“Allow me to suggest a revolutionary action: Let’s try to be okay with our bodies. I am not saying you have to love your body. I can’t help but notice that this goal is frequently pushed on women, but never men, and if men don’t need to love their bodies, it seems to me that women can get by without it, too…Perhaps loving your body is something to strive for, but all we really need to do is respect our bodies, appreciate them, and be generally okay with them.” –Traci Mann, PhD, author “Secrets from the Eating Lab”
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been reading Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again. I love so many parts of this book, like all the scientific evidence for the failure of weight loss diets. I’ll talk more about the book in a future post, but for now…see above quote.
Why did I love this quote so much? Because I found it to be profoundly freeing.
Part of the talk around giving up dieting revolves a lot around learning to love your body. As someone who dieted for most of her adult life, I didn’t even know what this would look like in practice. I tried a fake-it-till-you-make-it approach, telling myself that I loved my body and that I wasn’t going to torture it anymore. In reality, I no longer wanted to punish myself with deprivation and food obsession not for the sake of my body, but for my peace of mind.
But I espoused body-love because it seemed like a good idea. Even on this blog I talk about learning to love one’s own body, and loving my own body. What I probably come closer to, though, is this idea of being okay with my body.
I was raised, as most of us were, in a world where fat bodies were not seen as attractive. We still live in that world. One of the first things I did, after discovering Health At Every Size®, was to find ways that I could see large bodies as attractive, or at least not unattractive. I’ve never been one to focus too much on the outsides of other people…I reserved that obsession for myself. But I bought the party line that fat was not attractive, because that’s how I had been treated and that’s what everyone said. So I spent time on fat fashion blogs and I started looking at fat people around me with a neutral eye and I realized that there is nothing inherently unattractive about fat bodies. With just a little bit of practice I soon was able to see every body without bias. While it was easy to see others’ fat bodies as completely acceptable and even lovable, I still struggled with my own evolving body.
As my body continued to change dramatically after quitting dieting, I was unable to look at it in photos for a long time. With GI problems that cause severe abdominal bloating after even a small meal, I sometimes even avoid mirrors. While I don’t particularly have any animosity toward my body, loving it just seemed…a tall order. And a lot of work.
All of that doesn’t mean I’m not 100 percent okay with my body. I’m not embarrassed about my body with others – I’m not shy about being in a bathing suit or wearing body-con clothing. I have enormous gratitude for my bod and what it allows me to do. When I have those momentary “ehhh” photo moments, I remind myself that I’ve been under the unrelenting influence of completely unrealistic expectations for how women should look for all of my life. I also remind myself that I want to be more than about how I look. How I look is really the very least of me. And in the end, I really did become okay with my body.
I don’t require others to love my body, so I’m not sure that I need to either so long as I respect it and have some gratitude for it. What I want most of all is for my body to occupy zero space in my brain for most or all of the day – for it to lose the importance it has held in the past. My body is not my life’s work. What I do, how I am, is. Being okay with my body is frankly enough for me for now.