What Actually is Body Acceptance?
Updated: Feb 17, 2019
It's been a long time since I've blogged specifically about body image, but something has ignited within me and I need to share some words with the world. I am incredibly passionate about body positivity and acceptance and I've sort of taken my situation for granted right now, but after researching body positivity for my dissertation, I've really felt connected to the 'old' me and I've got a lot of thoughts.
I want to start with something Megan Crabbe (bodyposipanda) pointed out to me - the narrative of our society is: being thin equals being attractive and being attractive equals happiness. WHAT BULLSHIT.
I can confirm that the thinnest point of my life was my most miserable. Being thin will never equate to happiness if that is the only thing you believe will bring you happiness. We have been bombarded with this narrative since our first day of existence so no wonder we believe it. But beauty is not the sole goal of your existence. Beauty does not exist in a single form, it is arbitrary and therefore it is utterly unattainable. I call things beautiful about 100 times a day. The weather outside is beautiful, the flower I picked for my bedroom is beautiful, falling in love is beautiful, feeling proud of yourself is beautiful, cookies and smoothies are beautiful, animals are beautiful, my favourite pink fluffy bag is beautiful - but none of these 'things' have any similar characteristics that make them beautiful. We all share our own unique perception of beauty, which is the beauty of beauty.
We have to start tearing down this narrative.
The happiest moments of my life have not revolved around my appearance. The happiest moments have been overflowing with love, laughter, positivity, friendship and success. A flat stomach did not bring me happiness, it brought me constant obsession, comparison and mental challenges. I trusted the people and the advertising that told me I would be happy if I could just be skinny because they only showed me one half of the story - the apparent positive consequences of trying to lose weight. I scrolled through Instagram and became immersed in the promises that followed starving myself, the women looked so happy and it looked like they had the perfect life with hundreds or thousands of women commenting that they wish they looked like her or had her life. It was only when I became like 'that' woman, I realised how fake it all was. The diet industry was created purely to profit off of our flaws and vulnerabilities - we didn't enter the world believing we weren't valuable or thin or pretty enough to exist, we were conditioned to believe that.
But what we're here to talk about is body acceptance. I used to think that body acceptance meant I had to believe I was beautiful and confident but it's so much more, and less than that. Because accepting your body simply means feeling at peace with it. You don't have to shower yourself in love and confidence to be at peace with your body, and you shouldn't have to. Your appearance is not the focus of your existence. You don't need to feel beautiful to exist. You can be happy, confident, strong, curious, adventurous, successful and a dreamer without having to believe you are beautiful. The only thing I used to notice in the world was how people looked - I only cared about how thin someone was and how I could be like that too. My whole brain existed to think about being skinny. That makes me so sad that I truly believed being skinny mattered that much. You have so many amazing qualities to offer this WORLD, qualities that this world desperately needs. Show the world what you have and teach your children and your friends because we need more women like YOU to tear down existing narratives and create new goals! I dream of a world that does not place value on appearance but a world that celebrates us, as simple humans.
Body acceptance to me, is eating what I want, exercising for no other reason than because I enjoy it, looking in the mirror and accepting the flaws and the beautiful parts of me, thanking my body for letting me live in it and feeling at peace with all of those things in my mind.
A common misconception that people think when they see the phrase 'eat whatever you want' is encouragement to eat junk food for every meal every day, but that's not it. Eating what you want is having the freedom to choose what you eat and not restricting your process to 'good' and 'bad' food. It means being intuitive and listening to what your body needs. It means figuring out what your particular body likes and doesn't like, rather than what society tells you. It is so important to create your own healthy habits because each body is different.
Of course, I have to point out that I can be a hypocrite too. I work out, I try to eat heathy and I'm definitely narcissistic and judgemental at times. A lot of people assume that by working out you're trying to change your body in some way, and to some extent that is true - I definitely check myself out in the gym mirrors to check any booty progress. When I feel like I've gained muscle I do feel good, I feel strong and like I've made a positive change - but I try not to let my appearance rule my motivations because working out gives my brain a rest, it makes me feel active and less stressed and happy. The only thing I would say is to maintain a healthy relationship with the gym, with food and with your mental health. So be cautious and if you feel yourself becoming a little obsessive with your appearance and seek help or guidance.
I used to starve myself which only set myself up for a binge. It was a vicious cycle and I truly believe in balance and intuitive eating. Eating food full of goodness and nutrients is not restriction, it's simply taking care of your body and giving it what it needs - but it also needs some sugar (or a hell of a lot in my case) to stay sane! there is a difference between restriction and intuitive eating - so listen to your body. I genuinely eat without thinking about it and that is a luxury and I take that for granted now - throughout recovery I just wanted to eat and not have the amount of calories running through my brain or how I was going to compensate for it. Creating a healthy relationship with food, exercise and my body has been the greatest gift in life.
I used to be so nervous about wearing particular tops because I didn't like my arms or wearing dresses if I was bloated and now, I really DON'T CARE. My happiness has risen so much by not worrying all night or picking flaws in pictures the next day. This is a really recent victory for me and I wanted to document it!
Accepting my body has been a rollercoaster journey, excuse the cliche, a rollercoaster which I am still on by the way. Each day I learn something new about me and the world. There isn't a magic button that unleashes the power of acceptance and positivity onto us. It's a journey. Our whole life has been about fixing ourselves and making ourselves more attractive and 'better' so crashing down that reality isn't going to be easy, we have to re-learn all of this stuff again, in the complete opposite way! But it starts now, and we have a lifetime to try. Remember to challenge all the things that tell you that thinness = happiness.
My mentality has evolved from believing thin was the only way to gain happiness and success - to believing body positivity was about loving your body and believing you're hot as hell (which you probs are tho) to now, accepting that this is my body and I like some parts more and some parts less. Thank you, Megan, and to the other women in my life for teaching me that.
"There is literally nothing in nature that blooms all year long so do not expect yourself to do so"