Advocating for self-love and body acceptance is important to me. I mean, obviously. But over the years, I’ve realized that many messages about body image and loving your physical form regardless of its shape or size can be interpreted as exclusionary. Sometimes, when I say, “Love your body as it is,” people hear, “Wanting to change your body is bad,” or, “Nothing is as important as self-acceptance, including your health.”
Health is relative, and it’s a hot-button word. In my opinion, health is deeply personal and not something that can be easily measured by statistics, averages, or numbers alone. Health is complex and different for each of us. There is evidence to support the idea that people can be healthy at many, many weights and sizes, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that.
All that said, I believe that health is important, and that we are all entitled to make changes that will improve our heath and change our bodies. I’ll come right out and say that I’m not a huge fan of traditional, restrictive diets, since they frequently fail and even backfire. But you’re probably aware that I AM a huge fan of exercise and movement, and encourage everyone who’ll listen to seek her own exercise bliss. And I am in no way opposed to healthy weight loss motivated by personal choice. It can be extremely difficult to differentiate body changes motivated by one’s own desires from those driven by social pressures and norms, but I trust you to apply some critical examination and decide for yourself.
I don’t see self love and a desire to change as mutually exclusive. Some people will choose to love themselves unchanged, others will undertake change because of the love and care they feel for themselves. Now it can be dangerous to decide that body changes can lead to increased self love. As in, “I’ll be able to love myself when I finally get that last 10 pounds off.” But, in my experience, loving and accepting your body right now, in the moment, leads to feelings of pride and a desire for increased stewardship. And that can mean resting more, investing in a killer wardrobe, working to improve your sex life, dietary changes, increased exercise, or finally asking the doctor about that thing you’ve been trying to ignore. (You know the one.) When I say, “Love your body as it is,” there’s no hidden, “And never change it,” clause. Sometimes love and change can make a great team.
It’s your body, and it’s the only one you’ll ever have. You get to decide how to care for it, how it looks, what of it you share with others, and how to change it should the desire or need arise. My hope is that you can do all of that while riding on a wave of love and acceptance.
Image courtesy hmmlargeart