It was very disappointing, distressing even, that maybe the most ‘famous’ body image advocate, Jess Weiner, recently spoke about how ‘loving her body made her ill’. Other than mentioning it I am not going to address it really, others have spoken at length about it.
But what’s changed my mind is a couple of conversations I’ve recently had with an old friend – we’ve reconnected to our mutual delight, after drifting apart years ago when work changes and family time constraints seemed more important.
Anyhoo, this friend said to me a few weeks back, as she carefully picked the croutons out of her caesar salad with no dressing because she was on a diet to lose the weight, that she was puzzled by my message that the most important thing a woman can do is love her body. “How can you say that to someone who is overweight, or even morbidly obese? Doesn’t that just encourage people to eat badly?”
And those are fair questions which I answered at face value, but I’ll go into a bit more depth here because they carry assumptions that “everyone knows”, that we each need to be questioning, sharply, often, and with our own wonderful bodies as our focus.
So, how can I say to someone who is ‘overweight’ or ‘morbidly obese’ that the most important thing you can do for your body is love it?
Slight divergence here – I have a truly ugly brown earthen ware jug that my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas way back. For years and years and years it never saw the light of day, shoved into the back of a cupboard and shuffled around as I instead used things I like better. Tough old thing, it never chipped or cracked or smashed, as I’d have liked it to do. As we moved from apartment to house to bigger house over the years, I’d pack the thing because I felt obligated to keep it.
In my last-but-one house move I just tucked it into a box between other well-wrapped dishes and when I unpacked that box at the new place, the old jug was finally chipped. I picked it up and looked at it, noticing that it was pretty grubby really, since it had never been used and never been washed. Inside it was a very dry dead old moth and some dust. Finally I felt justified in tossing it out, cos you know, the chip in the glazing would be both unsafe and unsanitary.
But you can tell, right, that I never cared about the old jug, and had it smashed earlier than it did I would not have cared.
And the question I am asking you through this old jug story is this: since study after study tells us that most women are highly critical of their bodies’ perceived imperfections, do we treat our bodies with loving respect, or do we see them as things to wish were different, feel sad about, distressed about, that we deprive of real nourishment for our cells and pummel instead with food-like substances that don’t actually nourish our cells? Or that we sweat and grit our teeth driving to do exercise we hate to lose the weight and then guiltily ignore any kind of movement when we give up in despair because “it’s not working”?
And I know you can fill in your own blanks here because this is such a short little recitation of the things I used to do to my own body, that are still so common amongst the women I know, and that fill up ridiculous numbers of pages in magazines and books and take up air time and bandwidth and so much life energy.
And for what? There is still not a scientifically-definitive ‘healthy’ weight, because weight alone is NOT an indicator of health, never has been and likely never will be. So that makes the whole definition of ‘overweight’ or ‘morbidly obese’ according to the BMI a furphy. Read this article about the problems with the BMI if you need to, because it’s so important that you educate yourself.
A woman who takes care of her body by learning to listen to what her own body wants and needs, feeds it good quality food and enjoys all kinds of movement, is much more likely to feel happy with her life in general, and by extension, good health will most likely follow. The principles of Health At Every Size make it easy to do every day.
In short, it is human nature to disregard something you hate. So if you hate/dislike/don’t trust your body – what does that mean for your life. (Click here to tweet this)
To me this is such a truth now that I really pull up short when someone, like my girlfriend, asks me the question she did.
What about you, are you working on changing your old automatic diet-industry-born ideas and beliefs about your body, or is it easier for you these days?