Much as I talked about my up and downs with fitness tracking and the technology that fuels that and how it affects my emotional well-being and how I feel about myself and my body, I’m now going to talk a little bit about my up and downs with body positivity and my near-daily struggle to accept myself as I am and settle in and be okay with the possibility that I may remain exactly this same weight, shape, and clothing size for the rest of my life, and to own that and love that instead of feeling like I deserve to be miserable and that I should somehow be punished for “letting myself go.”
Let’s just say I’ve “dabbled” in the body positive movement off and on for the past few years. There have been times where I’ve been so okay with my body and my size and my weight and there have been (many more) times where I have been so NOT okay with any of those things and was generally disgusted with myself.
Recently I find myself worrying that by accepting myself and choosing to love my current body that I’m somehow making excuses and in denial about the “health” of my body. I’m really doing okay. I really, really am.
Over the last couple months I’ve come to see the amazing and powerful affect that near-daily aerobic exercise has had on my emotional health and my outlook on life; that alone should be, and sometimes is, enough to make me want to exercise regularly. But I also find myself regularly discouraged that my body isn’t changing the way (or, more realistically, as quickly as) I want it to.
The more discouraged I become the more I shift my focus toward wanting to “look good” and generally pursue this goal by following a specified program for “weight loss” or “fat loss.” The harder the pursuit, the harder it becomes to enjoy whatever type of movement I’m choosing to participate in and the more bored I become. The more bored I get, the more I begin thinking I should just move in the ways I enjoy in that moment, so I will begin to haphazardly choose my movement with no real direction. The longer this goes on the more I get stuck in a place of “this isn’t working” (meaning: I’m not losing weight or fat) and the more I begin to shift my focus toward that look-good piece of everything. Wash, rinse, repeat. Sprinkled around in there is the loss of control when it comes to food and purposely eating things that don’t make my mind or my body feel good in much larger quantities than necessary. In the midst of all of this the legitimate health benefits (both mental and physical) of movement/purposeful exercise are thrown to the wayside and ignored… because deep down it is ingrained in me that eating well and exercising are only to achieve or maintain a certain body aesthetic; that a thin, lean, toned body is the most important piece and really the only goal to pursue. Better blood panels, a healthier heart, and the possibility of longer life are just added bonuses to having a rockin’ hot bod that others covet and enjoy looking at.
This is a fundamentally fucked up way of thinking about my body. I know this. We all know this somewhere deep inside.
The reality is this:
Being thinner or more “toned” or whatever isn’t going to fix how you feel about yourself. Those feelings don’t come from the fat you carry around every day. In fact, that body fat or weight or whatever you want to call it, may actually be a product of the way you feel about yourself.
I believe my current extra fluff is a manifestation of stress, depression, anxiety, and grief. Which is why I, occasionally, put a lot of thought into being okay with my current size and shape and being accepting of the idea that I may be this size and shape for the remainder of my life. But most importantly, in that acceptance, as part of the acceptance, I should continue to participate in purposeful exercise not for the purpose of becoming a smaller version of myself, but to support a healthier heart and a healthier mind, to be a happier version of myself regardless of whether or not my body shape changes in the process.