What is Body Positivity?
When did we start considering our natural human bodies, when they have excess weight, to be immoral? There is a pervading belief in modern US culture that says if you are carrying extra weight, or if you eat too much, or if you consume a lot of Cheetos, you are somehow a bad person. This is the opposite of body positivity. Is it really a sin or character weakness to have extra padding?
My favorite analogy when thinking about body positivity is a dog. Sometimes for no apparent reason, my dog will look a little heavy in the mid section. Usually it is winter time when we are outside less, and maybe we have been a little lax with feeding her food scraps.
When the dog looks a little heavier I have never condemned her. “You naughty, naughty dog. How dare you gain some weight on your belly! You are disgusting!” That seems ridiculous, right?
The same rule applies to us. We are human animals with animal bodies, and human bodies also gain some weight around the midsection usually during winter when we are outside less, and when we have been a little lax with counter grazing in the evening. This is the definition of body positivity. How many times are we tempted to think, “You naughtty human! How dare you gain some weight? You are lazy and have no self control, and are a little disgusting!”
This is insanity. Instead of condemnation, how about treating yourself like you would your dog? Acknowledge you have gained a little weight, but not attach judgement or meaning to it.
When Dogs Gain Weight: No Shame
We are going to continue our conversation from yesterday on dog bodies. When my dog starts looking a little paunchy, I have never once thought, “Oh no! My dog is getting fat! Everyone will notice. She looks fat. Oh, she is so ugly. She looks older when she gets fat. What am I going to do? Ugh. I just HATE the way she looks.”
It is silly, isn’t it? This is what humans say about our own animal bodies when we gain a few pounds. Then we are tempted to Google some radical new diet that involves taking extreme action, swearing off all desserts forever, and buying some no-fat cottage cheese that we will no doubt throw away, unopened in a few weeks.
When my dog gains a few pounds my concern level is a zero, maybe a one. It’s more of a, “Huh. She is getting chubby.” And then we just start feeding her less table scraps and I have my kids take her outside to run a few more times a week. Her weight takes care of itself. No dieting needed. No panic. Just a moderate adjustment in food intake and movement over the next few weeks or months.
When Dogs Get too Skinny: No Celebration
We are continuing our discussion of something you have never given so much consideration to in your life: the weight of dogs.
Isn’t that strange? You have probably given no more than five minutes total consideration to a dog’s weight in your lifetime, but you have probably thought (obsessed about?) your own body weight that much each day for your entire adult life. Our culture is human-body obsessed.
Just as your dog sometimes gains a little too much weight, your dog will probably sometimes lose a little too much weight as well, and look a little skinny. As a dog owner, when this happens, I don’t praise the dog. I don’t think, “Oh dear God finally! My dog weighs less than I ever thought possible, and has finally achieved a weight that is BEYOND IDEAL!”
Uhhh . . . wanting your dog to be underweight and trying to keep it that way would be considered inhumane. Your human body is no different. If you have lost too much weight as a result of an extreme diet or an illness, please recognize it for what it is: not healthy. Underweight is not your ideal weight.
Weighing Your Dog
Measuring your body is sometimes important. When you are going in for a surgical procedure for example, and the anesthesiologist needs to figure out the correct ratio of drugs to knock you out, she is wise to weigh you beforehand. You would need a different dose if you are at 90 pounds versus 250 pounds.
Besides drug dosages, I really can’t think of a good reason to weigh your body.
Let’s think about your dog. Have you ever weighed your dog? If you did, why did you weigh your dog? Have you ever gotten into the habit of weighing your dog every day? Right after it woke up and after it peed, so it could weigh the absolute least possible?
How about tracking your dogs weight–have you ever tracked your dog’s weight on a spreadsheet, or an app, seeing if its weight fluctuates every day? Praying for the dog’s weight to change?
This is again, insanity. It trains your mind to obsess.
Unless you are on an operating table, your weight doesn’t matter. What does matter is your lifestyle. Pay attention to your habits; your weight is just a byproduct of your daily habits.
Stop the Obsession
We have been comparing your human animal body to a dog’s animal body all week, and hopefully you realize by now that our society’s obsession with a number on the scale is at best a waste of time, and at worst demoralizing, unkind, and inhumane.
Today you are going to put the scale away. Some people tuck it under their bathroom sink so they don’t think about it, some people just choose to stop weighing themself, while others throw it out entirely.
Your body is not a conquest. Your weight isn’t a goal. You are going to feel such LIBERATION when you stop weighing yourself, stop even thinking or worrying about your weight, and just trust yourself and the good eating habits you are putting in place.
Your body is not a project to be completed. Instead of treating yourself like a project, start building better eating habits.
What Terrifies You
If you have been addicted to the scale and you put it away yesterday, there is a good chance that this morning (or sometime next week) you will panic with a fear that sounds something like this:
“If I don’t weigh myself, I will have NO IDEA if I am gaining weight! I could put on ten or fifteen pounds without even realizing it, and I will be OUT OF CONTROL! Weighing myself keeps my body weight in check. It makes me feel safe.”
Does the act of weighing your body really keep your body weight stable? Does that magic apparatus somehow allow you to eat whatever you want without gaining weight? Or is it your daily habits that dictate what your body looks like, as well as how much you weigh? If you do have weight to lose, you will lose it when you start to eat real foods.
Why weigh yourself when you could set yourself on fire then roll in broken glass and feel the same way? When you have body positivity, you feel good about yourself no matter what your weight or size, even as you work to take better care of your body.