The Body Love Controversy
Warning: Adult language
Please do not read any further if you are offended by adult language.
I'm a proponent for the body love movement, I mean who wouldn't be? But the radical side of it gets me fired up. There's so much confusion out there and so many messed up interpretations of what body love actually is. I've contemplated writing about this subject for a while now, but a recent conversation that I had with another woman drove me to finally want to share my 2¢. Okay, so if you know me and this isn't your first time at the Half of Gabby rodeo, you know damn well I gots more than 2¢ to spare. You're about to get more dolla bills thrown atchu than Trixie gets workin' the pole down at the Boobie Bungalow on a Saturday night.
Now let me remind you that my dollas are just my opinion. You can pick them up and shove them in your g-string or you can leave them on the stage for someone else to grab up. Either way, let's get this party started, shall we?
Let me start with the conversation that spurred this article to be written. I had a woman tell me that "If a fat woman doesn't love her body exactly as it is and how it looks, then she's sending a negative message to all other girls and women and is perpetuating the skinny fad." She then added, "If an overweight woman doesn't embrace her overweight body, then it's impossible for her to have self-love." She continued by stating that "The only reason fat girls hate their bodies is because society tells them that fat bodies are ugly." and "Society doesn't allow women to love their bodies."
I don't know how you feel about that last paragraph, but I cringed the entire time typing it. Okay, let me break it down piece by piece, because honestly, I don't know how else to address that train wreck of thoughts.
1. "If a fat woman doesn't love her body exactly as it is and how it looks, then she's sending a negative message to all other girls and women and is perpetuating the skinny fad."
Geezus, where do I even start with this? Okay, how bout here...
It's hard enough to deal with being overweight and all the emotions and guilt that comes with that, but if you don't love your body exactly as it is, now you have to take the blame for sending out negative messages and affecting others? GTFOutta here.
If an overweight woman doesn't love the way her body looks, she is NOT sending a negative message to all other females. For Christ's sake, it simply means she doesn't like being overweight. Not loving the way your ass looks in your size 26 jeans doesn't mean you're a plague on society who's perpetuating the 'skinny fad'. It simply means you don't like having a size 26 ass. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to wear a size 26. Look, I had a size 26 ass for many years and no, I did not like how it looked. That didn't make me an anti-feminist who let the masculine-driven societal concepts of what a woman should look like rule my thinking. It just meant that I was sick and tired of not being able to fit into a fucking movie theater seat and asking my husband to tie my shoes because I couldn't bend past my belly.
If you don't love your body, that's your problem, not every other female's around you. And guess what? If you don't love your body, it doesn't make you a bad person or a less-evolved person. It just means you don't love your body. And that's okay. I wish for everyone to come to a place where they can find love and appreciation for their bodies. But dammit, it's hard and it takes time. It's okay if it takes you longer than someone else.
I think it's also important to understand that body love doesn't ONLY mean that you love what it looks like. It also means that you have appreciation for your body and all that it does for you and how hard it works to keep you waking up each and every morning. Body love also means that you treat your body with, well... love. That you care for it and nourish it and treat it with kindness. Body love means that you don't bash your body or abuse it or shame it.
IT IS POSSIBLE TO APPRECIATE YOUR BODY AND TREAT IT WITH LOVE WITHOUT LOVING WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE.
Which brings me to my next point...
It took me a while to love my body. For over a decade, I bashed myself constantly, to the point where I'm sure people didn't even wanna be around me. "Okay, we get it, Gab, you're fat. Who the fuck cares?" But for so many years, I cared that I was fat. I hated how I looked in clothes and holy shit I hated how I looked naked. I hated how my body looked 100% of the time. But my lack of body love wasn't ruining anyone else's life. Nobody else internalized my body hatred and was somehow damaged by what I thought about my own body.
It took me two years to lose 120 pounds. At around my six month mark, I realized something. I realized that for 183 days straight I consistently treated my body with respect. I fed it healthy and nourishing foods, I gave it the movement and activity it had craved for years, and I was no longer bashing myself for being fat, even though I still was fat.
No, I still didn't love how my body looked... BUT I TREATED IT WITH LOVE. And I loved what it did for me. I was blown away every few weeks at how much more I could do physically, how much stronger I became with each workout.
I also started to realize everything my body did for me even when I wasn't taking care of it all those years. I never appreciated a damn thing that it did for me. In fact, looking back, I should've marveled at the fact that my body was still able to keep me going despite me treating it like complete and utter shit.
But once I started my weight loss journey, even though I was still morbidly obese, I began to look at my body differently. I absolutely 100% APPRECIATED AND LOVED my body for everything it did for me and for how incredibly hard it was working to get me healthier. I also found myself ACCEPTING my body. This was a HUGE step for me because I had never before accepted my body when it was obese. Never. But this time (after 10 years of yo-yo dieting), I finally learned to accept how my body looked while I was working on changing it. I learned to love and appreciate my body without loving what it looked like. Yes, I was hoping someday to actually love what my body looked like, but for now I was at peace with it and appreciated it.
YOU CAN ACCEPT WHAT YOUR BODY LOOKS LIKE EVEN IF YOU'RE WORKING TO CHANGE THE WAY IT LOOKS
The radical body love pushers will tell you this is bullshit and that you have to love and embrace your body as it is and that you should love what it looks like and accept it for exactly what it is. I agree that we should accept our bodies and I also agree that we should treat our bodies with love and compassion, but I think if we are demanding people to love the way their fat looks and then telling them they are part of the problem if they don't, we're just another type of bully out there claiming to preach positivity yet making people feel like shit about themselves. It sounds a lot like hypocrisy to me.
Moreover, for those who are morbidly obese and are stating that they absolutely love the way their body looks, it comes off to me as more of a justification for being overweight and an excuse not to try to get healthier rather than an actual spoken truth. I'm not saying that every morbidly obese person who says they love the way their body looks is lying. I'm sure there are some who do, but I would venture to say it's a very, very small percentage. Now body appreciation? Yes, I can see that. And body acceptance? Yes, I can see that too. But genuinely loving the way your body looks? I was morbidly obese for many years and it's really hard for me to believe there are a ton of obese people loving the way their bodies look. God bless those out there who really do.
The woman I spoke with told me, "I know I'm fat and I love my fat body. There's nothing wrong with a fat body. Why should I conform to what society tells me? Why do I have to lose weight to be beautiful?"
Um, you absolutely do NOT have to lose weight to be beautiful? And if you are reading this and you are an obese person and you love your obese body and think it's beautiful, I say that's wonderful! But most people who are obese do not like how their bodies look and it's unfair to tell them that if they don't, they're somehow doing something wrong or fueling society's skinny obsession. And nobody has to conform to anybody or anything. We have our own minds and the right to live our lives exactly how we choose. If you are letting society rule your actions and emotions, that falls on you.
I'm all for the body positive movement and I'm all for body love, but being a former morbidly obese person, I know first hand this isn't easy. I mean, I know women who literally look like hot fitness models and still think their bodies aren't good enough. So telling a fat person that they need to love their fat, well I'm just saying that's gonna be a hard sell.
I'm not an expert on body love and body positivity, but I do know this... nobody responds well to demands or admonishment. I don't think women should be so pressured to love their bodies. Let me rephrase that... I think all women should love their bodies, but if they don't they shouldn't be chastised for it and they sure as shit aren't sending negative messages to others if they don't. I mean seriously, women are scolded if they do love their bodies and are called out for flaunting them, yet women are scolded if they don't love their bodies because how dare you not accept yourself exactly as you are. Can we all just calm the fuck down and stop blaming and bashing?
Instead of radically demanding people to accept themselves as they are, how about we take a different approach. How about we lead by example and not get pissed off when it takes time for people to embrace their bodies? Or how about we encourage people to take ACTION and do something about their bodies if they hate them? And how about we get real for one fucking minute and realize that body love isn't just a problem with fat people, it's a problem with everybody. Name one woman that you know or have ever known that loves every single thing about her body?
Ya, I'm still waiting.
I had a friend all through school who was super skinny. Perfect body for all those teen mags we all had subscriptions to, but in real life? She was made fun of constantly for being a 'string bean' and hated that she was so thin. And when the rest of us girls got our periods and we all of a sudden had hips and tits, she was devastated it didn't happen for her. Even at high school graduation, she was still a 'string bean' and still hated her body just as she always had.
Body love is hard to ask of us, all of us, no matter our size. Now body appreciation? That's a much easier feat... and I think a fabulous place to start.
2. If an overweight woman doesn't embrace her overweight body, then it's impossible for her to have self-love.
Oh boy. Okay, first of all, body love and self love are two different things. Body love pertains to how you feel about your body. Self love pertains to how you feel about yourself, your inside self, as in what makes you you and who you are as a human being, as in having nothing to do with your external shell.
Even at my heaviest weight, where every bone creaked when I moved and every muscle screamed when I went up a flight of steps, even when I was at my lowest point and had absolutely no body love, I still loved who I was. I loved who I was on the inside.
YOU CAN LOVE YOURSELF ON THE INSIDE EVEN WHEN YOU DON'T LOVE YOURSELF ON THE OUTSIDE.
Are there a lot of people who have neither body love nor self love? Sure there are. But they are lacking two different loves. Body love and self love are not the same thing.
You can think you have a bangin' body but be horribly self-conscious and not love who you are. On the other side of that coin, you can absolutely love who you are but hate the way your body looks. I was guilty of not having body love for a long time, but I always still loved who I was.
BODY LOVE AND SELF LOVE ARE TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THINGS.
If you are an overweight woman, you do not have to love how your body looks, but you should appreciate it and love it for what it does for you. You should return the favor and do your best to take care of it. I have to admit, this isn't easy. I was not able to appreciate my body for many decades. It was only after I started taking care of my body that I started to see how amazing my body really was. It was so good to me all those years, even when I was a total douchebag to it and treated it like shit. I never really looked at it like that before. I guess I always in some weird way blamed my body for how it looked, like somehow it was my body's fault that I was shoving brownies into it like my life depended on it.
3. "The only reason fat girls hate their bodies is because society tells them that fat bodies are ugly".
At some point we have to own our shit and be honest. Society is not the ONLY reason fat girls hate their bodies. Sometimes it's hard to love a body that can't physically do what you want it to do, like play tag with your friends or sit Indian-style on the floor with the rest of your classmates. Sometimes it's hard to be picked last in gym class because everyone knows you can't run or jump or dodge a dodgeball. Those particular incidences have nothing to do with society, they have to do with ourselves and how we feel about having a body that can't do everything we want it to do. And this is where we need to leave society out of it and start addressing it within ourselves, within our own minds, and within our own homes with our own children. We need to teach our kids AND ourselves to own our shit.
We also need to tell ourselves and our children that our bodies do not define us. What defines us is our character, our values, and our ACTIONS.
You have the power to change and you also have the power to not let an outside source, even one as big and looming as society, tell you how to feel about yourself. You also have the power to get up off your ass and do something to change your situation.
Does society tell fat girls to hate their bodies? Yes, it does. But that's not the only reason why overweight girls hate their bodies. Do some girls hate their bodies because of this one and only reason? Yes, I'm sure there are, but to make this general statement is ridiculous.
First of all, let me state that I do, in fact, despise how society paints a very specific picture of what a woman should look like. When I was a kid that picture looked a lot like Barbie. Honestly, that painted picture fucked with my head my whole childhood. I was kind of a chubby kid (not fat, but definitely weighed more than most of my friends) and I was constantly bombarded with the Thin Is In societal theme. Back then, before the internet, teen mags and MTV were the shit. And let me tell you, every single girl on those pages and on the TV screens looked like, well, a lot like Barbie.
To kids, Barbie just looks like an innocent toy, but her unrealistic and extremely curvy measurements tell a different story. Did you know that if Barbie were a real woman, her proportions would be so extreme that she'd physically be unable to walk on two legs? Yup, in real life, she would stand at 5'9" tall and weigh 110 pounds. She would have a bust measuring at 39" with a waist of 18" and 33" hips. She would wear a size 3 shoe! Barbie's BMI would be 16 and she would no longer be able to menstruate. The National Eating Disorder Association considers these measurements and BMI anorexic*.
The summer before high school I leaned out and had a very curvy body on me. I felt like I finally fit the mold. You know, the one that society told me I had to fit into my entire childhood? But then society changed its mind and in a blink of an eye Barbie was out and the super thin heroin-chic body was in.
Seriously, are you fucking kidding me? No wonder so many of us 80s kids grew up so confused about our bodies. So my newfound curvy yet lean body was now, according to society, not acceptable. Now society was telling me I was fat because I couldn't fit into Kate Moss' jeans. So yes, society sucks ass when it comes to the female form. BUT... we have to stop generalizing everything and blaming everything on society.
So yes, to the woman I had this conversation with, I agree, society does tell us that fat is ugly. But that's not the only reason overweight people hate their bodies. There's a thousand other reasons besides that one.
4. "Society doesn't allow women to love their bodies."
I've already addressed this point above, but let me go ahead and state it again.
WE HAVE TO OWN OUR SHIT.
Society doesn't allow women to love their bodies? You don't have to take orders from society. Take control of your life and start playing by your own damn rules. And STOP placing blame on everything and everyone else but yourself.
You do not have to love what your body looks like. It makes life a helluva lot easier if you do, but you're not a bad person or a negative influence on others if you don't.
And let me also add that if you don't like how your body looks you do have choices. You can either:
- Accept what it looks like
- Do something about what it looks like
- Do nothing and keep hating what your body looks like
No matter where you fall on the body love issue, I hope you know that you are not defined by whatever numbers pop up on your scale when you step on it.
I hope you know that even if you don't love your body, that your body will still love you and will continue working hard for you.
I hope you know that even if you never even lose one fucking pound, you can still learn to appreciate your body by treating it with respect and recognizing all of the hundreds of functions it performs to keep you here each day.
I hope you know that even if you've never had even one day of true self love (which is not body love), that you can learn to. You can learn to look deep inside of you and find the amazing parts of who you are.
You can UNLEARN everything society has taught you. You can UNLEARN all of the destructive and negative thinking that the adults in your childhood taught you.
YOU HAVE 100% SAY IN WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOUR LIFE (AND BODY) LOOKS LIKE.
I want to end with one of the most powerful quotes I have ever read and one that I remind myself of daily:
"You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously." ~Sophia Bush
In other words, relating to this particular post... You are allowed to not love what your body looks like WHILE working on treating it with respect until you do love and accept what it looks like.
*Barbie statistics: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/galia-slayen/the-scary-reality-of-a-re_b_845239.html
*The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content in this article is for general information purposes only. I am not a doctor, nor am I a dietitian. Talk to your physician before making any changes in your diet or exercise regimen. The information found in this article is from various sources which include, but are not limited to, the sites listed above. I encourage you to do your own research and talk with your physician before making any changes in diet or exercise. What has worked for me may not work for you. This information in this article or on this website should never replace or serve as medical advice.
NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ ON OR HAVE ACCESSED THROUGH THIS WEB SITE.