Y’all, I too, like Ja Rule, “was hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hood winked, lead astray!!!” (Fyre Festival reference, cracks me up every time). The Health at Every Size (HAES) movement coming in with a big ol’ truth bomb confirming, yep, we have all been bamboozled.
We have all been “bamboozled” into believing that health is tied to the number on the scale. We have been scammed into believing the amount of fat on our body is tied to how healthy we are. We have been lead astray by diet culture to believe that thin bodies should be celebrated, and fat bodies must be shamed. Boooo diet culture! All lies friends, all lies.
Health at Every Size promotes body acceptance regardless of size, helps us understand all bodies are good bodies, and preaches weight diversity is a beautiful thing. I know a lot of women struggle with body image, myself included (blame diet culture), but in reality, our weight is the least important thing about us. HAES has helped me to improve my relationship with my body and take steps towards moving to body acceptance. There were a few things in my HAES research that really stood out to me as lightbulb moments, and my hope is that these will be helpful to anyone else out there struggling with body image.
Belly fat: Did you realize women are supposed to have belly fat? Our bodies store fat around our stomach to protect our reproductive organs for when and if we have children. How cool is that? But we are constantly told belly fat is the worst possible thing in the world and if you have any fat, you better do something about it. This is also why men can look at a treadmill and drop weight without even trying. Ladies, our bodies are just over here, trying to take care of us. Health at Every Size means we can accept our body fat and appreciate it for what it does for us.
Genetics: Our genes play a huge role in our body composition. Weight is as genetic as height. Weight diversity should be looked at as a beautiful thing instead of a negative one. It makes a whole lot of sense, right? But why is this never discussed in the weight conversation? All of our bodies process things differently, but we are all measured on the same BS scales like BMI. Bamboozled again, friends!
The next generation: I have this really vivid memory of getting ready for a dance recital at the age of 5 or 6, and I remember crying when we were trying on our leotards. I looked around at all of the other girls in their thin bodies and realized I looked different. I had hips and thighs for as long as I can remember, and the messages I received that early on in life told me that was bad. All of the women in my family have always been entrenched in diet culture, trying to fit their own bodies, and I picked that up at a very early age.
I worry about my son and never want him to worry or be upset about the way he looks. No child should ever be worried about these things. We have to do better.
Joyful movement: I used to think to call something a “workout” I had to kill myself for at least an hour at the gym. No thank you! Some days I enjoy that but some days it feels good to take the dog for a walk, do yoga, or just dance around the kitchen to some T Swift. I used to be really hard on myself for not working out a certain number of days during the week, for not being able to run as many miles as my runner friends, and for needing to take rest days. Now, I give myself permission to do what feels good and it has completely changed my outlook on movement. Also, your body needs rest. It’s just as important as movement. Listening to my body in this way has helped me appreciate my body for what it can do/ is doing instead of punishing it for what it’s not doing, ie losing weight.
Last words of advice: Marie Kondo the crap out of the clothes you were saving for when you lose weight, listen to body positive/ HAES podcasts (highly recommend “The Babesment” with Stef Streb & Julie Ohlemacher), and learn to listen to your body (it knows what it’s doing).