Originally published on Body Love Wellness and cross-posted here with their permission.
As you may have heard by now, former body acceptance advocate Jess Weiner was interviewed by Glamour about how loving her body almost killed her.
In the article, she shares how, for her, body acceptance had meant not checking in on her health.
Many other bloggers (as well as myself) have already picked apart the inconsistencies and problematic aspects of this piece. But truthfully, the part of the story that I find most horrendous is that Weiner completely mischaracterizes body acceptance in order to tear it down.
So I think it’s time to get some clarity on what body acceptance really is, what it means, and why it can be so healing for all of us.
Of course, I can’t speak for everyone’s experience of body acceptance, but this is the way that I understand it if we break it down into the simplest terms.
What It is
Body acceptance means, as much as possible, approving of and loving your body, despite its “imperfections,” real or perceived.
That means accepting that your body is fatter than some others, or thinner than some others, that your eyes are a little crooked, that you have a disability that makes walking difficult, that you have health concerns that you have to deal with — but that all of that doesn’t mean that you need to be ashamed of your body or try to change it.
Body acceptance allows for the fact that there is a diversity of bodies in the world, and that there’s no wrong way to have one.
What It’s Not
Body acceptance is not about intentionally disregarding your health.
Accepting and loving your body includes paying attention to its signals and symptoms.
Who It’s For
Body acceptance is for anyone who has a body.
Weight and body oppression is oppressive to everyone. I’ve worked with women who were a size 6 who hated their bodies more than other clients who were a size 24.
When you live in a society that says that one kind of body is bad and another is good, those with “good” bodies constantly fear that their bodies will go “bad,” and those with “bad” bodies are expected feel shame and do everything they can to have “good” bodies.
In the process, we torture our bodies, and do everything from engage in disordered eating to invasive surgery to make ourselves okay.
We blame our friends and family for not having the right kind of body.
Nobody wins in this kind of struggle.
Why Body Acceptance Is Healthy
Body acceptance as part of the Health At Every Size protocol, has been shown to have better long-term health effects than dieting.
Furthermore, body hatred creates an incredible amount of stress in your mind and body.
When you’re fixated on what you don’t like about your body and desperately trying to change it, you’ll often engage in dangerous behaviors (restricting food, over-exercising, surgeries) that don’t lead to better health.
When you start loving your body and respecting its cues and signals, you can eat in a way that nourishes you, move in ways that are good for your body, and seek out health care from professionals who actually respect you and care for you as a whole person.
Some wonderful things can happen when you live your life from a place of body acceptance, love, and respect.
When you see your body with love and approval, amazing changes happen.
For example, you might:
- Decide to stop dieting and eat in a way that is healing and nourishing
- Begin to heal from an eating disorder
- Stop over-exercising when you realize that you might be damaging your precious body
- Start exercising when you find that moving your body in loving ways feels good
- Get better medical care because you know that you are entitled to more than “it’ll go away if you lose weight”
- Get out of a relationship that doesn’t serve you
- Get into a relationship where you are truly loved and cared for
- Find the confidence to set boundaries with people in your life
- Stop comparing yourself to everyone and see the beauty in yourself
- Find that intuitive eating is easier than you thought
- Feel free from the pain of self-hatred and feel great being the person you are
Why It’s Important
People with bodies that are viewed as non-normative – and this includes fat people, despite the fact that there are so many of us – face a lot of stigma, discrimination, and exclusion on a day-to-day basis.
Via body acceptance, fat people can say, “I realize you have a problem with my body, but I refuse to internalize that.”
By refusing to accept the shame that we’re supposed to feel about our bodies, we create change in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
We transform struggle and shame to peace and pride.
Body acceptance becomes an invitation to others – fat, thin, or in between – to love their bodies as well.
Golda Poretsky is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She’s a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Follow her on Twitter at @bodylovewellnes. Read her articles here and book her for speaking engagements here.