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health and body positivity in art - sculpture of legs and feet extruding from a copper base in a playful way of describing pilates by camille henrot

Health and body positivity – values and behaviours

What does health and body positivity mean to you? The positive body image movement is a hugely important and beneficial trend in our society. However, I have some concerns about how for SOME body positivity communicators, this can start to look like moving in the opposite direction from HEALTH and body positivity. This is not to devalue the body positivity movement. Anything that helps us to accept who we ARE in this present moment is a positive force for human well being.

Body positivity – the art of feeling good

It is just that in my experience, what actually makes me FEEL GOOD about my body and about my body image are the kinds of things that lead to the very value of a healthy body. The important thing is what makes YOU feel good. Cooking and eating healthy food is one of my favourite hobbies. While eating nutritious and healthy food is good for many health outcomes, such as longevity and other long term chronic diseases, I am also motivated to eat in a certain way, because it helps me to lose weight.

Furthermore, despite all the health and body positivity images that I see often in my Instagram feed, I actually desire to inhabit a body that is the best it can be. And yet, I respect the health and body positivity movement, because it is all about loving yourself no matter what skin you are in. I think there is a real skill in learning to accept yourself and the way you look as it is.

It can be challenging to learn how to do this through looking at body positive Instagram posts. It doesn’t seem so simple as absorbing the creator’s acceptance. As much as I appreciate the diversity. I don’t feel like body positive Instagram posts are teaching me to get over it and love the skin I am in. But it certainly seems that others are learning this skill, which means that it can be done!

Be healthy in any body

I am wondering if I can learn to love my body in other ways. It always feels good to eat healthy food, and don’t you love the feeling of being active and working out? I also love, love the lean, light feeling that I have been feeling inside for months now. This indicates to me that there is a degree of health and vitality inside. Even something as simple as a nice haircut can improve your attitude towards your body.

For so many people who have diverse body shapes and sizes, both and male and female. There are very good reasons why our bodies look the way they do. We may have a genetic illness, or may need to take a medication that causes us to gain weight. People may have other reasons for the fact that they are overweight. In all of these examples, it is clear that ACCEPTANCE is what we should strive for, from all perspectives.

There are also parts of your body or face that we will never be able to change, maybe not even with plastic surgery, so it seems our only choice really is this learning of acceptance.

Judgment – it is all on them

Considering this for any length of time, it becomes clear that the people who judge, the ones who turn their noses up at obesity, disfigurement, disability or diversity, are not even the people that we really want to know. Another skill is to learn not to judge. It is a hugely important skill, and one which I think we should all strive towards.

It is possible. If you train your mind to let thoughts pass, without getting involved in them. It is a kind of mindfulness, and that is what allows us to let go of judgment or both ourselves and others.

Personal journeys and stories

I am still learning this myself. While appreciating the beauty of a plus sized woman on a body positive Instagram feed. I salute her courage, spirit and success. And also strive for her sense of acceptance.

For me personally, the value I am striving for is a strong, healthy, lean body. That is just me though. Given the option, I will choose the ‘healthy’ option almost every time. This whole blog persists because I really CARE about taking care of my body, mind and spirit. I think that taking care of yourself, physically, emotionally and spiritually is a positive ideal for everyone. However, the way that we achieve this and what we strive for may be different.

SMART goals for health and body positivity

I think it can be good to translate that value of HEALTH into specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely goals, or SMART goals. It is very helpful to actually MEASURE your success. I am not afraid to say in this post, that my idea of success is a body that is a certain size and a certain weight. The fact that I have these ‘numbers’ in my mind, and continually get closer to those ideal numbers, is incredibly motivating. It also keeps me searching for methods that really work. Or innovating in terms of my personal development to try new things.

That is not to say that there is one magical number, and that all of our self worth rests on a number. There are so many bases to our self esteem. I think it is important to have a range of different domains in our lives that contribute to making us feel good about ourselves. Our weight and our outward appearance is only one aspect of a whole person. We are so much more than a number on a scale or a measuring tape.

health and body positivity values in sport and fitness

Beauty in the eye of the beholder

So, I expect that others may not judge me personally or professionally no matter what the size and shape of my body. That is the foundation of my positive body image. However, I actually engage in more healthy behaviours for this very fact that I have a SMART goal to reach. In measuring, recording and quantifying my weight and measurements I actually behave in healthier ways, than if I were say just generally aiming to ‘get healthier’. For me, this is the value in health and body positivity.

Even if I never get there, I will be heading in the right direction, and will learn much along the way. There is a huge value in that kind of living.

Also, and I know that this is only true for some body positive warriors, it makes no sense at all to me to go completely in the other direction. Or start to use new found popularity to suggest that ice cream, chips, chocolate, alcohol, pizza and bacon should be eaten whenever you like! These things are not good for your waist line, sure. They are not good for your overall health either.

Obviously, these influencers do have a point. Everything in moderation, including moderation, perhaps. I do have a tendency to get a bit ‘obsessive’ about cutting out certain foods, including unhealthy foods from my diet. And while this works for me (at the moment), that kind of obsession can lead to serious eating disorders. So, I think it is important to hold onto your ideals lightly, when possible. ‘Live a little’ in a sense.

Acceptance is observing without judgment

I think what is important is that you feel enabled to constantly strive to be the person you want to be, in all areas of life. Furthermore, you should not have to feel bad about the way your body looks. Other people have no right to make you feel bad about that either. This is the foundation of health and body positivity.

Striving towards the body that we want to see when we look in the mirror and the number that we want to see on the scales and measuring tape works for me. Because it keeps me motivated to keep moving forward. However, even if I ever get there, I know that this ideal body is not going to be the answer to my HAPPINESS. As some people are hyper aware, getting to your ideal weight, is for some people never enough. Also, being a different shape or size doesn’t make you even one bit less lovable!

So, I would say to please move your body for your mind and for your fitness and for your longevity and eat healthy. Because it makes you feel good, but don’t place TOO MUCH emphasis on the number on the scales. Because, like money, weight loss is not the answer to your happiness or your self esteem. Consistently working towards the values that are important to you. That is what is going to make you happy. Go to it!!

Now, I ask you. . . what do you want for your body? And what makes you feel good? What does health and body positivity mean to you? Tell me in the comments!

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