As a therapist certified in Body Positive Psychology, I work with a lot of clients (men, women and adolescents) on being Body Positive (BP). If you've never heard this term before, trust me--you will be seeing a lot more of it soon. I'm finding that my Facebook page has numerous posts every day supporting the Body Positive movement and the general media has gotten on the band wagon also!
For me this has been a life-changing philosophy. I've never been happier and more at peace with my body. I've quit judging self-worth when it comes to my body shape, and the days of fighting my body are long over. At this point you may be wondering what this awesome movement is all about. The Body Positivity approach has five core components:
● Reclaim Health
● Practice Intuitive Self-Care
● Cultivate Self-Love
● Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty
● Create Community
The beauty in these components is their simplicity. When I first read about them in the book
Embody, Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and Quiet that Critical Voice) by Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott, I thought "Why haven't I been thinking and living this all along?"
Of course it was somewhat of a rhetorical question. In my lifetime it has never been socially acceptable to think like this. We live in a society where a woman that wears a size 8 is considered a Plus Size model. Consequently, a majority of men and women (yes, men have these issues too!) have suffered in some form with everything from low self-esteem to eating disorders, depression to social anxiety. Did you know that research shows that children start having body issues as young as three years old? I think that's crazy (and so sad)! So, let's break this down.
In order to Reclaim Your Health you want to begin focusing on your real health, not society's weight focused model. Let's start with the definition of health according to Elizabeth & Connie in their book Embody:
• A holistic view of a person’s life
• More than just physical wellness
• Being able to cope with emotions and life experiences in a positive way, whenever possible
• Seeking balance in ALL areas of life (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional)
• Making decisions determined by one’s own motivation for doing things (e.g., moving to feel good rather than to lose weight as one might be told to do by a fitness program)
• Being sensible (for the most part!)
• Keeping an open mind
• Not obsessing over food and weight
• Having prospering relationships
• Being comfortable in one’s skin
• Living life in a purposeful, beneficial manner
Is this your definition of health? I know it wasn't mine before I learned about BP.
This competency promotes uncovering the messages that have influenced your relationships with your body, food, and exercise. Developing a weight-neutral, health-centered approach to self-care. Becoming the authority of your own body by sorting out facts from distorted societal myths about health, weight, and identity. After all, as the saying goes, we were not all cut from the same cloth. Why should I, someone who has never had a tall, thin ancestor expect to be tall and thin? We've all heard the old Nature vs. Nurture debate. Well believe this, our bodies are definitely a combination of nature and nurture!
I've heard some criticism of BP from people who think this is just giving yourself permission to not care about your size or health. Those people obviously haven't done their homework! Being Body Positive doesn't mean we throw our hands in the air and say "It's all genetics, so why bother trying to make a change? Let's have another piece of chocolate cake." It is about recognizing and appreciating what has been passed down from our ancestors and what is within our power to choose and change.
Unlike programs that link weight loss and health, Body Positive and Health at Every Size (HAES)® emphasizes metabolic fitness (a healthy range for blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, etc.), regular physical activity and a balanced diet, and overall life quality as the primary indicators of health. Fortunately, HAES® is a growing health movement that is being adopted by an increasing number of medical and mental health practitioners worldwide. If your physician isn't one of them yet tell her/him about it. If they aren't open to it, find a new doctor! (If you know of doctors that do practice and support this model, please take a minute to send me an email and share their name and city with me. That's information I'd like to have to share with others who are looking.)
Until next week, when I'll be talking about Practicing Intuitive Self-Care, remember this is a journey of changing life long thoughts and behaviors. Take it one step at a time. Be patient and kind to yourself! Thanks for sharing this journey with me.
Images: Mateus Lunardi Dutra