Warning: potential triggers.
This is about thigh gaps and the trainers, pages, blogs and fitness pros/enthusiasts promoting them with thigh gap “tips”, workouts, diets and more.
I just need to have… a word. Or several.
"When I lose the weight, I’ll be so happy"
"If only I had bigger boobs"
"My cellulite is disgusting. He’ll never want to date me"
"Once I fix this and that, I’ll finally feel free"
"Everyone keeps telling me to love my body and I want to, but I just, just can’t. I hate what I see in the mirror".
Any of this sound familiar?
Maybe you wouldn’t use those exact words, but you catch the drift. These sentiments and more are ones I see in my inbox most often: people who want to love their bodies and achieve a positive body image but are STUCK. Sometimes it’s very clear, and sometimes not. I’d guess that more than half of the weight loss or body targeting questions I get are secretly pleas for body love help.
Here’s the thing: contrary to popular fitness marketing messages, having a positive body image isn’t about getting rid of your cellulite or other “flaws” (note: here, the word “flaws” always comes with quotations. Find out why here). The messages we receive through photos, stories and testimonials is “my life got AWESOME once I fixed everything that society told me was wrong with me” (though when you dig deeper, you’ll find that’s usually not the case). We tend to celebrate visible body change “victories” with vigor, though few people actually go into detail about changes beyond their abs, booty or inches/pounds lost.
So what is having a positive body image really about?
It’s so weird to hang with women (and men) who trash talk bodies now. It used to feel so normal to dissect celebrity bodies, discuss them, debate them, compare them, rate them etc. Things have changed. :)
I try to remember that it wasn’t so long ago that this kind of thing was as much a normal part of girl-hangout communication as guys, the weather or any other topic. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a situation where it was so fervent. I’d forgotten that many people don’t see it as a bizarre ritual.
Trying to change the subject proved very difficult the other night (and it wasn’t the right time/place for a full on soap box moment. I pick my battles carefully: you can’t help people if they hate you, afterall). Nor did I really want to be the party pooper, and I got the feeling my comments were coming off kinda “judgey”. So I left early. Wasn’t my thing.
These days, I’m surrounded with body positive peeps (or at least they’re cautious with language/topics around me. Awesome either way). Wasting energy & time talking about who’s too skinny, too fat, too muscular, too ______…. well, it doesn’t interest me anymore. I find it weird and it reminds me of my own bad body image times.
If you’re making an effort to stop speaking negatively about women’s bodies (including your own), try to surround yourself with people doing the same. Be kind to those who aren’t quite there yet (our OWN journeys in our own time), but it’s important to protect your environment. It’s harder to make changes to your thinking/life when the people around you aren’t on the same path. (note: this isn’t license to get all superior on them, lol).
And the BEST way to encourage more body positivity is to model it yourself (even “faking it til you make it”). I’m amazed and grateful that so many of my friends have embraced a body positive stance - applied to all bodies - and/or they make an effort. I’ve watched their journeys progress alongside my own and it’s been inspiring.
Thoughts? Can you relate?
A quick list of things you can work on this year, that will bring you nothing but ‘awesome’. And none of them have to do with weight loss, losing ‘flaws (always in quotations), or changing your appearance. Those are bonuses and things you can ALWAYS work on of course, but unless those changes are made with LOVE (not hate), they aren’t likely to stick OR make you feel better.
This is about being mother f*cking at HOME in the body you are in, whatever it’s shape. You deserve it. You do. Trust me & thank me later.
Here’s some ways you can START your body love journey.
1. Put down the magazines. Scroll past that site. Don’t indulge in hours of ‘ideal body’ pinning (and pining). Want to feel better about your body? Stop feeding it unrealistic expectations.
2. Re-examine your relationship with the scale. Does it make or break your day? Does the thought of missing a weigh in stress you out? Ditch it. Nothing should have that power over you.
"Eat a cheeseburger"
“She looks disgusting”
“She’s clearly unhealthy. Skin & bones. Gross”
“That’s not what a real woman looks like”
“She’s clearly anorexic. Someone feed her”
“Anyone who thinks this is beautiful is warped”
“She’s just TOO thin.”
“To me being that skinny is just as bas as being obese!”
“Real men prefer women with curves”
“She looks like she’s going to die”
A few comments from The Victoria Secret fashion Show this year. Which I don’t watch, but was bombarded with on social media anyways. The evening of the show, I avoid Twitter like the plague. It’s a body shaming apocolypse, and I find myself disppointed in some of my favorite people whenever they share these seemingly “innocent” opinions. It’s so common to talk ‘bodies’ amongst women, that many don’t even realize or consider their comments as ‘bullying’ or ‘inappropriate’.
"Calling women "disgusting & anorexic" totally changes everything for the better and helps them in the long run"
- Said NO ONE with any insight into eating disorders and body image. In fact, it makes everything soooo much worse.
Just a quick reminder: anorexia is a mental disorder. An illness. A pretty brutal one at that. It’s horrible. All consuming. Shameful even. Devastating in some cases. And so, so misunderstood. Same goes for bulimia and the myriad of other eating disorders out there.
SOME people with anorexia become very, very thin for their frames, and many do not. Some people are naturally very, very thin with no disorder whatsoever. Some people have an eating disorder and remain overweight. Because it’s a mental disorder, it’s not something that can be diagnosed based on appearances alone. There’s also a range in the realm of disorders; some can be milder such as someone who is constantly ‘dieting’ and ‘restricting’…but still eating a little. Perpetuating the idea that only the thin can suffer from anorexia, makes it harder to diagnose the millions of women who have it but are not quite “thin” enough for it to be apparent. Because everyone’s looking for thinness as a sign something’s wrong, behaviors that are actual signs to be worried about often go unnoticed. (language, eating patterns, withdrawal, fixation on food etc).
Can you imagine how many more girls (and boys) would be treated earlier if we stopped focusing on looks and started focusing on behavior warnings and signs? (family members of those who suffer from eating disorders often blame themselves for not noticing warning signs that were very clear in hindsight). By the time most are diagnosed, treatment becomes very, VERY difficult.
Children all around the world are getting hugged a little tighter and more often since yesterday. Hug ‘em harder. Tell them you love them.
Excerpt from “And Then I Drove To Their Schools"…
“Mom. Why are you here?”
I just needed to hug you. I just needed you to know that I love you, that I’m so proud of you, that I’m so lucky that you’re in my life and I love you hard.
“Mom, are you crying?”
“Mom. I have to work. I’m at school.”
I know, schoolwork is very important. Just let me hug you for another second… Okay, go work. I’ll see you after school.
I’ll see him after school. And I can’t stop weeping for those parents who won’t.”