“Congratulating weight loss reminds everyone that their body is being assessed.”
I have sat hard with this one sentence. I shared it yesterday in my story on Instagram with a poll that many of you weighed in on. You were split almost down the middle with a 58% toward AGREE.
I feel it's appropriate to give context to the quote written by the author. The curator of the post loved the validation of a compliment about her body. But also hated it. It created an understanding to her that people were noticing her body and deciding its merit. This made her feel a pressure to hold onto the “better” for as long as she could. She made the calculation that this kind of validation about her body was available when she performed well but wondered what others must have thought about her before that, when her body was not in that shape.
This is her story, and I believe it matters. I feel the weight of her need for approval and the shame that is often connected to our bodies based on our own personal history. Body shaming is never okay. I understand there is pain for some who have lost weight due to a medical crisis and the compliment was hard to hold because of your private health crisis. And I also feel for those with disordered eating which has been fueled in part by the compliments you may have received for being thinner. We all have a story.
Now let me share mine. I haven’t always looked “great.” If we are equating “great” to body size. I was the ‘chubby’ girl most of my tween and all of my teenage life. I have shared in previous articles about what this “skinny” girl knows about “fat” because I was named that a few times by Junior high boys, a few random high school girls and a young man I almost married. Those statements obviously stuck, or I could not share them with you today. But in my story, I didn’t long for approval of my body, and so the negative remarks did not leave me feeling disapproved. It just wasn’t my “strength”. I am not suggesting that I have never self bullied the image in the mirror or hated the way I looked in a pair of jeans. I am not saying that I haven’t done a crash diet or attempted a fad that might bring the scale down to what Cosmopolitan magazine might have suggested in their latest ad. I just believe that the responsibility for the inner healing revealed on my outer body was on me. It was a job to be done with my Savior. A kind-hearted compliment from a well-meaning human is not to blame for self hatred or feelings of judgement or shame. To suggest we can never applaud someone for a change in their physical appearance that is possibly the by product of a change in healthy habits seems to be painting with too broad a brush.
As a professional health coach, certified in nutrition for the last eight years, the goal is not skinny. The goal is energy. The goal is to fight off disease. The goal is legacy and fullness of life. The goal is to end the cycle of yo-yo dieting. The goal is to own their worth. That is the deeper work to be done. The goal is health. Which does not mean skinny and it also does not mean overweight. However most often when a body is in excess or emaciated (outside of illness or disease) there is something going on inside and the body is just reflecting that. That is why I love what I do to serve people. I am not here to modify behaviors, waistlines or numbers on the scale. I believe in life-long transformations that can happen one healthy habit and one hard conversation at a time. And for that deep work, I want to stand and applaud. Everyone is fighting a battle, and the people I get to come alongside are breaking old patterns, finding their healing and working to create a better life for themselves and those who will follow. And yes! This often shows up in the decreasing of their weight.
“My body is not my identity, it is a gift to be stewarded.” ~Jen Jones
This is a big conversation with all kinds of feels and loaded with perspectives and meaningful stories that create them. I would like to leave you with a few helpful outlooks that can positively contribute to your whole health regardless of your size.
Move your body because you can, not to punish it for what it didn’t do.
Deal with your emotions, but not with the dopamine hit of sugar.
Take care of your body because you love it, not because you hate it.
Take responsibility for your eating habits, not because it’s cheating, because you have a choice.