“Body positivity at its core represents this wild idea that all bodies are good bodies. All bodies are worthy of self love, self care, and acceptance. All bodies are allowed to feel beautiful, regardless of their color or jean size or health status or how attractive you personally find them to be.” ~Marie Southard Ospina
Body Positivity: Easier Said Than Done
I love the concept of body positivity. I find it inspiring and uplifting. I see videos of women embracing themselves just as they are and exuding a confidence and true beauty that come only as a result of such acceptance. I read honest and open personal stories about acquiring a body positive mindset and I’m in awe of those who have figured out how to love themselves and their bodies no matter what. I want to achieve that too. I so want to get to that place, but it’s a long, hard road. When I look in the mirror I mostly just see a fat lady. And, more often than I’d like to admit, I feel ashamed about being a fat lady. On the other hand, I know that my weight is the least important thing about me. It is not the defining thing about me. I really and truly know that – well, at least some of the time.
I’ve never been thin. For some of my childhood I was “normal weight,” but by junior high I was definitely chubby. And I kind of stayed at chubby until I had kids. There was a brief stint in college when I achieved “my ideal weight” for almost an entire year. This was due to hardly eating and limiting myself to living on fruit and soup when I did.
I remember how proud I was of this. When I finished my undergraduate degree I was more proud of the fact that I finally wasn’t chubby than I was of my academic achievement. Nuts, right? But to this day, over twenty years later, I sometimes still dream of that time and when I do my body is always the focal point of the dreams. I still have moments of wanting to crash diet again, but then reason and self love return to me. Baby steps towards body positivity.
Since having kids my weight has climbed up way past chubby. There are a few reasons for this and eating too much and not exercising enough is certainly part of it. But, like most women who struggle with weight, there is more to my story. Five years ago I saw a doctor who told me I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. I was started on the drug of choice for treating PCOS. It worked and I dropped quite a bit of weight, but the drug had some really nasty side effects. It didn’t feel quite right to lose weight this way, but I stuck with it for months and months – anything to drop the dreaded pounds!
Eventually, though, I came to the conclusion that being fat all of the time was better than “looking good” while living in the bathroom. I stopped taking the drug and gained back all the weight.
The Physical Pain of It All
Despite the weight gain I felt happy to get my life back – a pretty big step for me in terms of accepting my physical self. Around this same time I impulsively joined a “beginner bootcamp” class to lose weight. It was a mistake because I was out of shape and had no idea what I was doing. When I arrived at my first (and final!) class I was far and away the fattest and least experienced person there. I felt so embarrassed and so badly wanted to fit in that I got injured in the class. A sprained knee resulted in three days of bedrest.
Two years later the same leg just kind of completely gave up one day. My ACL snapped and pieces of cartilage tore off and became lodged in my kneecap. I was bedridden for weeks and waited six months for surgery to be able to walk properly again. This knee aftermath impacted my ability to be active and more weight was gained.
Navigating My Self Worth
A few years since all that and here I am today. For the most part, I think I’m smart, funny, and capable. I’m a pretty good mom to two great kids and sometimes I’m even a good wife. I have wonderful friends and siblings who I value so much and they seem to value me back! I have a fun and active social life. I’ve held good jobs, fun jobs and serious jobs. I have two university degrees.
And, yet, despite all this, I am still mad at myself a lot of the time for being fat. I feel like a failure a lot of the time for being fat. I feel inept because I’m terrible at exercising. I feel guilty about what I eat. And then I feel really stupid because I KNOW how ridiculous this all is. I know better. I know that my feelings of self worth, success and confidence should not be tied to my weight, but they kind of still are and it’s an ongoing journey.
So, where to go from here and how to get body positive? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. I’ve started to introduce some small things that may or may not result in weight loss, but that I hope will result in a better, healthier and happier me. I’ve started walking my dog everyday to get exercise that is fun and meaningful. I track what I eat – not calories, but eating patterns and possible reasons why I’m overeating. I’m trying really hard to eat consciously, not with the intent to lose weight so much as to put healthy stuff into this body that I’m going to occupy for the rest of my life. I’m also working on putting the body shaming stuff that has happened to me in the past (insults, jabs, embarrassments) way to the back of my mind and not up in the forefront.
A Burden Carried By Many
Sharing all this, even anonymously, is not easy. So why am I? Well, my personal battle with body positivity is around weight. However, most of the women I know also struggle with body positivity be it around their weight or height or skin or breast size or teeth or something else that’s totally irrelevant to what makes them great, amazing, talented people. I hope my story reminds others in this sisterhood that they’re not alone in feeling conflicted and confused about their bodies. I want other women to know that the body positivity movement exists – check it out and do some reading if you haven’t already. I want us to reinforce in our daughters that they are perfect as is and that they have license to work on self-improvement of body, mind, and soul on their own terms with their own goals. I want all of us who struggle with accepting our physical selves to get to our own personal, positive places. I want to hear from others who are feeling some of these same feels and maybe have some advice or help to share. And, in the spirit of Femme Cabal, I want all of us to lift one another up, to be generous with compliments, to praise and encourage each other and to constructively and kindly motivate and help one another. No more baby steps – it’s time for giant strides towards positive.