a "champion" for acceptance of all body shapes - decide that the choices I had made make me "less valid"? Maybe it's time to reclaim Body Positivity as a movement for those us us who actually want to be accepting of everyone's choices - regardless of whether they are the same as ours, or not?

1 comment:

Scarlet said...

I watched a documentary a little while ago about people who were overweight/ obese. There was a rather overbearing woman who was part of the body positivity movement, who seemed unable to accept that anyone else might want to make changes to their own body, in terms of shedding weight. I have gained a few pounds recently - a combination of some poor food choices and not exercising as I was due to feeling ill and exhausted, and I feel anything but positive about it! Changes have been made as I feel much better when I'm eating properly, exercising, and not carrying those extra pounds.