Can Body Acceptance and Weight-Loss Co-Exist?
Updated: Mar 22
As a healthy Body Image Advocate for almost a decade, I’m noticing more & more companies marketing body acceptance, body positive and weight loss in the same slogan, specifically on social media.
Before I get into what I think about this, I would like to cover a few points so that you may think critically for yourself as we go along.
What does it mean to have body acceptance? Body acceptance is, “when one accepts & finds peace with their body regardless of not being completely satisfied with all aspects of it. When one accepts their body and has a positive body image, they have a clear & true perception of their bodies and recognizes that an individual’s appearance does not reflect their character or self-worth (value).”
In my opinion to have body acceptance is to be in a place in your life where you have made peace with your body. You no longer put forth the time, energy & deprivation to try and change your body. Do you love your body? Maybe, Sometimes. It’s unrealistic to think that we can go from body loathing to body love and I don’t really think it’s necessary when wanting to achieve body acceptance. If you end up loving your body as a result that’s great but setting the bar too high can result in feelings of guilt and shame if not achieved. The road to accepting our bodies can be long, painful and seem impossible at times but when we get there there’s no turning back.
What is body positivity? Body positivity has its roots in the Fat Acceptance Movement seeking to change anti-fat bias in social attitudes like the “BMI” (body Mass index scale) & any associated language such as “overweight” &/or “obese.” People wanted to get away from diet culture and all its associated “life thief” antics. Essentially Body Positivity is acceptance and appreciation for all body types encouraging us that neither fat-shaming or skinny-shaming will be accepted and that ALL bodies are good bodies.
I bet you are wondering, “well isn’t weight-loss necessary if someone is over-weight or obese?”
Let’s take a step back and look at where the words “over-weight” and “obese” come from. The “bullshit BMI (body mass index) scale states that I am considered “over-weight.” But over what weight? I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. How can we put a specific number on the feeling of health? Well according to the Health At Every Size Movement we can’t. In fact, there is scientific evidence that states that, “weight is NOT an accurate indicator of health.”
One of the major factors as to why, has to do with our set point weight/range. Set point weight/range is, “the weight range in which your body is programmed to function optimally.” Your body will fight hard to maintain that weight range (hence why you gain back weight plus more after restrictive dieting).” Our body has a built-in weight mechanism that only works if we let it do its thing. So how do we identify what our set point is?
The Health At Every Size Book gives us 3 different indicators;
1) “The weight you maintain when you listen and respond to your body’s signals of hunger and fullness.
2) The weight you maintain when you don’t fixate on your weight or food habits.
3) And the weight you keep returning to between diets.”
It’s also important to recognize that some people just naturally need more fat on their bodies than others to function optimally. Having fat on your body is NOT bad. In fact, there is no evidence that having fat on your body causes illness. Only correlation.
In my opinion if you are passionate of the cause and the roots behind the #bodyacceptance and #bodypositivity movement, you wouldn’t see the need to focus on weight-loss as a selling point. In fact, to me it comes across as a marketing tool and a way to capitalize on something sacred. The movement was created so that people could get away from diet culture and all their antics. Promoting both at the same time can send a very confusing and conflicting message: “Accept your body as it is but here’s what you can do to lose weight and change it so that it looks like a different body.” I'm not against weight-loss per say, I'm against the unsustainable and unrealistic measures people will go through to lose weight. The pursuit of weight loss can lead to unhealthy behaviours and a long and never-ending cycling of extreme weight fluctuation and mental stress!
We can do better than this. Health is WAY more than diet & exercise. According to the Body Lovin’ Guide by Taryn Brumfitt and Dr. Emma Johnston there are four components to health and well-being; “Emotional Health, characterized by the ability to cope with life’s demands without becoming overwhelmed. Mindful Living; having the ability to be present in the moment at any time. Healthy Sleep; waking up feeling refreshed and rested most days, and The Nurturing of Our Physicality; appreciating and being aware of our physical selves.”
Therefore, focus on incorporating healthy behaviors into your life instead like intuitive/mindful eating (some people lose weight, some don't, and some stay the same. All is good). Move your body for joy and in celebration of what your capable of. Make time to rest and relax and connect with like- minded people who love you for you. Focusing on numbers will only take you further away from finding peace and acceptance. Pay attention to what makes you FEEL GOOD. Resist the pressure to give into unrealistic cultural expectations and beware of companies that mix messages for profit and pray on vulnerability and insecurity.
Remember to move for joy.
Practice intuitive/mindful eating.
And find time to relax & enjoy life.