The Fat Acceptance and Body Love Movement is a very welcome reprieve from all the years of body bashing marketing that generations of women have been exposed to. With a record number of young women being reported with negative body image and eating disorders on the rise each year, this is a big issue.
Conversely, 60% of our adult population is either overweight or obese, and the diet industry is booming so what really is happening here?
What are the common threads that join these issues and how can you overcome a very often misunderstood, but incredibly vital key to releasing stubborn weight gain and reclaiming your Body Confidence?
In my work with high performing women in business we really focus on the area of surrender and acceptance as a path to creating more consistent healthy habits and releasing stubborn excess weight. However, the very common objection or inner dialogue that resists this idea is the belief that accepting oneself will ruin the motivation needed to lose weight.
This is so far from the truth – self acceptance and a healthy weight are not mutually exclusive, just as nasty self-talk and a punishing mindset is not a prerequisite to having a body you can love!
I want to give you three examples of where people get the idea of Body Acceptance wrong.
There is a lot of subliminal fear around self-acceptance in women who struggle with their weight, in case it will hold them back from the healthy, toned and comfortable sized body they want. If you’ve spent years, or decades even, beating yourself up with extreme exercise and low-calorie diets I understand why it seems like you’re choosing between either being “fat and happy” or “skinny and miserable”.
“Giving up” is not the same as “surrender and accept”, rather it is acknowledging the reality of your current bodily condition without any negative emotional charge. It is surrendering the idea of the way it “should” look and that the way you’ve been trying to solve things hasn’t been working.
Acceptance is the first critical step to Unconditional Self Love – which is actually the real intended outcome for women who have a negative body image. Unfortunately, because of generations of unscrupulous marketing and societal conditioning, this has been confused with the belief of “When I have … a smaller butt / skinny thighs / bigger boobs / lose X kilos s – then I’ll love myself and finally be happy.”
The truth is that your weight cannot dictate your level of happiness, it can only measure your relationship to gravity.
Happiness though, is reflected all around you through the quality of the relationship you have with yourself.
You can change the number on the scale, and still be self critical and miserable.
However, when you can change your relationship with yourself, your weight can increase, decrease or stabilise and you can still experience love, joy and self-compassion in infinite amounts.
When you honor your body, you make honorable choices and this is the key to short circuiting out of the quick fix and fail cycle and getting onto the sustainable path to body love victory. Being Happy is what makes you Happy – losing weight is just a by-product.
2. #FYourBeautyStandards is Glorifying Obesity
The times have changed in recent years with plus size models being featured more often in mainstream publications. Tess Holliday, a morbidly obese, plus size model is the founder of “F Your Beauty Standards”. She is very beautiful, challenges everything society has indoctrinated us with what is “acceptable” about a woman’s body and more importantly she is proud of her physicality.
Trillion dollar industries have been born from women’s criticism of their body, so you can see how much this flies in the face of everything we’ve been told of how a woman is allowed to relate to her body. Understandably, this threatens a lot of people and she attracts a lot of criticism masquerading as concerns about her health, the impact that “people like her” put on the health system and that she is “glorifying obesity”.
By and large the masses have decreed that being fat is one of the most unflattering characteristics you might possess as it reflects a whole lot of other insulting qualities about you – lazy, stupid, worthless, a scourge upon society.
Conversely, the idea that the only acceptable aspiration is to be thin and beautiful in order to be worthy and welcomed to take your place in society.
I work with many super busy high powered women who make a huge impact in their business and the community around them – and as a result of their enormous capacity for work, their health has been sacrificed. The idea that they’re stupid and lazy could not be further from the truth, and their excess weight is just reflective of the imbalance of work and nurture in their life. This is a very common predicament of the modern day woman living in a male dominated work place in a patriarchal society.
The idea that obesity could be glorified means that the only way to solve the obesity epidemic is to continue shaming and denigrating people because of their fatness. So does this mean that the only reason people are fat is because they haven’t been criticised and bullied enough? I think not!
#FYourBeautyStandards is about acceptance and challenging the definition of positive body image and redefining the standard of “allowable” aesthetics. It is not about health or examining one’s behaviours.
Acceptance is the first step to unconditional love, and maintaining a healthy, comfortable sized weight – but it’s not the last.
Health is a spectrum, at any weight people are doing the best they can with the tools they’ve got, with the priorities they juggle and the conditions they’re trying to treat. Telling somebody that they’re not allowed to love themselves because they’re too fat, is the most selfish and counterproductive way to try to “make” somebody healthier (if that was even possible).
What most people don’t understand is that the abusive judgement they bestow on others, speaks more loudly of the lack of compassion and self acceptance in their own life that they are projecting onto others, and if they looked within first they might find that approval they’ve been looking for all their life.
3. You can be “Healthy At Every Size”
Health At Every Size (HAES) is an organisation that aims to be inclusive of all sizes and promotes the idea that negative health complications that come from higher body weights are just correlative not causative. The problem here lies in the distinction of “health” and “healthy” and being obese still means that you aren’t living at the highest expression of your health.
I notice women are so quick to label themselves as “fat”and a lot of shame, judgement and self-rejection comes up around this. So I really applaud HAES to be focusing on health, without being obsessed with the weight on your scales. I recently posted to say “Rather than saying “I am fat” reframe it to “I have fat” and notice the physical release of emotion in your body”.
Whilst most of my followers enjoyed the visceral demonstration, one commenter wasn’t having any of it: “I am a Health at Every Size Personal Trainer and I am fat. I am female and I am short. I don’t have fat. I don’t have female. I don’t have short. It is a characteristic of mine, not a possession. I don’t own my fat like it’s a thing I carry. I am a fat person. And just like there’s nothing wrong with being female or short, there’s nothing wrong with being fat.”
I absolutely agree that there’s nothing morally wrong with being fat but her other comments really threw me for a while. Then I realised how she was getting Body Acceptance all wrong when she was owning those words as absolutes rather than adjectives for comparison.
In order to be short – you must be comparing yourself to somebody who is taller, but if you compared yourself to an entire race you are taller than, you’re no longer short. Short is an adjective, not an absolute.
Similarly, this lady looked to me to be about 15kg heavier than the average Personal Trainer I’ve met – however, compared to some of my clients she is their ideal body goal weight! Therefore Fat is a concept, not a characteristic.
But the deepest truth here is that she was making her physical body a part of her identity, however we are not our bodies. We are the consciousness that resides within and the light that radiates out, not the flesh, blood and bones that contains it.
From my perspective HAES culture supports people who have “given up” and surrendered to the incorrect belief that “losing weight is impossible and you can’t succeed, so don’t even try.” HAES seems to disarm people into learned helplessness and ignores large amounts of scientific evidence on how health impacts the body when overweight and obese. To demonstrate this I reference a HAES follower who commented “I’m throwing my hands up in the air because I’ve tried to diet, I’ve punished myself – and it never worked. So, to hell with it. I’m healthy the way I am even though I might be 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 kilos overweight.”
Body Acceptance is not about normalizing dysfunctional behavior so that it gives somebody an excuse to self-harm with excess food and alcohol and not enough physical activity.
So just to recap:
2. Beauty is not about Health. You are allowed to feel beautiful regardless of your health or your weight.
3. HAES represents a deficit version of Body Acceptance where learned helplessness promotes acceptance because of the disappointing failures that have come before.
You can be skinny and miserable or overweight and happy, but neither is the true expression of your best self.
In a world that is obsessed with the idea that happiness is something that comes outside of yourself the time honoured adage is that happiness is a journey, not a destination. Body Acceptance allows you to acknowledge your part in creating the disharmony in your body, without beating yourself up about it. From there as you cultivate a more unconditional love for yourself, separate from the way you look on the outside, it is far easier to reach for foods and activities that make you feel good, for the long term.
Stop postponing your happiness for the day that you weigh a magic number on the scale. Start enjoying life as you are right now. Notice how this helps you cultivate a more unconditional self respect for yourself, separate from the way you look on the outside. As you vibrate more closely to love, see how you are attracted to activities that make you feel good and foods that love you back.
After suffering a fairly serious breakdown I was unable to cope with life in general. My body felt broke, old and frail – I didn’t just feel middle aged, I felt half dead. I hadn’t realised that my body was self destructing and I was doing it to myself, working long hours, too much alcohol, lots of bad food and absolutely no exercise.
After six months of working with Bianca, I no longer need my blood pressure medication, anti depressants and my cholesterol is in a safe zone. I have lost 2 dress sizes and more than 26 kilos. I now have a life outside of our business and can see a happy, healthy future for our family. I hope the person I became never comes back as I like this girl so much better.
I had heard of Bianca through some magazines – it was an investment but I had tried and failed so many times but in six short months, 20 kilos melted off me and it had a massive and unexpected effect on our styling business. While working with Bianca we secured a national gig, increased our prices to a level we previously thought no one would pay, AND we were booked out weeks in advance.
The majority of this 20 kilo weight loss has only been 5% diet and exercise, the rest has been an emotional journey. Bianca confronted me and called me on my BS and challenged some of my most deeply help beliefs about who I am. And the results are undeniable. I haven’t completely quit drinking, I still get to eat chocolate, I’ve had the best year in my business EVER – and perhaps the most important thing is how differently I react to things emotionally.
Who knew that taking it slowly and being kind to yourself could get you the results that yelling at yourself couldn’t.
Before working with Bianca I was super stressed and I thought it was too hard and I didn’t have the time to be slim AND successful. But I was surprised at how easy it was to implement Bianca’s system – I haven’t counted calories and I still pig out on foods I love. It’s been no coincidence to me that as a result of the new clarity of mind I’ve actually doubled my business at the same time I’ve made these changes to my body.