Body positivity has been making waves through the media, online and in our personal lives for a while now and for great reasons. Body positivity is not only important, but it’s crucial, especially with the long policed standards of beauty in society. While most people will stand behind body positivity as loving yourself for who you are, for every curve and “flaw” that you have, without desire to change, I’d argue that it is possible to love yourself and accept yourself for how you are while also setting goals that may alter the way you currently are, especially if the reason for these goals is for your mental and physical health.
Recently while scrolling through Instagram, I’ve come across some posts saying that people posting before and after progress photos in the name of self-love is actually toxic to the idea of body positivity. While I understand where these people are coming from in saying that, I don’t agree. I believe that you can love yourself for who you are and how you are while also realizing that there are things you can do to better yourself. It doesn’t matter what you look like, how successful you are, how smart you are, in any aspect of your life it is always possible to improve. So when it comes down to loving your body, I think people can love their body for how it is and still want to improve it by living healthier. And the before and after progress photos are just their way of *hopefully* expressing their pride in their progress.
I don’t just think you can want to improve while loving your body to be true, I know it to be true.
At the end of 2014, I was smallest I had ever been as a fully grown young woman. I loved how I looked (minus the acne) but I was in terrible shape mentally. During 2015 and 2016, I was able to take large strides with my mental health and those two years were when I felt the best and loved who I was the most. In 2017 things took a turn, I stopped focusing on my mental health, and started picking up behaviors that were very unhealthy, those behaviors caused me to start gaining weight and feeling mentally drained and defeated. It wasn’t until mid-2018 that I was able to overcome parts of my mental struggles, but the weight still remains.
It’s not the weight that bothers me, it’s the lack of care I’d been taking in myself.
I didn’t really notice the weight slowly coming on until one day I realized I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without running out of breath, that when I was sad I was searching for snacks, that I stopped dancing, and that I stopped wanting to go outside because I hated jeans and I had always loved jeans. I also noticed that my already weak and damaged feet and ankles were hurting more and the pain was moving up to my knees and my back. For a while, I hated how I looked but the reason I looked that way was because of how poorly I was treating myself, and that took a toll on me mentally – again.
You can have goals to take better care of your body and become fit and still love it the way it is now.
Toward the end of 2018, I slowly started to intentionally take better care of myself. I started using my Clarisonic again, which helped my skin clear up and look so much brighter, I became more conscious about why I was snacking and started drinking more water over pop, I made a conscious effort to wear clothes that I felt comfortable in that I also found super cute, and I started dancing even just for a single song if that’s all my ankles and feet could handle. I started to feel more confident and smiling when I looked in the mirror because of the changes I’d been making because I was showing up for myself. But the weight didn’t budge. The weight didn’t budge and neither did the body pains. And that’s why I know it’s possible to love, accept and embrace your body while still wanting to become the healthier version of yourself.
Loving your body means you want to take care of it.
My goals to get in better shape and take better care of myself aren’t there because I am ashamed of my body, they are there because I am responsible for my body and I want to be able to walk when I’m older and run around with my future kids, and with the extra weight, it’s hard to walk my dog for a decent amount of time because of the pressure I’m putting on my feet and ankles makes me want to fall down and cry.
Loving your body means more than just loving your skin, it means loving the inside, too.
It means showing your body you love it by taking care of it, by fueling it with things that make you feel good and moving it to show your muscles you care. It means cutting out dairy even though you love ice cream because it makes you feel sick when you consume those foods. It means stretching and exercising for 10 minutes a day if that’s all you have to spare because you know that if you want to live a healthy life and want your feet to be able to carry you, you have to do it even though you feel so out of shape and sometimes even down about how the routines you once danced without any hesitation or pause to catch your breath now seem near impossible because you’re so out of practice and can’t move the way you used to.
Body positivity and loving yourself is not always easy or pretty, but it’s necessary.
Ask any body positive person you know and they will tell you, loving yourself and your body can be super hard sometimes. Especially when depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses have you feeling defeated. There are days where you don’t feel confident or don’t want to get dressed because you don’t feel good in your skin, and that’s okay, it’s part of the journey. Body positivity isn’t a destination, it’s a never-ending journey. It’s okay to have set backs as long as you pick yourself back up, it’s okay to have goals as long as they are made with good and positive intention and not negative thoughts or feelings. You can love your the stretch marks you got from growing from infancy to adulthood, the dimples that make you unique, and scars that tell stories while also wanting to become healthier or more fit, that doesn’t take away from your body positivity (or anyone else’s) as long as your “why/whys” are positive and meant for more than superficial reasons.
You can be body positive and still want to become healthier and more fit. You can love everything about your body and still want to improve it, I know that because I live it every day.