Healthy Living vs Body Positivity

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

At the start of the year, I started eating much healthier and finally pushed myself into going to the gym.   Since then, I've felt physically great and have pretty proud of myself for finally having the discipline to do something I'd been meaning to do for years, but never followed through with or stuck to (having a £9 gym membership at my work is a pretty big help in that respect).  Despite feeling physically great though, healthy living started to become like walking a tight-rope for me and lately I'd noticed that it's been difficult to maintain my body positivity and love and respect for my body as it is now and as it was before I even started all of this.

For those who aren't familiar with it, the body positivity movement is in a nutshell about loving all of yourself and going against the media rhetoric that our bodies are things that need to be improved and changed and that we should care or hide so-called flaws.  It's about coming to terms with your own insecurities, rejecting mainstream ideals of what our bodies 'should' look like and learning to love yourself whether you're super skinny, super fat, super healthy, super unhealthy and anything and everything in between.  No matter what your size, your looks, your diet, or the state of your health, you're beautiful and deserving of love and respect just the way you are.  I used to use Tumblr a lot, and it was through this that I learned about the movement, started to surround myself with body positive bloggers, images and inspiration and eventually started to feel comfortable and beautiful in my own skin, belly chub and thick thighs and all.

Since then though, not only have I stopped using Tumblr as regularly, but I've also been dipping into healthy living, which many people who are part of body positive circles online will probably know can be a bit of a minefield.  Pro-eating disorder ideas can sometimes subtly hide behind pro-fitness ones, pictures of skinny, toned bodies are everywhere and there is a huge emphasis on the types of foods and the number of calories you consume.  I thought I was doing a good job avoiding or ignoring all of these things (I've never even weighed myself, before or after), but then I started to realise that once I was seeing clear, physical results from my exercise and meals, my mindset became less about what I thought I was doing it for - getting stronger, fitter and healthier - and more along the lines of: hey, I've come this far and ended up changing my body this much, how much further can I go?  How much flatter can I get my stomach?  How much slimmer can I get my legs?  Could I drop a dress size if I pushed myself a little harder?  Ate a little less?

Once I realised this and started to look more critically at the way I was thinking about myself and other people, I noticed that I was slipping back into old habits I thought I'd long since kicked.  I was hyper-aware of my stomach and legs, self-concious in clothes I didn't use to be self-concious in and saw parts of my body as things that I didn't just want to change but needed to change again.  When I looked at other people, my thoughts didn't immediately shoot to the good in their appearances like I did before, instead I was back to thinking that they could use some exercise, or less food, or wow I'm glad I don't look like that.  If someone was attractive or slim, I was right back to square one of comparing myself to them and feeling bad for not looking like them.

Last time I checked, I was a body positive person who whole-heartedly rejected this kind of rubbish - this shit is not what I'm about and it needs to change.  I'm proud of myself for catching it, getting a handle on it and putting a stop to it, but at the same time I feel ashamed for letting myself get to that point in the first place.

I know now that body positivity, learning to love yourself and seeing the beauty in all shapes and sizes in spite of the body ideals shoved down our throats 24/7 isn't just a switch you flick on and live your life by from then until the day you die - it's an ongoing project.  For me, it's something that requires daily care and consideration for years to come, all the more so if you're exposing yourself to ideas and industries that actively promote changing your body and shame in looking, eating or feeling a certain way.

from @bodyposipanda
My body may be healthier now, but my heart, mind and confidence were starting to look a little worse for wear as a result.  I've continued with my work outs and my healthy eating, but I've also started to follow and subscribe to body positivity and self-love IGers, bloggers and Twitter feeds again.  It helps to see all of these different types of beauty on a daily basis again, to see the smiling faces and shining confidence of women whose bodies look like mine or bigger or smaller or anything and everything, instead of only the abs and flat bellies of tiny, toned and tanned gym girls and fitness gurus who eat chia seeds in two meals a day.  I need to learn to strike a balance and to appreciate myself as I am again, to not push myself for the sake of physical appearance and to not feel guilty for the gym time I miss or the extra calories I eat.

The real challenge though, is learning how to see the beauty and perfect imperfection you see in those other people in yourself.  Or in my case, re-learning.
from @nourishandeat
If you could use some body positive inspiration like I can, here are a few of my favourites to get you started.  Some are by or aimed at those recovering from EDs, some are general body positivity, some are fat acceptance, but all of them maintain that you're fine just the way and encourage self-love, self-care and acceptance of yourself:
https://instagram.com/bodyposipanda
http://bodypositivetips.tumblr.com
http://www.anastasiaamour.com
https://instagram.com/end_body_shame
https://franhayden.wordpress.com
http://stophatingyourbody.tumblr.com
http://redefiningbodyimage.tumblr.com
https://instagram.com/nourishandeat/
http://halt-the-body-hate.tumblr.com
Practice Self Love on Tumblr also has a list of other body posi tumblrs.

Stay beautiful and love yourself,

2 comments

  1. I really relate to this! I think it's difficult not to feel guilty when it comes to fitness and healthy living - I'm trying not to be so hard on myself if I have an off day. And I agree with you that body positivity is about loving and respecting yourself, regardless of size. Will have to follow some of the Instagram accounts you've linked :) xx

    Toasty

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    Replies
    1. I'm trying my best too - it's getting easier again now I've pulled myself out of my slightly obsessive funk!

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