The Weight of Body Positivity

I’m one of those women with a sort of… in between body type. I can’t claim fat or skinny though both have been pushed on me. For most of my life, I’ve mostly been, let’s say, average.

Labels, Labels, Labels.

Many people are worried about correctness of body labels. There isn’t a word for us here in the middle, but in-between seems to make sense (size 8-12/14, store/brand dependent). For people who weigh more than us, do you say fat (preferred by many over veil euphemisms like curvy or fluffy), overweight (who determines a standard weight for all?), obese (medical term), or is it plus sized (size larger than ‘standard’)? For those weighing less, do you say skinny (usually taken as a compliment if you’re trying to lose or keep off weight), thin (generally positive, but can be negative), underweight (again, the standard weight is?), or straight sized (a newly discovered word for me)? It’s like when white people whisper the word “black” like it’s a bad word, but will say “African American” in their normal volume because that feels safe, safer, or politically correct. Refer to my post about how confusing labels can be.

In between bodies get stuck because we can’t complain we’re too fat without feeling invalid for having negative body feelings because we pass as “enough”. We never really stay skinny per se either, but we can mostly get away with hiding our perceived flaws. In between bodies are mostly in proportion, but some body part (thighs, buttocks, belly, or breasts) tends to be smaller or larger than the rest. Shopping means going to the plus and standard sized stores and it’s exhausting. I absolutely hate shopping for clothes.

A Movement.

There’s a lot of talk about body positivity these days. I totally agree we should accept our bodies because aside from earth, it’s the only home we’ll ever have and the only body we’ll ever have (putting aside beliefs on reincarnation). Yet, something still feels off about the body positivity movement.

Personally I misunderstood body positivity as an acceptable pass to perpetuate unhealthy behaviors, but I also believe I didn’t misunderstand it at all. Some of it is encouraging people to stay where they are even if they desire to change something, even if it’s from personal preference, excluding societal pressure. It might be easy to point at overly overweight or underweight people at this point, but not every body shows its misalignment on the outside. Maybe the word we’re looking for here is admitting (confess the truth), not accepting (belief). We love to rely on seemingly irrefutable proof in the form of genetics, culture, lifestyle, health problems, and seemingly unbreakable habits. But, who benefits when we get stuck on an unhelpful belief about the infinite potential of our body?

Whenever I leaned more towards fat, I hated it, but it wasn’t purely out of desiring societal acceptance. I told myself, I gotta stay positive and love my body, but truly I couldn’t accept myself because I ate my feelings instead of facing the things that made me want to cover my emotions in the first place. I didn’t have these words for it then, but I can’t say for certain I really did the best I could at the time. Ironically, I was swept up in the pressure to accept my body by the movement.

I wish I understood sooner what I was really doing to myself. I was selfish, a slave to my lusty taste buds, too undisciplined to challenge the things I was putting into my body because it’s hard. Because that’s what Jamaicans eat. Because I like it. Because I’m too tired. Because I don’t have time. Because it’s the weekend. Because it’s my body. It often feels like we’re just waiting for our health to deteriorate, but not all disease manifests symptoms. For a lot of us, we take the artificial way out (fad diets, surgery), which doesn’t solve the mental, emotional, and spiritual reasons why we initially fell ill.

Full Body Potential

This is a call out to the darker side of weight and body positivity no one wants to really touch. We tell ourselves excuses to skip doing the work, but we betray ourselves because of the mostly skinny celebrities we idolize (but pretend we love their work, not their body), the culture of beauty standards we say we hate but buy into, the before and after body picture craze people are intentionally capitalizing on to gain followers, the overly processed food we consume, etc. If plus, standard, or straight sized ain’t what you want to be, admit the truth but don’t accept it as a belief if you can genuinely do something about it.

I’ve been alive almost 30 years and I have no idea what my body’s full potential is.

That thought has been haunting me louder and louder the longer I’m alive. I don’t know my maximum stamina, flexibility, durability, or strength. Instead I tell myself it’s too late or if I come across someone who’s changed their health, I make up some reason why they’re special and not me.

I get we may feel have better priorities, but how do we fulfill said priorities if our vessel is scraping by? If a healthy body is a healthy mind, my attic is filthy. Emotional baggaged up. Spiritually ragged. I want to life in my best body so I can live my fullest life. I don’t want to keep saying I can’t do something because I never tried to heal from the source. I don’t want to blame my family, culture, or society for it’s standards when I don’t have integrity with my own. So, may we find serenity in what we cannot change, courage in what we can, and wisdom to know the difference.

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