Body Positive

Okay. Let’s talk about this. It’s a hand grenade- I KNOW.  (Blame my friend Rachel, she opened up this can of worms.)

Let me first take us through an exercise. Please raise your hand if you think you’re body is just perfect exactly the way it is. Nice and high. (Look, I know you’re reading this in your office- you don’t actually have to raise your hand. This is just a joke.)

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that approximately zero of you agree with that statement. Or, if you do, you didn’t always. However, allow me to enlighten you on something- I think your body is perfect. Really. When I meet you, of course I notice how you look. I notice if you are tall or short, if you have on cuter shoes than I do, if your top knot makes me jealous or reminds me why I’m glad I cut my hair (sorry). I also notice your weight- are you skinny like my friend Amanda or are you curvy like me? This is mostly to determine whether or not you might let me borrow that sweater you are wearing sometime.  (Allow me to just say here that if you are black or Hispanic or Chinese, I will notice that too because I’m not a freaking idiot and people who say they are “color-blind” are showboating. That’s a conversation for another time.)

You know what I never think about you? You’d look better if you lost a little weight. I’d like you more if your arms were toned. I bet you really let yourself go after high school. That joke would be so much funnier if your thighs weren’t so thick.

That is absurd.

And yet . . . these are the real things I worry that people think about me. My boss, my best friend, my old high school crush- You must just be barely tolerating me. You must be saving some of your affection for me for when I lose weight. 

I’m embarrassed to admit this but I think you (yes, you) don’t love me as much as you would if I were thinner. (Cheeks get red, neck gets hot, prays to Jesus to strike me down dead.) When people take a chance and get vulnerable with me, I am so deliberate to communicate with them “There is nothing you could ever do that would make me not love you” but I just can’t let myself believe that would be true in return. Ouch.

I casually keep up with Donald Miller’s Storyline blog. You might know him from Blue Like Jazz. In the middle of a series called “Start Life Over,” he wrote a post called “You are in a Relationship with Yourself, Make it a Healthy One.” It’s worth a read. In it, he profiles his friend who he admires. He says:

The reason I respect my friend so much is because he does respectful things. . . So I began to wonder, if I do more respectful things, perform more generous actions and, well, dress a little better, will I actually have a little more self respect?

So I made a list of the qualities I respect. (I actually did this. Grabbed a legal pad and made a written list.) Here’s a sample:

A sense of style (decor and personal)
Authenticity
Humor
Integrity
Good taste

Spoiler alert: No where on that list is “thin.” You don’t even find “healthy.” I searched myself and I realized, I couldn’t even jot down, “Was overweight, worked really hard, self-actualized, and got fit.” I think people who have overcome health struggles are freaking awesome. I’m so proud of them. But, I don’t really respect them more because of it. So why do I think I would respect myself more if I do?

Let me be clear: I am making an active attempt to lose weight right now. I am doing that for a litany of reasons- some we’ve already covered and some we will get to. But it is a mistake for me to think that in succeeding, I will respect myself more. (This becomes more crucial still if I am less than successful.) A big part of this journey for me is getting out of my head and building habits I don’t have to think about, don’t have to have feelings for (more on this later.) But another part is cultivating a sense of adoration of myself and the way my pieces are put together.

Did it ever occur to you that I’m a good writer because I have busted the thighs out of every pair of jeans I’ve ever owned? I’m just saying, neither one of those things has ever existed without the other. Correlation as causation?

Rachel, in her constant encouragement, directed me to a couple blogs and I want to share them with you as well- Brittany, Herself and The Militant Baker write great body positive blogs with heaps of perspective.  I’m personally pretty obsessed with GabiFresh (her Instagram is v. on point.) And while you’re on Instagram, go ahead and give a follow to Ashley Graham, Girl with Curves, and Mercy Watson. These are women who simply do not mess around with being anything but themselves. They just don’t have time for that.

Maybe you are struggling with some of this (at any size, ladies be trippin.) Or maybe you’ve been with me in the pit before and really want to cheer me on to the other side. (I want this too.) I’m taking the time to dig out these feelings and examine them. Do they feed me? Are they life-giving? I’m cleaning house y’all. I don’t have space for anything that doesn’t serve me- including that voice that says, Yes, but if you were only thinner…

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3 thoughts on “Body Positive

  1. Man, mind blown. I love this perspective on how to think about our bodies! And just for the record, Amanda, I consider you an awesome person whom I’m respect regardless of what you look like! (Although I do love your fashion sense A LOT 🙂 )

  2. Rachel L says:

    :::Slow Clap::::: Preach! I love the perspective of respecting yourself as well. I always say loving myself, but respecting really gives more of a sense of trying to see yourself from the outside without that critical voice like you said. I have trouble with the “me” because I was skinniest (read, skinny for me) when I first got together with husband K and I think back to that time wistfully. Then I remember, I got that skinny through a devastating time, sickness, heartbreak and stress. I am now a little bit chunky post baby because I got to experience the greatest joy ever. For me, spending time loving myself and respecting myself actually helps me live healthier because I’m an emotional eater. If I don’t focus on the negative emotions I happily live healthily in self love. It was a revelation to me that trying to practice food hate (i.e. never eat a carb etc. etc.) just lead to more body hate. Food love for me just led to me loving myself more and lo and behold I found balance (food love meaning for healthy foods as well as indulgences). I ate fresh veggies and did not hate myself for having a cookie whenever. I stopped attaching food to every positive OR negative experience I was having it just lost its power. I enjoy it but I don’t have to let it be the footnote to everything I’m doing. Life is just more than that.

    Keep writing, I love reading what you write and for real, you have a very real talent.

  3. Andi O says:

    I think as women, we are brought up to have this love hate relationship with ourselves. We are taught that thin is beautiful and anything but that for ourselves isn’t acceptable. I read your blog and agree with every point. I also love people for who they are, curves and all. (I also may dislike a small handful of people, but that is based on their personality and not their clothing size.) If somebody I know wants to be more healthy, I applaud them, but I don’t base my relationship on them on whether they fit into a certain size clothing. If that were the case and it were the reverse, I certainly wouldn’t have any friends. As I have gotten older, I have found that the times that I use a two or three-way mirror to obsess about how big my behind may look has lessened–I now just know it is what is is and work to cover it up most of the time, if at all possible! But, regardless, I still have that ugly voice in my head beating myself up when I see myself in photos or eat that piece of chocolate that I know I shouldn’t have. If there was a secret to getting rid of that voice from hell, I’m first in line. I’ve learned to live with it. I know that when I feel my best, I FEEL healthy regardless of the size on the label, when my skin glows from happiness, and when I know that when I have a bad day, I have a list of people I can call to support me and talk me off my metaphorical ledge.

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