I have been attempting to shrink my body for the last 20 years. I tried changing my eating habits. I exercised vigorously. I counted calories. I bought diet pills from the drugstore. When I was at my skinniest, I was acting self-destructive and contemplating suicide every night.
I realized I had become a slave to the scale. My goal was to become body positive, but on the way I found body neutrality. I am thankful for the body I have and everything it’s gotten me through, and I will not punish it for not looking like America’s “ideal” body.
I decided to take the steps to live my life without worrying about my weight, and I have never felt so liberated when it comes to my body. It did not happen overnight, and I still occasionally struggle with poor body image. Some of the steps I took to get to body neutrality:
- I unfollow social media accounts that push dieting and achieving a smaller body.
- I stopped weighing myself.
- I eat intuitively, which means if my body is hungry, I feed it.
- I thanked my body for what it’s gotten me through: a major injury to my spine, a suicide attempt, multiple mental illnesses. The human body is an amazing thing.
Diet culture has damaged so many people’s psyche in the country. I am fortunate enough to have never developed an eating disorder, but others are not so lucky. While working on Election Day, I visited a middle school and the walls were plastered with posters on BMI and body fat percentage. Teaching pre-teens that being fat is bad does not encourage health, but it promotes shame and bullying.
I realized I finally reached body neutrality when I weighed myself earlier this week and found out I lost 30 pounds since the last time I stepped on the scale at a doctor’s appointment in July. And I felt… nothing. I wasn’t excited, I didn’t want compliments or congratulations, and I only told my husband (and now everyone else on the internet).
A few things I’ve learned on this journey:
- Your weight is not indicative of your health. Being fat does not automatically mean unhealthy. I have had good blood pressure and my blood panel is always in the healthy range, not that I need to explain to you. My health issues stem from physical trauma and mental illness, not my weight.
- Fat is not pseudonymous with ugly, and the word “fat” is not an insult. People saying, “you’re not fat, you’re beautiful!” makes it sound like you can’t be both at the same time.
- You can exercise without trying to shrink your body. More so, you shouldn’t have to punish your body for what you eat.
I’m still learning, and it’s still a process, but I’m proud of my growth. I will no longer try to become small to make others feel more comfortable.
Note: This article isn’t meant to shame people who are skinny or who have worked hard to lose weight. This article is for people who struggle with poor body image and have been psychologically and/or physically damaged by diet culture.