Without wanting to start a riot, it is a good idea to discuss intelligently the idea of body acceptance/positivity. This polarizing topic is often discussed with plenty of passion on both sides, and the conversation rapidly descends into a mudslinging contest. It is an issue that is very emotive, but to get to a proper solution, these emotions must be taken into consideration, but they cannot drive the debate. Only being reasonable should drive the debate.
The idea that we should hate overweight people, or shame them into action is provably untrue.As you can read here. However, should the response be that we say nothing on weight? Should we say that all sizes are healthy? This may seem like a fair reaction to some people, but are we just swinging from one side of the pendulum to the other?
The first thing we need to do is define what we are talking about, since most people are working from their own definitions when they argue about this, and the result is lots of shouting and not much solving. Once we know what exactly we are talking about, we shall set out to prove that accepting and loving yourself is completely compatible with training hard an eating right.
The definition of body positivity is:a movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards their bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being.
This definition is what we will work with, since it seems to be the mot universally accepted.
Why you should be happy in yourself
The central tenant of body acceptance is that you should love yourself, not based on societal norms, or how others view you, but you should be comfortable in your own skin. This is sensible for so many reasons. Firstly, if you hang your happiness on looking a certain way, and are hopelessly miserable until you get there, most likely, when you do achieve your dream weight you won’t be happy. Being happy is generally the combination of mental habits, conscious or unconscious. If you are constantly in a state of negativity and flaw picking, your physique won’t radically change your thinking. Your thinking should be positive, but this does not mean giving up on self-improvement. Being in a positive frame of mind is the spring board on which you can lead a healthy and fulfilling life.
What body acceptance should not mean
The common mistake that is thus made is that bad science and overheated rhetoric are used to make claims that being overweight or obese do not lead to any health problems. These claims have been roundly debunked, but the process behind them is very dangerous. Not being depressed about your life and where you are is one thing, but to lie to yourself saying that being overweight or obese will have no impact on your health is quite another. These two should not be conflated in the body acceptance movement. It takes what is a healthy mind set, and adds junk science to it, leading to an unhealthy body. How else does this idea manifest itself?
A double standard?
The societal norm for a body that is considered beautiful is generally low fat, muscular and generally athletic. (This is discounting the unhealthily thin catwalk models) Studies show that what people generally perceive as attractive falls generally in line with what is a healthy physique.
The body acceptance movement, (as most movements often do) swings a little too far the other way. By claiming that all body shapes are healthy, and by protesting or objecting to ‘traditionally’ attractive physiques there is a double standard. If all bodies can be considered beautiful, this also includes the physiques that are ‘traditionally’ beautiful also. However, under our new idea of what body acceptance should be, whether a physique is attractive or not to others should not be the basis for your way of life. Being happy about who you are should be something constant and internal.
Where being happy with who you are intersects with trying to better yourself
The next mistake that is often made in this movement is the idea that loving yourself means staying exactly how you are. Let’s take an example of a relationship. I love my wife very much, however, unless I keep working to improve our marriage and our bond, our relationship will ultimately fail and cease to be fulfilling. The same can go for anything in your life. Being happy with yourself does not mean that you cease working on yourself. In fact, the more you love yourself, the more you should strive to work on yourself.
The point simply is this. If you really love yourself, you would not let yourself become unhealthy, unfit and open to many different problems associated with being overweight. Loving yourself means that you are motivated to better yourself, not because of what others say, but because you know it is the right thing to do. Body acceptance is the first step to living a healthy and fulfilling life. Don’t get stuck on the first step and stay there forever.
Take home points
Everyone should love themselves. This means that no matter where you are in life, whatever your situation, loving yourself is an important mental habit to develop. This does not mean that you stop improving yourself. If you truly love something, you do all you can to improve it. The same goes for your body. The science is clear, not having lots of excess body fat, having a good cardiovascular system etc, these are all beneficial to you. This ultimately means that loving yourself is not a static state that you decide on once. Loving yourself is a process that never ends, it motivates you to get better every day in every sphere of your life. Let it motivate you to improve your health so you can keep loving yourself for year to come.
The love you have for yourself should manifest itself every day, including when you are sweating your ass off in the gym.