As a female student at a liberal college, I see body positivity all over the place. It’s impossible to express any discontentment about your body without getting judged by your friends. I thought this was refreshing at first, coming from a family full of women who struggled with body image issues and had devoted themselves to diets like Weight Watchers for years. I thought that my family was just innately negative, and I had developed obsessive dieting habits because of it. I also began going to the gym. I started seeing progress, but my body image didn’t improve because I was doing it out of hate for my own body.
It wasn’t until college that I started to accept my body. I began to appreciate food as nutrition instead of only perceiving it as calories. Oh, but then I gained 10 pounds and stopped regularly working out. So, where is the balance in that? What does body love really mean, and when can it be more toxic than positive?
A definition of this philosophy, which has become hugely popular in 2016, is,
Body Positive explores taking up occupancy inside your own skin, rather than living above the chin until you’re thin. It is a set of ideas that may help you find greater well-being in the body you have.
Now, there’s nothing in this definition that says it’s okay to sit around and spend your time binge-watching Netflix. In more extreme cases, like being dangerously under or overweight, the body positivity excuse has been used to argue against the need for a lifestyle change, which is a bunch of crap. The bottom line is: body positivity has been misconstrued as a foolproof excuse to do nothing. It’s a defense mechanism against individual progress, and it can be your biggest opponent in your journey to be a healthier you.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s important to love your body. However, love means more than giving your body whatever you think it wants. It’s like having a puppy: you shouldn’t give your puppy table scraps every time it begs for them. That would irresponsible. Love means taking care of what you love. It doesn’t have to be difficult; we make it that way.
I eventually convinced myself that it wasn’t a sacrifice to walk down to the athletic complex and spend an hour at the gym. Hell! I could even watch Netflix while I was on the elliptical. That’s not that hard. Granted, you have to keep moving forward. Doing the very minimum and just “going through the motions” at the gym every single time won’t cut it after a while. I started to realize this when my 30-minute cardio and 15-minute core workout got hella boring after a month or so. Being body-positive means moving forward by adding weight, reps, new gym playlists, and new gym wear too!
The “but I don’t like working out” excuse isn’t going to cut it. You don’t have to be passionate about using the rowing machine or running a couple of miles around the track. JUST DO IT BECAUSE IT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER, AND IT”S GOOD FOR YOU. It’s not about fitting into a smaller dress size or molding your body into a different shape. It’s about taking the stairs over the elevator without feeling like you’re about to die of a heart attack. It’s about not having to get hip and knee replacements because of being too overweight for your joints to function.
It’s like when you were a kid, and your parents made you go to school. Most kids don’t absolutely love going to school every day, but it was something we all had to do. Life isn’t always about doing things you like or that are easy. How do you build self-discipline? How do you build character? Working out is challenging, even for those who do it regularly. However, they’ve just learned not to let the voice of laziness get the best of them.
To be clear, I don’t believe that women who suffer from chronic weight issues don’t love their bodies. A lot of women work very hard to be healthy. Some women have a healthy weight range that doesn’t align with our cultural ideal of beauty. That is really what body love is about at its core—acknowledging that our healthy and happy weight isn’t always culturally ideal, but it’s ours, and we work to maintain it and grow stronger because we love feeling fit. Just because you work hard to improve your physical health doesn’t mean you aren’t happy with your body. It means you aren’t satisfied with the idea of stagnating and lazily spending most of your days watching Netflix, living on a pizza diet, and binge drinking multiple times a week.
To be clear, I am not advocating body-shaming. I think comedian, Nicole Arbour, took it a little far with her remarks on fat shaming. I believe that body shaming is wrong, but I am saying that WE NEED TO OWN UP TO OUR UNHEALTHY LIFESTYLE CHOICES. The national average of dress sizes for women in the US is size 16. There are countries in Europe that shame women for being a size four, six, or eight because that is considered, “fat.” I do not agree with them, and I don’t support body shaming, but I don’t like being in denial. There’s this, “You’re not fat. You’re beautiful,” which is totally counterproductive. It says, 1. You can’t be both fat and beautiful, and 2. If there is a health problem, it is being denied. I think this message below is critical, as long as it isn’t misunderstood to condone poor choices. It’s not saying, “Don’t work out because you shouldn’t feel like you have to.” It’s about accepting yourself as someone who is worthy of love, the love of others, and your own self-love, meaning the love that wants what is best for you.
If you’re unhappy with feeling tired and lazy, get off of your ass and remind yourself why your body is so amazing. Not because of how you look, but what it can do! Like I said, you don’t need to fit into a smaller dress size to love your body. Even running a mile to start out will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something, which eating a whole pizza can never really do for you. No one is going to pat you on the back for being proud of an unhealthy lifestyle. Your biggest enemy and motivator will always be you, which I had to learn once I got to college.
Working out has amazing benefits (duh), even if you can’t physically see them. Just knowing that you are actively trying to be kind to your body and to feel stronger and healthier every day is what the definition of body love should be.
Here are some Instagram posts with #BodyLove, and I think these women really got the message. They are active and try to be healthy, but they are proud of themselves and their progress too.