Question of the Day: Can I Be Body Positive AND Try to Lose Weight?

Super adorable young women walking or jogging on a path – Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

I’ve noticed that people often have a difficult time holding two different thoughts as true at the same time, such as the dialectical premise that you can practice “radical acceptance” of a past trauma AND wish to move on from it, or “radically accept” that you live with chronic pain AND that life is worth living.

If you’re okay with those examples, can you extend it to mean you can practice body/size acceptance, love yourself fully just as you are, AND want to lose 20, 50, or more pounds?

We all, for the most part, grew up believing that thin female body-types and athletic male body-types were the only acceptable body types to have. Advertisers influenced even the youngest of us to strive towards sexy and skinny.

In fact, dieting was all the rage–from the Ayds diet candies my mom kept, the 9-Day Wonder Diet my dad followed, and the skinny models in my ‘Teen Magazine that featured articles like “Get Lost! How to Lose (and Love It!)”, “‘Teen’s Dynamite Diet–Tip the Scale in Your Favor,” “Just-For-Teens Exercise Plan–Measure Up Moves,” and “Head-To-Toe Shape-Up–Hair, Face and Figure,” all in one month’s issue!

My first diet was at age 13 in 1977, and by diet I mean I followed a semi-starvation plan that involved eating only two mini Snickers bars during the day and limiting my portions at dinner with my family. Pretty sure I only stuck with it for a couple weeks, but I know I lost my age in weight and was pretty excited about it.

I’d heard my sweet mother and grandmother say things about others like, “She has such a pretty face, it’s too bad she’s so heavy.” Our culture, even in the 60s and 70s when obesity rates held to around 15% of adults, promoted weight as a clear indicator of both character and beauty. I didn’t need to lose weight, but it still seemed like a good idea to me to get ahead of it.

This culture that featured a constant barrage of weight loss gimmicks and messages about the horrors of body fat (which haven’t slowed down in the least despite the body positivity movement) did little to change the course of the rate of obesity in the US or developed nations. In fact, all of these unrealistic demands and images seem to have pushed the needle in the opposite direction.

As of the release of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 74% of adults have overweight or obesity, and 60% of adults have one or more diet-related chronic diseases. Hypertension and high cholesterol, major risk factors for heart disease and stroke, occur more frequently in adults with obesity than those with a healthy weight.

There are increased health risks associated with increased body fat–but not all people will be affected by them. You cannot label all persons with higher percentages of body fat as automatically unhealthy.

From personal experience, that first “successful” diet gave way to weight gain, more weight loss, more weight gained, etc. until I weighed about 285 lb. at different times in my 30s through early 50s. But at no point did I have high cholesterol, hypertension, pre-diabetes, or any other diagnosed health condition. Yes, my knees bothered me, but no doctor ever expressed concern about my weight. (Yes, I do realize I was extremely lucky to not experience fat shaming by a medical professional!)

Which brings me, finally, to my point…

I was obese for a number of years, and it did heighten the depression and self-loathing I suffered for many of them. But thanks at least in part to the body positive movement, and maybe also my advancing age, I did not feel particularly embarrassed or ashamed of my weight when I decided to improve my eating and my metabolism in early 2015. I truly did not care whether or not anyone else found me attractive or not–I liked my style and aesthetic at that time.

I was, however, tired of my hips and knees aching, and I felt too young at 51 to not be able to comfortably take stairs. I also didn’t like having to push or pull myself up off the toilet or a chair to get to a standing position, and forget easily getting down and back up from the floor. The weight around my middle and chest felt suffocating when I bent over. Hell, it started feeling suffocating when I was just sitting up! I wasn’t disgusted by the fat. I just couldn’t live comfortably in my physical body anymore.

So I decided to change.

Does that mean I didn’t accept myself? Didn’t love my body as it was? I don’t think so.

I didn’t stand in the street and wave a flag that told everyone I thought I was beautiful, but I did buy cute clothes that I liked, that I thought showed off my curves. I did, in fact, like the enormity of my butt. I felt sincere gratitude for my body and all of its parts, for still living, still moving, still getting me where I needed to go.

I was fine–great, in fact. But I knew I could feel better.

Now I get to embrace, love, and celebrate my aging body with loose, saggy skin and prominent veins AND work on building additional muscle to fill that skin and improve my strength as I approach my 60s and beyond. Because that’s what I choose for me.

So how is it for you? Do you love and appreciate the body you have AND want to make it more comfortable to live in? Celebrate it AND have a weight loss goal? Rock it AND want to strengthen it, improve your balance, or improve flexibility? Is it possible to embrace the paradox of body positivity and a desire to change it?

If you struggle with self-acceptance, does it help to know that you can love your body and at the same time alter your eating or physical activity patterns to help your body function better? Acceptance and change–the two are not mutually exclusive.

It is ALSO fine if you love yourself as you are–at any weight–and choose NOT to change or are unable to change.

You are beautiful!

You deserve love!

You get to decide what you do with your body!

Go well!

The resources and information shared here are solely for informational purposes and aren’t intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition or disease or provide any professional advice. Discuss any changes in your activity and eating patterns with your primary care physician prior to pursuing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: