After The First Time I Was Body Shamed was published, I received several emails containing links to various body acceptance groups. Whilst I appreciate the intention, I have to admit I have a problem with this particular movement.
For some, how we feel about our bodies actually has less to do with our weight and more to do with our relationship with food, something that’s not recognized nearly enough. Besides, acceptance felt like just another thing I’m doing wrong. Whilst I love my body, I don’t completely accept it right now, and I won’t apologize for that. Acceptance would feel like being diagnosed with an illness and refusing treatment to get well.
Also, whilst I’ll never condone a pity party, I believe we need to have deeper conversations about why women feel the way they do about their bodies and provide support, not try to force acceptance. Here’s a simple example: When loved ones say, “I’m fat,” it’s an invitation to have a discussion, yet we swiftly shut one another down with cries of, “No, you’re not!” or suggest positive things to focus on instead.
When I’ve said, “I’m fat,” what I was doing was expressing pain. And I wonder how different my life would have been had someone been willing to listen to that pain. These feelings need to be heard, and we can’t listen if we’re shutting one another down, or tritely suggesting all the ways we should be grateful for what we have.
Women, we’re mostly brilliant at making those around us feel comfortable, but sometimes our need to do so is also our downfall. If we want anything to change, then we need to become skilled at having uncomfortable conversations. We need to start asking why an issue exists, and be prepared to dig deep to get honest answers. It’s only when we get to the root of problems that we’ll find solutions.
I know my body acceptance won’t be achieved simply by losing weight, either, because that wouldn’t address the issues I have with my relationship with food: What I eat, why and even how I eat. From my healing work and research to date, it became obvious to me that whilst I no longer diet, I still wasn’t eating normally. Diets and weight loss frequently appear to be the other obvious solutions to improving body image, but how often have you lost weight only to feel like you’re living precariously, uncertain if you can maintain the status quo?
Whilst I applaud body acceptance groups and recognize the people they do help, there are others who need to feel safe expressing their feelings too. Instead of making room for everyone’s voice, I feel like only one collective voice is being heard.
So, I’m exercising my right to love, but not fully accept my body, but I’m making changes to become the best possible version of me. And I know the route isn’t pretending everything’s just fine the way it is, or another diet and weight loss. It’s healing my relationship with food. Now that’s empowering.