An Argument for ‘Body Positive’

As a writer, I’m making a living providing social media exposure for nonfiction writers, mostly in the mind-body, health and – irony of ironies – weight-loss industries. I probably know as much about food addiction, dieting, motivation and exercise as anybody but the top researchers and writers out there.

My family and friends are the beneficiaries of the headlines I come across: how much vitamin C to take before a marathon, the dangers of food dyes, simple ways to treat depression – but it’s research I tell myself I don’t have time to use myself after a day spent on all the social platforms I contribute to under various guises.

I focus on nutrition, general health, neuroscience and psychology, grief and depression, happiness and Eastern spiritual practices — all the things that fight (or must be fought) to become healthy in mind, spirit, body and food. But lately, I’ve been sneaking in a topic I find readers respond to enthusiastically, even as I wonder if I’m doing the right thing. This new category is what I call “body positive.”

Take a trip through Twitter or Pinterest and you’ll be blinded by ripped abs, nearly pornographic butts, triceps as big as tipis, agility that reminds me of when Professor Lockhart mistakenly used the Ossio Dispersimus spell on Harry Potter, removing the bones in his arm. I do not find these pictures and memes inspiring. They are impossible ideals and they exclude all but a handful of the genetically blessed.

So I’m publicly rebelling, selectively using stories for my clients that are body positive and warmly welcoming to the health and fitness community no matter what a person’s size, age or fitness level may be. My clients see what I put out there, so I assume they’re not against the small campaign I’m waging.

The objections I encounter, unfortunately, are my own.

I use the phrase “body positive” rather than the more popular “size/fat acceptance” or “body image” because I know my body can be better and my image is not normal. But I might, if I took the time, aspire toward positivity. I’m pretty healthy for someone who’s been obese since childhood. I’m strong; my bone density is off the chart and I lose very little weight in my calves. I have great hair and the proverbial “such a pretty face.” Since my body also contains my brain, I could make a long list of positive traits for that as well, if I only took the time.

An Argument for 'Body Positive'There is something to be said for that acceptance business, however. When I’ve bottomed out on my eating and my weight, it was because I accepted how destructive, limiting and prejudicial they are. But it’s a curious combo, positivity vs. acceptance. At my lowest bottom, I absorbed and understood what my weight was doing to me, but I was also positive that my body could change and do the things I wanted from it. How do I split this duality? In some ways, my body is the victim of what my mouth and brain have done to it. Does “compulsive overeating acceptance” fit as a category, translating that accepting one’s food addiction is that acknowledgment needed for the first step toward recovery.

My body is blameless. I can only do the best with it that being active in my addiction allows. I have to be as positive about it as I can because it is worth living and fighting for. That much I get. I also strive to be unashamed of putting my body through laps in a swimming pool or going for a walk.

It’s how to think about the brain/addiction/food component that’s missing, and I’m struggling professionally and personally to find a phrase we can work within the social media that you and I are participating in now. Given how many diets and headlines I read about that promise cheat days or desserts , and the flack I got from the size acceptance community when I was writing about relapse in my second book, maybe “compulsive eating acceptance” is just about right. It differentiates between the body we should accept and love at whatever size, and the addiction/obsession that controls us and which, in return, can be controlled. It would allow us compulsive eaters to celebrate with the NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) folks and take up arms with the addiction army, neutralizing the hostility each group has for the other.

It would be a great day when I appreciated myself in a cute skirt, perfect shoes and a “done” face while eating vegetables and plain protein, applauding those advocating for job equality and those whose food plan is stricter or looser than my own.

I’ll have to talk to my clients about this.

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