I have been floored – floored, I tells ye – by the unbelievably overwhelming response to my last post. It did mean I spent two solid days holding the blog together with glue and string, and it did mean I spent four days after that trying to respond to all my emails, but honestly – thank you. All of you. (A particular shout out has to go to Alex, who got engaged after reading my post – congratulations!)
The outpouring of awesomeness from friends and strangers alike has given me a lot to think about. I have weeks of posts to write on this, so prepare yo’selves. I’m going to be harping on about it for a while.
Let’s start with this. I shouldn’t be alone in loving my body even though it’s not magazine ready. It shouldn’t have been a surprising thing that someone with stretch marks, loose skin, no make up and bad hair (ahem) got their kit off on the internet and wasn’t embarrassed about it. I’m not saying it should be a normal thing, because, y’know, there’s plenty of nudity on the internet already and it could make things a little awkward if everyone were suddenly naked in normal society – but it shouldn’t be that much of a taboo, either.
Fortunately, I’m not alone in it. Check these ladies out:
These women are all beautiful. These women are all proud of their bodies. These women are each, individually, my new hero. And I’m incredibly privileged to know them. I declare them founding members of my Healthy Body Awesomeness Collective, and I invite you to come join me. Get on over here.
Because there’s something so empowering about being at peace with your own body, and beyond snarking about other people’s. If you’ll excuse the phrase, it’s like a weight’s lifted from you – you’re just you, and you’re able to focus on the important stuff like… Well, like living. Being happy. That stuff. It’s liberating.
But unfortunately, it’s something that doesn’t seem to be available to a lot of people who want to lose weight. Too often, there’s a barrier to good overall health created by the fact that weight and happiness spend way too much time linked together. For instance, people resort to extreme diets as a reaction to the fact that they don’t like their bodies. It’s like a form of self-flagellation. I hate myself, ergo, I have to eat food I hate for the next month ’til I’m skinny and I don’t hate myself any more.
Not only is this incredibly depressing, but it’s unsustainable and it doesn’t really work. In my book, that’s a pretty big ol’ fail.
But I think it’s very easy to confuse the desire to make a positive change with dislike and self-hatred. One of the questions I was asked following that last post was “but if you don’t dislike your body, how do you get motivated to change it?”
There’s a huge, overwhelming, oh-my-god-how-much-can-I-stress-this distinction to be made here, because it means that the following Very Important Sentence is true:
It’s entirely possible to love your body and still want to make it better.
I – just like all these women I’ve pictured above – am motivated to be healthy because my body is, basically, the only one I’ve got. I can love it, but I can also be aware that if I’ve got stronger muscles, it’ll help me to do stuff faster and better. It’ll help my already messed up knees to be strong when I’m 60. If I’ve got a more balanced body composition, I’ll be less likely to get sick. And if I’m carrying less weight on my joints, I’ll be able to wear the really cute heels that I love even though they hurt.
If my diet is good and I’m getting the right nutrients, my hair won’t be quite so frizzy, my nails will be stronger, and my skin will be clearer. These are all things I’ve seen happen time and again when I’m en pointe with my health – so knowing them to be true, it’s an incentive to live well.
But none of these things – not one – is related to the fact that I hate my body, or I see myself as fat in a negative way. These things are about health, and great shoes.
I know certain things about myself I can improve, and I can positively change, and others I can’t. My loose skin and stretch marks aren’t going to go away any time soon, and that’s cool. We’re going to spend a lot of years hanging out together, so we might as well get along. And they’re a reminder of how far I’ve come, so really, it’s kinda nice to have them to remind me of how strong I actually am.
The fact that I get spotty when I drink and eat cake, on the other hand… That’s something I can control, and something that is an investment in my long-term health if I choose to do so.
So that’s what I can do for me.
In a wider sense, it turns out – and I’ll be honest, I didn’t realise how really, fundamentally true this was until my last post – the positivity you cultivate in yourself is infectious. Respect and appreciate yourself, and then turn that outward. Your friends, your siblings, the person next to you on the bus – every single one of them deserves respect and appreciation too. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – when we step back from snark culture, we make the world a better place. Disengaging from the negative mess of mixed messages and all-round bullsh*t is the number one way you can make your life – and the lives of everyone you know – a happier place.
It’s easy, it’s doable, it requires no financial or time investment, and it’s guaranteed to improve your life, which means the diet industry will never try to sell it to you – but consider me doing just that. Except, y’know, for free. Be healthy, be happy, and be kind to the people around you. Because you deserve that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes along with good health and positive wellbeing. You deserve that extra ten years on your life; and you deserve the kindness you give to others to be reciprocated.
So join me. Be awesome. Be good. Be well.
In short: be you.