Body positivity is a wonderful thing if you are a woman who loves their body, but the reality in society is that many of us really struggle with this. As women, our bodies are changing all the time. Weight can fluctuate with what’s going on in your life: lifestyle changes, age, whether you are having or have had children, how active you are and what kind of job you are doing.
If you have or are suffering from Body Dysmorphia or other eating disordered thoughts and behaviours, the emphasis is so much on body image/body flaws/imperfections and weight, so trying to learn to love yourself and your body is a really tall task to set yourself.
We’ve often been asked (on social media in particular), “isn’t body positivity just promoting obesity?”
Body positivity isn’t promoting obesity. It’s promoting a revolution against the highly critical, highly punitive cultural norm that we’ve all become accepting of, which is to criticise anyone who doesn’t fit in to this very tiny demographic of what it is to be ‘normal’.
We live in a society that profits from our insecurities, and because we’re consistently told that we can look better or prettier, we buy into it.
However, these messages are teaching us to nurture an internal bully – because we view ourselves as inadequate, we consistently ‘apologise’ for what we assume are universally acknowledged misgivings. Couple this with the power of social media and the inescapable scrutiny upon our bodies, it’s hard for people to see that they can identify themselves by anything other than their appearance.
When somebody has poor body confidence, they will often limit themselves by society’s standards and expectations. Rather, they make choices from an ‘unwell’ mindset, deciding to work against themselves, instead of with themselves. An unconfident individual doesn’t dress for themselves, doesn’t celebrate who they are and their external appearance is likely to reflect this. Essentially, they find themselves looking for validation from anyone or anything external. These and other symptoms develop as a means of coping with the painful anxiety they feel towards their appearance.
What many people don't realise is that the issue isn't your weight, it's about how you view and respect yourself as a whole person.
Reaching your ‘target weight’ won’t give you the happiness you’ve been searching for, because the critical voice that’s told you “you’re not worthy of love” is still there – it’s just going to find something else to trip you up with. The voice will keep you living in fear of any changes on the scale, and in turn it’ll likely mess with your diet and your social life.
Instead, if we put all that determination and energy into learning to love and nurture our bodies, we would respond to their cues intuitively. This means that we would eat what was right for us at the right times, and we would respect our hunger and our fullness. In turn, our bodies would naturally morph into whatever is normal and comfortable for us as individuals.
Let’s forget body positivity for now - a more attainable goal and more realistic approach to improving body image is body neutrality.
This, if you like, is the middle ground between loving and hating your body. It is about learning acceptance and being grateful of your body but not about its appearance or size but what it is (your home) and what it allows you to do. Part of building acceptance, self-love and self-respect is acknowledging that there is no ‘right way’ to look. It’s very empowering to accept that you are so much more than a clothing size or certain body shape.
With body neutrality there is less pressure as it affords the opportunity to accept and acknowledge that your body is at times not feeling good and that you can have more of a peaceful mindset as there are no positive or negative feelings or comments as you are so much more than just a body. (In other words, it’s acceptance without judgement). In this state you can subsequently focus on your life.
LEARNING TO BE NEUTRAL ABOUT YOUR BODY TAKES TIME. LEARNING TO BE POSITIVE ABOUT YOUR BODY TAKES EVEN LONGER.
Many people don’t realise that it is absolutely possible to create a toolkit of loving and caring resources that you can draw upon in times of need. Cultivating true love and acceptance for your body involves adopting a lifestyle where the communication between yourself and your body is entirely loving. Daily meditation and affirmations, or creating a vision board, are great ways you can focus your attention upon cultivating these loving responses to painful emotions.
At the clinic, we work with clients to manage their disordered thoughts and behaviour, gain a sense of empowerment, and build self-esteem and body confidence on these foundations.
We do this by providing them with tailored treatment programs that attend to their individual clinical needs throughout their recovery. These include nutritional therapy which involves encouraging sufferers to be mindful and intuitive with food – listening to their body and acting in a self-caring way towards this.
Today we teach sufferers that they are worthy and from our community they gain a sense of love and belonging that they retain in their hearts long after they’ve graduated from their program. This isn’t about a BMI or a food plan, it’s about being taught how not to be afraid and how to love with your whole heart.
We run a Body Image Group which looks at:
- Reaching self-acceptance – accepting your body for what it is and what it allows you to do. It is so important not to neglect your body but to love and care for it and listen to it, after all it takes care of you.
- Focusing on the positive – spending less time blaming yourself for every mistake or flaw and more time appreciating the positive aspects of your life and yourself. Thinking positively gives you more opportunity to feel positive. It is important to feel good and nurture yourself.
- Dressing to impress yourself – expressing your sense of style and finding clothes that make you feel good. Celebrating and expressing your own sense of style will help you radiate confidence and boost your self-esteem. Your beauty or self-worth has nothing to do with your shape or weight.
- Creating your own ideals – we don’t have to conform to society’s view of what’s beautiful, beauty encompasses more than physical characteristics. We are all beautiful and embracing that is an important part of self-love.
Write For Us
Have you struggled with an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, mental illness or trauma?
We’d love to hear from you! Click here to email us about writing for our blog. Whether you want to share your story or an inspirational/motivational piece, you could help others who are experiencing similar thoughts, feelings and behaviour.