Losing weight is incredibly personal, and sometimes the pressure to be a body positive feminist is just as tough as the pressure to look a certain way. It's a lot to balance. The thing is, as body positive feminists, if we want to support and empower women, we can't just support and empower some of the decisions we make about our bodies. We also need to support women who want to lose weight. Some women want to lose weight because they've determined that doing so will be best for their personal health (though not all plus size women have health problems, and not all health problems can or should be solved by weight loss), and some just feel more like themselves at a certain weight. I feel like the "me" I am supposed to be at around 220, so when I got up to 311 (thanks, depression!) I had a lot of soul searching to do.
I've always been on the "riots, not diets" train and the head cheerleader for body positivity. And then I decided I wanted to do the very thing I railed against for years. So I get it. But achieving balance between self-confidence, body positivity and weight loss is totally possible as long as you keep a few things in mind. Most importantly, the changes you make inside will be more dramatic than those outside because weight loss needs to be something you do for you, for the right reasons. These other tips have come in handy for me.
1. Be Kind To Yourself
You can find negativity in literally ever single corner of the world, so there's no sense in harboring it within yourself. Do whatever it takes to get you in that confident space and stay there. Affirmations, body positive blogs, therapy — whatever you need. Get in a good space where you love yourself and make that space your top priority. Always remember that you're not losing weight because there's something wrong with you (trust me, there's nothing wrong with you!).
2. Riots, Not Diets
There's a magical hungry bear in our brains that kicks into overdrive when even the idea of a diet enters our heads. The bear seems nice at first, even like it's going to be our new best friend, but it ultimately always wins. Don't complicate your life by adding even more rules about what and when you can eat. Make a few small, healthy changes and when you have those down, make a few more. Diets are a Band-Aid; Lifestyle changes are real medicine. You can lose weight without supporting the often oppressive diet industry.
3. Throw Your Scale Out The Window
Numbers lie. They're bigger jerks than the hungry bears who want you to fail at diets. And they're one more thing you don't need to torture yourself with. Your weight will fluctuate day to day, based on weight loss, muscle gain, hormones — even how much you have to pee. Focus instead on how you feel and how your clothes fit. If you must weigh yourself, do it once per month, not once per day.
4. Then Throw Out The Fashion Magazines While You're At It
When you're trying to do things you know are healthy for you, it's tempting to start thumbing through magazines for tips on how to do it. Without a good dose of media literacy, you'll be unwittingly exposing yourself to pages of models and marketing, some of which is designed to make you feel bad about yourself so you'll buy stuff.
5. Make Peace With Exercise
If you hate dragging yourself to the gym, then don't. If going to the gym makes you uncomfortable or self-conscious, there's no law that says you have to go. There are a million ways to exercise that don't feel like a ton of work. Some might even feel like fun. Go dancing, hike in a pretty place or swim around at a water park. Find something that makes you happy so you will look forward to doing it.
6. Make Peace With Yourself
I know you've heard it a million times before, but if you're not happy with your life now, you're not going to magically become happy when you lose weight. You get to make the decisions about your body, and if that includes losing weight, you don't have to explain that decision to anyone... except yourself. It can be a long, hard journey to get to this point, but you need to understand that there is nothing wrong with the body you live in now, that you're so much more than how you look, that society's beauty standards are rigid and oppressive. You're amazing and beautiful at any size. Your brains, your talent and all the things inside that make you special have nothing to do with how you look. Your body doesn't speak for you and it doesn't owe anyone anything. Let this be your mantra.
7. Focus On Other Things
Centering your life around a food, weight, and body obsession is no way to live. The best thing to do is to make some small changes that you know are healthy for you and then get on with the rest of your life. If you put to much pressure on yourself to be perfect, you'll fail before you ever begin. If you are the type to get preoccupied (like me) then lean hard on your hobbies and your friends.
8. Don't Feel Guilty
If you want to feel better in a bikini (even though I bet you already look great in a bikini just the way you are), that can be just as valid a reason as wanting to prevent heart disease (although again, not all plus size people are at risk for heart disease, and heart disease is not a plus-specific issue). If you're doing what will truly make you happy, you don't have to answer to anyone.
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