The Intersection of “Health” Management and Body Positivity

IMG_5639624664301It seems like most of us are on two separate paths, or streets if you will.

Health Management Freeway: Diets, workouts, the general rat race of “weight loss.” It’s packed, crowded, and you get some rush hour traffic in January. Everyone has been on this freeway in one way or another their whole lives. Some people are on it for their entire lives.

Body Positive Way: This street is certainly not as crowded. It’s definitely the path less traveled. Body positivity is all about loving yourself for who you are, believing that all bodies are good bodies, and not stressing diet and exercise.

You would think these are two roads that are headed in opposite directions.

Yet, I think everyone who even considers becoming body positive eventually comes to the intersection of health management and body positivity. Just because I love and accept my body for what it is doesn’t mean that I ignore the fact that it is still an organic machine. It needs specific foods to function. It needs activity to keep it strong. I have many different health problems that run in my family, that necessitate me keeping track of my food choices. But, I also have a disordered relationship with my body image, that necessitates me detaching my self worth from my outward appearance. (Though, let’s be honest. Everyone should be doing this anyway.)

So, what do you do when you build a house at the corner of the Health Management Freeway and Body Positive Way? How can anyone both focus and strive for any sort of health goal (weight or otherwise) without falling into the unhealthy traps of disordered eating and self-hate?

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I have all the answers. I’ve heard a couple different programs and books being suggested through the small sect of the BoPo community that I am connected with. (Health at Every Size, Mindful Eating, Intuitive Eating.) I’ll be honest, I haven’t really looked into any of them. I tend to be one of those “I need to do it on my own” types. It must be an ego thing.

20150614_114923What I can tell you, having set up shop on this confusing corner myself, and I’m constantly monitoring my motivations. I’m grateful I’ve had over a year to practice listening to what my inner voice says, and learning to change it to a more positive mindset.

So, when I think about the health goals I have, I refuse to think about my outward appearance. Should it come up in my brain, I let it go and replace it with a more constructive thought.

For example, I want to incorporate some sort of home work out into my routine this winter. I want to do this because I have a goal of visiting every waterfall in my state, and I’m starting to run out of the easy ones. Soon, I’m going to have to do more difficult hikes, and in a year or two I will have to start doing backpacking trips. So, I need to build of my stamina and my core strength. Do I care if it changes how my body looks? Absolutely not. Do I care if I end up losing weight? No.

I want to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in my diet. I want to do this because I know too much processed food is bad for me. I’m starting to think that, as I get older, my body is not a huge fan of cheese. Also, diabetes and heart disease run in my family. And, now that I’m… older… I am starting to realize I really should pay attention to these things. Am I focused on how a change in my diet will change my weight? Nope. Do I care? Absolutely not.

Dance SelfieHere’s my theory. My focus should be on what makes me feel fulfilled and content. My mind, and my body, feel better when I treat them both with respect. Every body is different. It’s about listening to what MY body wants. What MY body craves. I can tell you, it doesn’t crave crossfit. It does, however, absolutely love a good hike. Heck, even a good 2-3 mile hike in the wilderness does wonders for my mood. My body does not crave brussel sprouts. Nope. But, it is enjoying Spaghetti Squash, Cauliflower popcorn, and the occasional Zucchini noddle. It also enjoys a snickers bar and the seldom made homemade cupcakes. My goal is to do things that make my body happy. Dancing makes my body happy. Long showers makes it happy. Cuddling with my family, and reading under blankets, and watching star trek while knitting, also make it happy.

Will my body composition change as I get more in tune with what MY body needs? Perhaps. But that is up to my “physical transportation vessel”. Whether it changes or not doesn’t modify who I am as a person. Whether I lose weight, or gain weight, has little to no barring on my goals and life. So, I refuse to pay attention to it. I’m not sure the last time I stepped on a scale at home, but it’s been over six months. I certainly don’t plan to break that anytime soon.

So, that’s how I plan to be happy at the intersection of health management and body positivity. I don’t have to join the rush hour traffic of self hatred. Honestly, I think true body positivity leads to health more quickly and efficiently than the freeway does anyway. It’s all about loving and accepting yourself. Our goals should always be to learn to listen to what our bodies want, not what other people think our bodies need. There is no healthier lifestyle than that.

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Craigslist Chronicles: My Response

girl-850117_1280There are so many moving pieces to this story. It may take a me a few days to tell it all. I figure we might as well start with my response to a group of fat shamers who have been trolling the Craigslist Rants & Raves section.


 

 

I have promised myself for days that I wasn’t going to respond to any of this. I was happy to ignore your ignorance before you brought my second home into this.

Yes, I am the dancer you (3?) seem to dislike so much. I am grateful for anyone, and everyone, who dance with me. If I’m taking good leads, it’s because I’ve been kind to them and they are kind to me in return. The dance floor here is not a competition. I’m going to assume you are a competitive WCS dancer, which is why you are so focused on my technique.

That’s right, posters, I am dangerous. Dangerously lacking in a give-a-damn for your opinion.

I suppose I am a planet. Planet Awesome. Luckily my gravity is selective, which probably why you’ve never gotten close enough to get to know anything about me. I’m also blessed to not revolve around your bullshit.

My diet is none of your business. My health is no one’s business.

All and all, it’s cool you picked me to take your misogynistic bullshit out on. Maybe the fact that I have already started separating my self-worth from the opinions of others is the reason why I made such a tasty target for your forked tongue. A big girl with confidence, and who does not care what your whispering about in the corner? I bet that is frustrating.

bamboo-364112_1920Keep your focus on me, because I can take your shade. (I shine bright.) You are only proving that fat shaming is slowly becoming unacceptable. You’ll have to find some other way to entertain yourself (selves?). May I humbly suggest the COCC classes on interpersonal communication? Or a therapist? I’m sure there’s a monastery far away from my horrific fat rolls that will let you contemplate your outlook on life.
I am incredibly grateful for the statement by the Owner of Maverick’s. I have never felt anything but love and support from the staff and patrons and I feel incredibly grateful to have such a supportive and fun environment to express myself in. If you have ever thought of learning to dance, but have been worried about people being judgmental, please believe Maverick’s is a great place to start. This isolated situation aside, I have never had any problems. The patrons of Maverick’s are far from shallow, and even insinuating such makes me a sad panda.

Continue to come at me. I can take it. I hope out of this disastrous shit show we can grow some understanding. These kinds of things happen every day, to hundreds (thousands) of people. Being bullied and shamed because of how you look is no easy thing. There have been enough studies to show that shaming people for their weight is not a positive catalyst for change. In fact, it can trigger disordered eating habits, which have the potential to be life threatening. I’m strong enough to take these words, and I’m happy to do it if it means you (all of you?) are leaving other big girls alone for awhile.

As for my behavior on the floor. I’m not sure what that is about. But, I know it’s tough for some people to watching a big girl have a good time and even express her sexuality. But, it’s not my job to make you comfortable with my body. It’s my job to be comfortable in my body.

Again, maybe look into that monastery. Because I’m not going to stop dancing for anyone.


 

In addition, I am incredibly grateful to all the people who have come to my defense. I don’t want to spend too much time focusing on the negative without spotlighting there has been way more positive things said on the matter. This brings us to our first lesson of the Craigslist Chronicles: No matter how many negative things are said, always know that you have twice as many people who have your back and love you for who you are.

Come Wade In The Water With Me

blonde-826027_1920It seems to be a common bonding ritual for women to stand around and talk smack about their bodies. I am in no position to judge this practice, as it was general operating procedure for me as well. I stopped when I took a challenge in mindfulness. (herehere, and here.) I learned so much about how often I automatically insulted myself.

The problem with these comments is they seep into our heads, and fuel the bitchy voice that reminds us of our faults. Fueling that bitch only creates a perfect storm of self-hate.

It’s not our fault we talk shit about our bodies. I think society has so warped how we are suppose to see ourselves. It is considered vain to not knock some part of our body when someone else does it. It is how women bond.

And, let’s be honest. It’s how we fish for compliments. Both with fellow women and with men. There’s no better way to get a man to tell you how beautiful you are than by looking at him and saying that you aren’t beautiful. I get it. Been there. At the same time, it is hard to take compliments about our bodies. Any time someone verbally acknowledges our physical features, it’s so hard not to swat those words away and speak down to them.

couple-663183_1920Wanna know a little secret? If you talk shit about your own body long enough, not only will you believe it, but so will your partner. Eventually, they will also see your body in a negative light. We tell our partners how to treat us, and how to see us.

But, coming from someone who has been off the wagon of talking shit about myself for a year or so now (give or take a few mistakes), I can tell you there is a better way. It’s amazing much easier it is to enjoy your reflection in the mirror when your not talking shit about your body all the time. What we say out loud becomes what we think to ourselves at our most vulnerable moments. Be kind to yourself at all times. And, honestly, believe when people tell you that you are beautiful.

Wash off the weight of the world’s shame. Come wade in the body positive water with me. You will find it refreshingly invigorating.

How I Win A Mirror Ball Trophy

close-up-18753_1280“… you think you are better at west coast (swing) than you really are.”

I received this feedback recently, and it struck me how similar it is to what fat people hear about their lives. So many in world want fat people to be miserable because of how they look. If a fat person “dares” to live their life exuding confidence they are told they act happier than they really are, or at least happier than they should be.

There is this idea in the world that you have to have certain things, or be certain things, to be happy. I have to be a certain weight and look a certain way, before fat shamers think it’s okay for me to wear a smile (not to mention horizontal stripes or contour dresses). That’s why they think it’s glorifying obesity anytime someone overweight is seen in the media doing ANYTHING other than crying.

I can go out on a dance floor and enjoy myself, because my goal is to enjoy myself. I’m not blind to my lack of skill set. I certainly have no delusions of grandeur about entering a dance competition anytime soon. The same philosophy goes for life. I don’t always know the right steps to take, and I’ve been known to stumble through difficult situations. That doesn’t change my worth, and it certainly doesn’t have to take away my smile.

There will always be a panel of self-appointed judges in the world. They will sit on the side of the life’s dance floor and critic everyone they see. Since I started this journey, I’ve stopped dancing, or living, for them. What they think of me is none of my business. 20150921_140359What matters is if I’m dancing my way through life in a way that makes me feel happy and fulfilled. As long as I can look myself in the mirror and give myself a high score all the categories that matter (Am I a good person? Am I good mom? Am I good wife?), then I’m winning the only mirror ball trophy I care about.

I don’t mind admitting that I smile when I think of the self-appointed judges of the world. I like to think I try to bring happiness to everyone I meet. And, if snickering about my dance and life makes people happy, then I’m glad they are watching. It costs me nothing to make them smile.

 

The Healthiest Thing I Ever Did Was Become Body Positive.

IMG_5639624664301When I first started to identify with the body positive movement I was neck deep in myfitnesspal.com and counting calories. I began to wonder if it was really possible to focus on losing weight and become “body positive.” It almost derailed my journey to self acceptance.

I was stuck in a logic loop that said that in order to become healthy I had to change my outward appearance. I couldn’t love my body, or myself, until I hit a certain weight. Luckily, the dark side of the health industry did not win the battle for my soul.

Of course, as I’ve talked about in my previous posts, focusing on becoming body positive has lead to a healthier lifestyle. The conundrum really solved itself. Unfortunately, I hear all too often about women who love the idea of loving themselves but they have too much weigh to lose.

Becoming body positive is not about ignoring my health, or pretending like the rules for healthy living don’t apply to me. Fruits and vegetables are still an important part of my diet. Soda is bad for me, and I’m doing very well with kicking it to the curb and detaching from the sugary teet. I still struggle with finding well rounded, healthy, meals that appeal to everyone in my family. I am confident I would be having these struggles either way. It’s the way I go about these struggles that has drastically changed.

In my previous post, I talk about how I’m winning the war against emotional eating without having to wage a single battle.

It’s about health. Honestly, it’s not about losing weight anymore. I no longer buy into the 20150822_111131mind-washing BS that I have to be a certain size to enjoy my life, or to be viewed as a decent human being. Because I’m learning to love my body, and all the wonderful things I can do with it, I want to treat it with care. My focus on eating better comes from a more caring and loving place, making it easier to focus on. It’s not fueled by shame, fear, or rules.

It’s about doing things I love. I’ve found physical activities that motivate and inspire me to move my body. I don’t know if I would have found the confidence to explore hiking and dancing without the body positive movement.

I hope you notice what is missing. My health goals aren’t about conforming my body to  the unattainable standard of beauty. It’s about living life to it’s largest potential.

We should all want to be as healthy as we can possibly be. We only have one life, one body, and treating it with care is so important. The problem is that we live in a time when so many people confuse healthy with skinny. Not every skinny person is healthy. Not every fat person is unhealthy. Health is not an outward appearance thing. Being healthy is not about how pretty you look. Once I separated pursuing health from pursuing beauty, it made it much easier to focus on trying to live a healthier life.

I have to admit, most of my lifestyle isn’t about pursuing healthy habits at all. I hike because I love the outdoors, and the feeling of exploring something new. I walk because it’s a great way to socialize. I dance because I love synchronizing my body with music. (Let’s be honest, I also like to pretend I’m a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.) I found hobbies that recharg my soul. Yet, because of these hobbies I exercise, and sweat, more every week than I used to in a year.

The healthiest thing I ever did for myself was become body positive. I can honor my body’s unique needs without guilt and shame. I realized that my path to being healthy is something very personal and specific to my body. I could explore what options were right for me.

Roar

It’s okay to be body positive and focus on a improving health. Being body positive means being free to find the path that is right for you, and works with what your body needs. The movement is all about recognizing that every body is different, and each person has different needs and health issues. Whatever it is that makes you feel fulfilled and happy, go for it.

It’s your life. It’s your path. It’s your decision. Don’t believe that you have to hate yourself in order to be healthy.

 

There Are No Inferior Positions, Only Inferior Attitudes

I line dance on the weekends. Getting ready to dance means finding your place on the floor. If you are lucky enough to get a front row spot it is either a slow night, or you have been  nominated by the crowd around you to be front and center. It usually means that the people around you trust your knowledge of the dance and want watch your feet.

20141226_212702There were a couple times I was “nominated” for the front row. Yet, after a few minutes I found people pushing me out of their way. It was a combination of feeling invisible, and yet, obviously unwanted.

Luckily for me it doesn’t take much to change my spot mid dance. Being in the second row, or even the back row, doesn’t bother me much. The crowd is less competitive, and I don’t feel as much pressure to make the dance look good. (Okay, let’s be honest. I take more creative privilege knowing there aren’t people watching my feet.)

Like most deep thinkers, I thought this was an interesting metaphor for life. Some people will do whatever they deem necessary to be in the spotlight, even if it means pushing someone just as deserving behind them.

The key, for me, is letting go of my desire to be in the front row. Life isn’t about the spotlight, it’s about the dance. I have more fun being surrounded by people who are having a good time.

There are no inferior positions, only inferior attitudes.