5 Things Body Positivity Has Taught Me

So it has been almost a year since I found and began to embrace body positivity and intuitive eating. I have written a few posts about my experience so far with it, but I would like to try to share a few definitive things here that I have taken away from it, and what makes it so worthwhile for me personally. 

I am writing this partly for myself, for anyone curious about it, and also in case I need a reference the next time someone tries to sell me on their life changing new “not a diet” diet!

Because I feel pretty certain in saying: this is not a phase, I won’t ever go back to that life of deprivation, calorie counting, or berating my body for not looking a certain way. Because looking back it seems more dull and depressing than I can imagine now. Loving yourself no matter what shape your body is (or at least trying to!) feels SO much better than beating yourself up, who knew!

1. Stand Up For Yourself, Because No One Else Will

The truth is, sometimes it’s hard to be body positive. It can feel like quite a lonely uphill battle, this whole loving yourself as is lark. The expected societal response women are meant to direct at their bodies is “Ugh I’m so fat and gross, look at my stomach, time to get beach body ready!” or “I can’t believe I ate all that JUNK, I am so going on a diet Monday!”. 

You will see and hear women of EVERY size directing scorn at their bodies, and of course, you may well have once been one of them, only now, you are not part of the normalized self-loathing club, and it can feel….isolating. 

You are most definitely a social outcast if you don’t at least toss a little derision here and there at your body’s “imperfections", and if you don't pay any kind of lip service to the diet hamster wheel we are all seemingly expected to jump on and off of ad infinitum.

Whether you hear it in the gym locker room, the lunch with friends, or are overwhelmed by it online (I have had to be ruthless with eliminating it on my social media feeds), it’s a conversation you really want not to be a part of if you are to stop constantly judging yourself and start loving yourself JUST AS YOU ARE in the inimitable words of Mark Darcy.

To be the one person NOT saying “yeah me too, I’m so gross, why don’t I just perpetually hate on myself for having a non-societally esteemed body!” can feel lonely.

Sometimes you might just remain silent, because the truth is not everyone is open to hearing about body positivity, so foreign a concept is it. But eventually you will be pushed to take a stand. 

It happened to me recently when someone tried to sell me one of the popular protein diet shake systems. I stopped them before they could even go into the sell, explained that I am not about that life, and directed them to one of my blog posts in case they didn’t understand/hadn't heard of body positivity. They were nice about it, but I still got that little push back of “But this is not a diet, it’s a LIFESTYLE”, which yeah, sorry, no. ANY system of food consumption that has rules about what you can and cannot put in your body is a diet.

The presumption that seemingly everyone has that you should want to lose weight/be on whatever hot new diet they are on begins to feel frankly oppressive, and to keep at this thing you really need to bolster yourself with all of the tools you can find.

2. Loving Yourself Feels Much Better Than Not


You might not necessarily think you "hate" yourself or even your body, I know I wouldn't have said I "hated myself", even after years of dieting to try to make myself more "acceptable". I think I just thought I could only be truly happy if I was thin. 

So many of us only practice directing self-criticism at our bodies, and shocker, guess what, over time that makes you feel like crap about yourself! Why would you do that to yourself? Maybe because it’s what you’ve been taught to do your whole life? 

Sure, I feel you. BELIEVE me I do. It has taken me over twenty years to say “Time’s UP!” to blaming myself for not being however thin I deemed necessary at the time (spoiler, nothing is ever enough - I have noticed  recently that even people who lose a lot of weight never seem quite satisfied, there is always another "goal" before they can finally let go and be happy with themselves, it would seem).

Within me there has been a tiny revolution of sorts. I can actually focus as much on the things that I like about my body as the things that I don’t, and I have found a way to mostly see the “problem areas” as just…there.

Of course I still have bad days, but the main difference is, rather than feeding into the negative thoughts I might be having and encouraging them, I try to take a step back, think about what might be causing this negative self talk, and guess what? Nine times out of ten it's something emotional I am not dealing with.

Realizing that hating on my body was often a distraction from maybe dealing with whatever else might be going on has been an eye opener. It's a really handy (and unhealthy! ;-)) avoidance tactic to stop you feeling and acknowledging any uncomfortable feelings that you might be having that are totally unrelated to how you look.

Sometimes it's much easier to focus on the outside and try to "fix" it that than to actually....feel pain and stress and whatever other stuff we may be avoiding.

At first it feels super weird to try to be unconditionally nice to yourself on a regular basis. To not admonish yourself for eating what you like. To not blame almost everything on your poor beleaguered body. One of the biggest things I read that hit home from Anastasia Amour was "Would you say any of the things you say to yourself to your best friend?", to which you think "Of course not, I'm not a monster, I love that person!". The abuse we some of us hurl at our bodies really is staggering and to dismiss it as normal begins to seem ever more ridiculous.

It takes repitition and practice and saying things you like out loud about yourself in the mirror like an utter weirdo (I have mentioned before the techniques I found helpful in a book by Anastasia Amour that is no longer available, but I would be willing to bet that the amazing Megan Crabbe's book Body Positive Power has similiarly helpful tips, though I haven't read it yet).

Stopping and reversing the pattern of directing criticism at the body doesn't happen overnight. But after a while, it does have an effect on your overall impression of yourself, and I promise you it is so much nicer to feel that you are worthy and lovable no matter what you look like or what you eat. 

3. Learn to Check Your Thin Privilege

Once you no longer identify fat as the enemy, your eyes get opened really wide to how pervasive the culture of fatphobia is. I would like to think that I was never truly fatphobic, that I was never outwardly mean or negative to anyone, but I know just from this past year how much stuff I find hurtful now as a person who doesn’t believe my or anyone else's body is a problem to be fixed. 

Here’s the thing.: there are women both smaller than me and bigger than me trying to live this body positive life. I relate to both. I doubt my own journey would have lead here had I not struggled with eating disorders when I was younger, so I relate a lot to the women dealing with that. 

But the fact is that generalized  fatphobia, bitterly ironically, has drowned out too many important voices in the body positive movement, as most of the women making a big profit from it now are let’s be honest, not that fat, cisgender and generally white.

I try to make sure I read and listen to the words of people who have felt genuinely excluded by society, as much as possible. Because there is no question that this is a much easier path for someone shaped like me, because I can exist in the world without much discrimination surrounding my size.

Society teaches us it’s ok to deride and recoil from fatness, in so many subtle and less subtle ways that really begin to pain you the more you try to distance yourself from it. 

Educating myself more about fat activism and leaning into embracing my own fat-ness, has been such an eye opener. Fat is not a feeling, as they say, it’s a descriptor, and becoming ok with it and defending its right to exist without judgement or abuse in your own body and that of others is essential if you are to be TRULY body positive.

4. EXERCISE is a Lot More Fun Without the Pressure to Lose Weight!

Ok so I haven’t worked out since December (I was ILL, so ill I tell you. For a month!), but actually this past week I feel like I miss it and can’t wait to go back to the gym. I miss the endorphins, the satisfaction of working up a sweat, the listening to my music playlists, all of it. Exercising from a place of relative self-acceptance just feels so much more freeing and joyful than doing it on some self imposed timer to shrink and/or sculpt the body in a prescribed way. 

I admit I see a lot of women my size or maybe bigger at the gym and they look really unhappy and uncomfortable, and it makes me sad. You can just see in their body language that they feel like they don’t “fit in”, they seem to not really be enjoying it because they are self conscious, and that SUCKS. Maybe I am projecting a tiny bit here but I do feel SO much happier not caring what anyone thinks about me or my body and I just wish more people could, it's a much less stressful way to be.

Also, if you ARE interested in exploring a more body positive mind set, I will say that if you are an over-exerciser/someone who uses exercise to control your weight you might want to take a break from exercise for a few weeks or maybe take up a more gentle exercise like yoga just to get in touch with your body and stop viewing its ability as a means to an end.

Doing exercise that makes you feel good/is fun is the biggest emphasis within the ant diet mind set, and again, I fully acknowledge that I am lucky to be able bodied and able to work out in a gym without too much focus on my body because of my size. Of course there will always be days when I feel like I don't fit the ideal female aesthetic in the gym, it's impossible to avoid in a temple to "fit"ness.

But I have never once felt like I wanted to exchange feeling good about myself and satisfied with  that post workout feelgood buzz for the weigh in's and self flagellation I sometimes overhear in the locker room.

Ideally I wouldn't have to go to a gym to exercise, but I have problem knees that make it essential to keep up my quad strength, so I can do more fun things like shimmy around my living room to cheesy disco music. I think that I am proof that if I can do it, anyone can handle working out at the most youth/fitness oriented gym around while preserving a body positive mindset. It's almost like a bootcamp to test your self acceptance reserve! I do feel it's more of a test on the old psyche than taking a fun dance or yoga class might be, but for me it's a necessary evil.

I really, really wish gyms would get their act together and embrace people of ALL sizes AS IS and stop promoting weight loss as a cure all, that might be an “I have a dream” too far, but one can hope.

5. You Are NOT What You Eat!!

aka ALL food is good food. The more time we spend demonizing certain foods, the less time we spend developing a healthy and instinctive relationship with food. For one thing, eating only healthy foods will not actually prevent diseases or make you live longer. Guess what, I got an aggressive form of cancer after being a vegetarian and general food policer for most of my early life at the age of 28! 

Many of us are taught to police food from a young age, and that trend is only increasing with the pervasiveness of diet culture. Food restriction, as anyone who has ever fallen off the diet wagon knows, is not the answer. Deprivation, more often than not, leads to bingeing. Diets don't work, for most people, that is a fact. Most people gain more weight cyclically the longer they diet.

Diets teach you to compromise your true food cravings, take away your choices, and make you subsume your needs for so long that to break out of those habits can feel unnatural at first. It takes time to trust yourself, and yes, allow yourself to eat all the oreos or cake or chips or whatever other food you may have been depriving yourself of off and on for years.

Since I have genuinely started to eat whatever I want (and no, you cannot half ass this thing and only eat “healthy”, intuitive eating is NOT clean eating as I have written about before), I generally feel much less stress around food, more satiated and less likely to overeat generally. I also have had to re-learn whether I genuinely like some things because they are “healthy” or not, which has been quite a process.   

Listening to my body’s cravings and sating them with what it genuinely wants can be fun, but it can also feel like work sometimes. I am not by nature a passionate cook, once in a blue moon I get excited to try a new recipe, but mostly I am pretty lazy, and some of the things I really like to eat are of no interest to my husband, so I try to make sure I have snacks and lunches that I particularly enjoy so I am not feeling deprived or compromised in my food choices generally.

I could say a lot more about how important I believe intuitive eating is to this process, but this post is, surprise surprise, running long!

I admit I meant for this post to be TEN, not FIVE Things I have learned, but as per usual I am way over the desired word count. Sorry! I will pick this up at a later date if anyone is interested, I have many more thoughts! Thanks for reading!


  1. I'm so glad so many positive things have come out of this journey for you! Women do seem to have a lot to say about weight and food, right? At my "new" job (hello, I've been there almost a YEAR NOW WHERE DID THE TIME GO) my weight is constantly brought up in regards to food. I brought some cookies, and someone was like oh you can eat all those yourself who are you kidding (in response to me saying I had too many cookies at the house), or bringing me a cupcake and saying you can't say no little miss skinny! They aren't saying these things in a mean way, but its weird cause I don't think that way. Food I eat has nothing to do with my weight or the time of day or whatever. (Candy and fries are all fair game for breakfast).

    Glad that your illness seems to be over as well! This has been a tough winter it seems for everyone. The flu has hit the bay area pretty hard :(

    1. I feel your pain, my husband gets that "You're so lucky" thing all the time and I know it drives him nuts. People forcing food on you is not cool either, that is just rude! Other people saying "No" to things on my behalf really riles me up now too. Like, I don't care that you are on a diet, don't project your decisions onto me.

      I can't believe you've been at your job a year, seems like a few months! Last night I was thinking about something I did almost a year ago that literally feels like a month or two ago though so I don't know, time be crazy lately! I blame only myself for getting the horrible cold, I was feeling a little bit smug because I didn't get a bad cold all last year, so that's my comeuppance ha ha!

  2. Great post! Body positivity has changed my life and made me feel more attractive and confident! Thank you BP Guru!

    1. Ha ha thanks Elinor!Yay for the body positive confidence boost! It's crazy how you don't have to lose weight to feel good about yourself in this world right? ;-) xx