That question. Wow. I’ve been asked that question more times than I can count. I might have been asked that question more than “did your tattoos hurt?” And if you have a lot of tattoos then you know that’s… a lot.
Like so many questions we pose in our lives, the answer is more complex than we’d like it to be. For what it’s worth, there’s a short answer and a long answer – both of which I’m going to share with you here.
The short answer:
Yes. It can be.
The long answer:
What the body-positive movement and, I believe, any body-positive philosophy wants us to do is think critically about the reasons why we pursue the goals that we create for ourselves. Let me use an example:
Not too long ago, I was reading through an Instagram thread on a post from a prominent body-positivity activist. This particular activist often posts professional photos of herself in order to celebrate her body. This specific post drew attention to the stretch marks on her body and spoke about embracing this natural part of (some of) our bodies for what it is and, at times, how we come to have them (ex: pregnancy).**
While there were many comments applauding the photo, one comment stood out among the rest. The comment was from a young woman who claimed that she did not like stretch marks, but that she had always had this feeling (as if it was an innate part of who she was): she claimed that she never liked stretch marks “since she was 7 years old.”
Now, maybe you’re thinking… yeah, me too. I never liked stretch marks and it has nothing to do with being pretty or people thinking they’re ugly – I just don’t like it. It’s just not something I like.
Let me be clear: I understand how we arrive at this line of thinking. I do. But, let me pose a question:
Do you think our preferences are completely formed innately and without any influence from the environment in which we are raised or the media/culture we are exposed to?
It’s a fair question. We are social beings. We do not grow up underneath rocks. In fact, beauty norms are some of the earliest exposures we have to social and cultural signals about how to exist in the world (as women, men, and gender non-conforming individuals). So, the very fact that as a young girl I *never* saw a woman’s stretch marks on television, in print advertisements, or even on my own family members told me a story: stretch marks are not normal. If they exist, they are to be hidden. It already planted a seed of what should and should not be.
Then, I (and the rest of us) take those early perceptions into our adolescent years where they are reinforced by the downright rejection of physical attributes (like body fat or stretch marks) that fall outside of these same beauty norms that we all grew up exposed to.
So, when it comes to weight loss and the question of body-positivity, it’s all about the why. It’s all about the answer to that all important question: Why do you want to lose weight?
Is it because you don’t see fat people who are also healthy, strong, fit, and empowered? If that’s the case, please head over to our Resources page and you will find plenty of representation that might help you see how body fat does not = unhealthy or unfit.
If you’ve been told that losing weight will relieve stress on your joints, have you considered that strengthening your muscles will also relieve stress on your joints?
If you’ve been told that losing weight will improve your blood sugar and other biometrics, have you considered that it’s actually a well-balanced diet and consistent exercise that improves those numbers?
If you’ve been told to lose weight because nobody will love you or want to date you because you’re fat, have you considered that those people are f**king assholes and you are worth so much more than the belief that reducing your size in the world will make you worthy of love? YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE AS YOU ARE.
Ultimately, what I can tell you is this: When I began exercising regularly and learning more about nutrition, I lost weight. It just happened over a long period of time as I adopted new habits. I didn’t go on a diet. I didn’t follow any particular program for working out – I just enjoyed how I felt physically and mentally when I *did.* The rest followed from there. Sometimes when we change our habits (like eating more whole foods and finding exercise that we love and doing it often), we lose weight. But what if it doesn’t happen? Do you believe that eating better and exercising are pointless because the scale isn’t moving? That couldn’t be farther from the truth!
I have body fat. I do not have visible abs. I am not a “fitness model” (and good grief I don’t wanna be). I do not weigh myself because I don’t care about weight, I care about my internal health and how I feel day to day – not about what size I fit into. I do not work out several hours a day. I have a full-time job and a family and other hobbies that I love. Fitness is part of my life – it is not my entire life. I am an average person. And yet, I am healthy, athletic, and strong. I am also a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor who can help you to be healthy, athletic, and strong – or any combination of those, whatever that goal may be.
If weight loss is the goal, let’s make it realistic (not sensational). Let’s make a promise to each other that if the scale doesn’t move, we’ll consider several other health indicators and keep moving our bodies because exercise is beneficial, regardless.
All I’m saying is… weight loss is more complicated than we think: socially, emotionally, and biologically. If we treat it for the complicated endeavor that it is, we are already doing the work of body-positivity.
Yours in rebel health,
** Not all stretch marks come from pregnancy (as I used to believe growing up, until I hit puberty and developed stretch marks on my shoulders of all places – talk about an awkward time for a pre-teen girl).