accepting your body at every size

it isn't your "diet" that needs to be cleaned up

I’d like to preface this newsletter by saying that nothing I’m about to say here is new. It’s all been said before and read before. However, I find that these are things that I need to be constantly reminded of because they’re so, so easy to forget.

I’m going to get deeper into everything, but let me first say, stop commenting on people’s weight. It doesn’t matter if you’re complimenting them on losing weight or criticizing them for gaining weight. You never know why someone’s weight is fluctuating. There is a myriad of reasons, and it isn’t always something that’s done intentionally. It’s often related to health issues that aren’t visible. Other people’s bodies are not your business. Read that again.

Now, onto accepting our own bodies:

Myself and a lot of my friends and peers are reaching an age where we notice a lot of changes in our bodies. Our metabolism has started to slow down. No matter how much we change our diets or work out, it’s not having the same effect it used to. And it’s frustrating. We look at pictures from a few years ago and mourn the bodies we used to live in. We need to stop doing this.

It’s not just people in their late 20’s, though. People of all ages experience major body changes, namely with their weight, and struggle to feel comfortable in their skin.

We’re taught to never be satisfied with our bodies, to constantly compare, that no version of our body is the best version, and let me tell you - that is bullshit. I’ve been battling these kinds of thoughts since I was 11 years old. Every magazine I read and TV show I watched never failed to let me know that I wasn’t good enough, that my body wasn’t small enough. I’ve been struggling with disordered eating and an unhealthy relationship with exercise since I was 15. I don’t want to anymore. Lately, I eat what I want when I want and don’t think about it; the calories, if it’s ‘good’ for me. Or at least, I try not to. And that is a radical act of self-love.

Here are some steps I’ve been taking to make accepting and loving my body as it is.

Clean up your social media (who you’re following/what you’re consuming there.)

I started quarantine with a re-commitment to working out frequently. I even wrote about the Blogilates challenges I was doing. And I stayed really consistent for about a month. But I was disappointed to see barely *any* changes in my body. It made all my hard work feel pointless. I really did enjoy the workouts at first - I always enjoy the structure they add to my day. But after a while, I noticed I was actually hurting my body by over-exerting it. And let’s face it, I was working out to look thinner. Not for the other reasons people claim to be working out. To be fair, there have been a lot of times where working out helps my anxiety. Lately, it isn’t really doing that for me.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to unfollow Cassey Ho, a.k.a. Blogilates on Instagram. I was tired of seeing her on my screen with her faux positivity, tired of seeing her harmful cartoons that reinforced negative body images. Myself and a number of other followers expressed our discomfort at a cartoon she posted a few weeks back, pictured below (with my comment next to it.)

Like I said in my comment to her, unless she truly is suffering from body dysmorphia, there’s no way she can relate to feeling like a potato in a monokini with fat spilling out. She IS the same body type as most fitness models and not by accident. And even if she is suffering from body dysmorphia, how does it help to share negative images like this? Especially when her platform caters to women who are following her for workout inspiration and tips and are most likely not confident in their bodies. A quick scan of her page just now showed me that she’s working on a meal plan and received feedback questioning how that would work when people’s bodies respond differently to different foods. While she did respond to the initial comment clarifying that it would be customizable, she seemed to tap out of the conversation when others raised concerns that she might be promoting harmful fears of foods that many people who have struggled with eating disorders already suffer from.

It seems to me that she’s not comfortable acknowledging the very real existence of eating disorders and body dysmorphia that many people who follow fitness-type accounts on Instagram are dealing with or recovering from. I think it’s because she knows that she would have to make massive changes to her content if she were to address any of the concerns many of her followers have. Since she refuses to hold herself accountable, I held myself accountable and asked why I was still following her when I disagreed with so much of what she posted. There are much better accounts to follow for fitness tips if I’m ever seeking them out.

For instance, a blogger I follow who is in ED recovery and is open about her journey, Erin Lives Whole. She shares a lot of recipes that are easy to make and that I truly adore - especially her flourless pumpkin brownies. While I do still struggle with her use of the word “healthy” because I don’t love the connotations that come with it (i.e. that some foods are “bad” or “guilty”), she doesn’t ever shame any of her followers in the way that other bloggers and influencers tend to do.

We spend so much of our time scrolling on social media, we should be careful of what we’re consuming.

Clean up your language.

This is a hard one, but it has to be done. Cut out words like “guilty” or “bad” or “clean” or “dirty” when it comes to food. No food is inherently good or clean and no food is particularly bad. It’s all just food. Eat what makes you happy in the moment and don’t let it make you feel guilty. I know it’s easier said than done, but refraining from labeling foods helps.

Also, watch the way you talk to people or talk online about your weight or your eating habits. Don’t talk about “the quarantine 15” or how fat how you feel lately. You never know who’s ED you may be triggering. Often, people do this around friends who are even heavier than them, which is endlessly frustrating. To be in a small body, more acceptable by society’s standards, and complain about your size to your larger friend who likely has a harder time accepting themself is unacceptable and so tone-deaf. Society has socialized us all to think we are never the right size, no matter what size we’re at. That doesn’t make it okay to regurgitate these harmful phrases, putting ourselves down and putting others down.

Even if you’re commenting on a celebrity or yourself, the people around you hear what you’re saying. They internalize the negative comments you make about yourselves or celebrities and apply it to themselves. I know I did this plenty growing up with a mom who was naturally thin and often had harsh criticisms for anyone who didn’t have the same body type as hers. I did realize later on in life that it was more about her own insecurity, but by then, I’d already internalized a lot of it and felt terrible about myself for being “too big.”

Stop thinking about it.

This one is really just easier said than done, and it’s not something I even feel totally comfortable saying, because I know so many people struggle with disordered eating to some degree and thinking about every bite of food we take and every workout we miss is second nature. I’ve been doing some serious mental gymnastics to try to ‘justify’ foods I’ve eaten and my lack of exercise and somehow over the last couple weeks, I’ve gotten much better at shutting that voice up. It takes practice. I can confidently say that I’ve really just been eating whatever I feel like and working out whenever I feel like it lately and my body is doing fine. It feels better than usual, even. Often we do instinctually know what our bodies need and we reject those notions to follow strict diets and push ourselves to work out when we need to just rest.

Ignore other people’s comments.

It’s so important to remember that when people have negative things to say about you or someone else or even themselves, it’s often because they’re insecure. Some people struggle to find value in themselves outside of their appearance. It also relates back to my last newsletter and the concept of having to always be holier than thou. People like to laud their diet and exercise regimens as accomplishments that make them better than others who don’t follow the same rules. They pride themselves on their discipline. But their diet and discipline has nothing to do with you.

Working out and eating a specific diet doesn’t make you a good person, it doesn’t make you better than anyone else, and not working out and not eating a specific diet doesn’t make you a bad person or worse than anyone else. Do what makes you happy and what feels natural to you.

If you find that you’re a person who always feels the need to comment on other people’s weight or eating habits, ask yourself what you gain from it. I’m sure the answer is absolutely nothing, albeit a bit of self-righteousness.

It’s hard work to unlearn everything that we’ve been fed from the media but it’s necessary work that unfortunately falls on us.

Be intentional with your words. Think about how you talk to yourself and others. Appreciate your body for all it does for you and also remember that we are so much more than our bodies and the numbers on a scale. Which reminds me, don’t weigh yourself! It almost always does more harm than good.

I’m not going to tell you to love the way you look every day. I know that isn’t easy. What I do ask of you is to move past the need to place your physical appearance on such a high pedestal.

Take care of yourself and those around you.

Sending you all lots of love,