5 key ideas in Body Acceptance

By now, you, along with most people have been exposed to the idea of Body Acceptance. But do you really know what it means to accept your body?

Believe it or not, the body acceptance movement has its roots in the activism of the 60’s.

It was a political movement that still exists today called Fat Acceptance. The idea was that discrimination and maltreatment of fat people is as unacceptable as any other group. Fat activism still exists today in groups like the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), a non- profit organization aimed at ending discrimination against fat people.

Today the term Body Positive or Acceptance is widely used, but not always appropriately.

Body Acceptance means really accepting your body, as it is, right now. What this means in practice is that when you look in the mirror you accept how you are. And when you truly accept your body, that means you don’t need to change it. So here’s the thing- intentional weight loss and body acceptance cannot coexist.

Many organizations, businesses and coaches have co-opted this term and use it to sell you shit.

If a “Wellness Coach” claims to help you accept your body by following a restrictive diet and losing weight, then they aren’t really helping you accept your body. When a clothing company claims to support body acceptance but only uses thin models in their advertising (not to mention white, cisgender, able-bodied, etc) they are not showing you that they accept all bodies. When any business uses body acceptance in their marketing but aren’t truly here to help you love yourself RIGHT NOW, without changing something or buying something, then they aren’t promoting body acceptance.

So what does does actual body acceptance look like? Here are 5 important ideas to keep in mind as you travel on your own body acceptance journey.

  1. People’s bodies are as diverse as skin color, height, eye color, etc. and that’s okay. We all know that the current “ideal” is thin, but most people are not genetically programmed to end up that way. For most people trying to manipulate their genetic predisposition along with other factors that control weight, is a losing battle. In fact, in order to maintain a weight that isn’t natural to your body many people resort to disordered eating such as severe restriction and over exercise. Many people are on a diet and weight gain cycle that seems never ending. Accepting the way we are meant to be is the only way to make peace with your body.

  2. You can be healthy at any size. Yes, I said it. Check out information about Health at Every Size (HAES) and the evidence that we have about the true link between weight and health. More and more medical providers are starting to understand that promoting weight loss (a treatment recommendation with poor outcomes) is not really doing the trick when it comes to improving health. You can focus on your health by exercising, incorporating nutritious foods into your meals and reduce your stress without trying to lose weight.

  3. You can learn to eat intuitively. Do you remember when you were a kid and you ate when you were hungry and stopped when you were full? Ah, the simple days. What happened? Somewhere along the way you got the message that you couldn’t trust your body to take care of your feeding needs. You were taught that eating for pleasure or comfort was wrong. So you went on a diet. Intuitive Eating (IE) is a way back to trusting your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Working with an IE dietitian, you can relearn how to eat by listening to your body instead of imposing food rules on it.

  4. You can find larger people to inspire you. Do you ever go on social media and end up feeling terrible about your body? It’s hard to find role models for outspoken, successful and beautiful people in large bodies. But if you look hard enough, they are out there! Unfollow anyone who promotes weight loss or restrictive diets and seek out people like The Body is not an Apology, Ragen Chastain, or me! Curate a feed that inspires you to love yourself and see your true potential at the size you are today.

  5. You can be your own advocate. You can learn to understand that you deserve to be treated with respect regardless of your size. Ask for seating accommodations if you are somewhere the chairs are too small. Refuse to be weighed at your doctor’s office. And speaking of your doctor- don’t allow their fatphobia to determine the medical treatment you get. If you go in for a sore throat and they tell you to go on a diet, demand that you be given the same treatment that a thin person with your condition receives. Speak up when a well meaning friend or family suggests a diet for you. You don’t have to smile and nod while you are humiliated on the inside. Tell them that weight is neutral and that they should not bring this up again.

Do you feel like you are armed with the tools to start accepting your body? If not, that makes sense! It’s taken an entire lifetime of fat shaming, diet culture and trying to change your appearance to get you to where you are today. Seek out a HAES oriented therapist and an Intuitive Eating dietitian and make a commitment to start accepting your body TODAY!