Some Encouragement for Hard Days

Tree Pose

Getting ready for a wedding this past weekend, a few old, familiar thoughts came up while I was figuring out what to wear.  Being someone who has struggled with body dissatisfaction in the past (to put it mildly), events like weddings sometimes stir up some old issues.  People tend to dress up and look their best, and there are lots of opportunities for comparison.

These days, I am pretty comfortable in the knowledge that no matter what I weigh, I am fine exactly the way I am. I try to make sure I have clothes that fit and that I am comfortable in, and hopefully that I love, for every occasion. It is very important to me that my daughter can learn to love and respect her body and reject the diet and scarcity narrative of our culture.  So I do my best to walk the talk.

However, since we are living smack dab in the middle of this culture that encourages us to continually shrink (often under the guise of optimal health), it can be hard to be comfortable taking up space. And I have the occasional bad day.

Frankly, this is aggravating, because when I have other things to do and life to live while I am lucky enough to have it, I would really prefer not to be worried about how large I look in a fun dress, and to not waste time comparing myself to others when I could just be enjoying their company.

As I was thinking about this today, I decided to sum up some of the main ways I fight back against these negative thought processes.

I do something physical that encourages body awareness and gentleness.  I love yoga for this reason.  It calms the body and mind, and it is hard to be angry with your body when you are taking such good care of it. Any kind of joyful movement or even deep breathing are great for this.

I remember the research.  Some truths:  Weight is generally linked with health in a much less straightforward way than we tend to believe. The size of your body is not indicative of how you live, what you eat, or what kind of person you are. Fat is not a moral failing.  For more on this, the Health at Every Size movement is a great place to start.  See below for a few extra resources!

I remember that body dissatisfaction is a very slippery slope.  I am a fairly average size and weight that I have maintained for years.  In years of yo-yo dieting in my teens and early twenties, I have been much larger and much smaller.  I know from experience that no matter how low the number on the scale, you will always feel like it could and should be lower.  If you happen to reach a goal weight, you will live in fear of it creeping back up. The work is never done.  And we do not need to be fixed.

I do something that I enjoy and am good at. I can write. I can spend time with my daughter. I can master a difficult yoga pose, organize large events, paint a picture, take nice photos, cook a delicious meal and craft two kissing fishes out of cupcakes (more on that later).  There is so much we are each capable of, and doing something I love reminds me there is much more to us than our sizes and shapes. Plus, it never hurts to get out of your own head for a bit.

Be kind to yourself.  There are not certain conditions that have to be met first.  You deserve it right now!

There are lots of great resources that deal with the science around weight and health and the social and cultural influences on both.  Here are two great books to start with that are thorough but very readable:

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, PhD

The Diet Myth by Paul Campos (formerly The Obesity Myth, which is the edition I have)

And a recent favorite of mine:

Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker. It is a well-researched manifesto of self-love and body acceptance.