When the‘body positive’ movement doesn’t actually make you feel positive about your body
I ate nothing but salad last week.
Well, OK, almost nothing but salad.
There was that one day when I HAD to have pasta (No, really, I was literally FORCED to have pasta, true story…) because we got snowed in YET AGAIN, and it was the only thing left in the cupboard. There was also the glass of wine that night. Er, the glass and a half of wine. OK, OK, THE TWO GLASSES OF WINE, WHAT AM I, A MARTYR?
For the MOST part, though, I ate salad all week – and it wasn’t the hugely calorific kind, that’s laden with dressing, and just pretending to be healthy, either. No, this was your standard, no-frills, can’t-even-Instagram-it-because-that’s-how-boring-it-is salad. (Actually, it was mostly your standard pre-packaged, calories-clearly-stated-on-the-bag salad, might as well admit it.) I did not have chocolate. Well, not much chocolate, anyway. I did not go out for cake. I didn’t even have a fancy Starbucks coffee, complete with the requisite 5,876 calories, and, actually, you know what? I TOTALLY AM A MARTYR HERE. I mean, FFS, people, I’ve basically STARVED all week. I’m like a MONK or something.
On Friday morning, I stepped on the scales, exactly one week since my last encounter with them. I even removed my hair elastic, just in case it was adding some serious poundage to my weight. (Answer: it wasn’t. Because obviously.)
Want to know how much weight I’d lost in the course of that week, folks?
0.2 of a pound.
Big whoop, huh?
The next day, we went out for lunch, and I bought Pick n’ Mix on the way home, because who can resist Pick n’ Mix? Not this girl, for sure.
The day after that was my birthday (cake and champagne), and the one after that was Mother’s Day (out to lunch again). On Monday morning, I got back on the scale, and guess what? I’d gained back that 0.2 of a pound. Who’da thunk it, huh?
And that’s pretty much how it’s been for the almost 11 weeks since Max was born. As you’d expect, I lost a lot of weight in the first couple of weeks (SPOILER: IT WAS A BABY. And also a TON of fluid, apparently.), but since then? Nothing. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do or don’t do, my weight remains more-or-less the same, hovering at a point roughly 10 pounds over my pre-baby weight, give or take that 0.2 of a pound. And I’d kind of like to do something about that, really.
The thing is, though, you’re not really allowed to say you’d like to lose weight these days, are you?
Weight is a very loaded subject, especially for women, and even MORE especially for women who’ve had babies. In my position, everyone is very quick to reassure me that it’s totally normal to still be carrying some extra weight right now: they’ll point out that I literally JUST had a baby (Well, I mean, 10 weeks ago I had a baby. Which isn’t, like, yesterday, obviously, but still…), and that I need to go easy on myself, not expect too much, and understand that if it took me 9 months to gain that weight, it’s probably not going to disappear overnight, is it? Especially with, you know, THE HARIBO.
Right now, we’re at a point in our social history where body acceptance has become all-important: people are slowly but surely starting to reject the idea that there’s only one “right” way for a woman to look, and to accept that all shapes and sizes can be beautiful.
More than that, though, weight is a loaded subject for ANY woman, because it JUST IS. Right now, we’re at a point in our social history where body acceptance has become all-important: people are slowly but surely starting to reject the idea that there’s only one “right” way for a woman to look, and to accept that all shapes and sizes can be beautiful. I can’t go onto Twitter these days without seeing someone talking about how we should all love ourselves, because we’re ALL beautiful, and that’s a wonderful thing, truly. I’m all for putting an end to body-shaming and embracing diversity: it’s been a long time coming, and anything that makes people feel even a little bit better about themselves is just fine by me.
(You could sense it coming, couldn’t you?)
I read all this stuff about body positivity, and how we’re ALL SO BEAUTIFUL, and I find myself thinking, well, it’s great if that helps people and all but what if you DON’T feel ‘beautiful’? What if you’re now 10 pounds heavier than you used to be, and you’ve literally worn the same outfit for three days in a row, because it’s the only thing that still fits you? What if your face still looks oddly puffy to you, and no matter how many times your husband assures you that, no, really babe, it’s totally back to normal now, every time he shows you a “cute” photo he took of you and the baby, you’re just like, “Wait, what’s the Pilsbury Dough Boy doing with my child?” I’m honestly amazed that the facial recognition on my phone knows that this is still me right now, seriously. Stop letting me access my bank account, iPhone, FFS!
But I was saying.
What if all of this is true, and it makes you feel a big crappy, really, but everyone just keeps telling you to “go easy on yourself” because your feelings are invalid and you’ve “just got to love yourself!” anyway?
Also, just a thought, but what if, rather than continually insisting that “everyone is beautiful,” we tried insisting that it doesn’t actually matter? Maybe then I wouldn’t be writing this post because, rather than just trying to pretend I don’t care about those extra 10 pounds, I genuinely wouldn’t care.
what if, rather than continually insisting that “everyone is beautiful,” we tried insisting that it doesn’t actually matter?
Like I said, just a thought.
The truth is, though, I DO care. Right now, I just don’t feel comfortable in my own skin – or, more to the point, in my own clothes – and no amount of ‘inspirational’ quotes telling me to love myself, or Instagram posts reminding me that we’re ALL beautiful, therefore I must be beautiful too, no matter WHAT I look like, is going to change that.
Why would it, though?
Why would a post from someone who’s never even heard of me, let alone seen me, telling me I’m “beautiful” make me feel any better about the fact that my jeans are currently in danger of cutting off my circulation, and I don’t really recognise the face I see in the mirror right now? Why would someone who doesn’t know me be presumed to know more about my appearance than I do? And are these people being sincere, anyway?
Like, I know they MEAN well, but do they SERIOUSLY believe that everyone is beautiful? Literally EVERYONE? Or are they just saying that because they know it’s what they’re SUPPOSED to say, and it’s guaranteed to get them a ton of likes on Insta? Can they honestly say they’ve never in their entire life laid eyes on someone who was just average, though? On the subject of being average, meanwhile, if we’re ALL “beautiful”, doesn’t that mean that NO ONE is actually “beautiful”? Because I’d personally define the word “beautiful” as meaning “significantly above average in terms of attractiveness” and if every single person on the planet is above average, then doesn’t that make all of us… average?
Let’s start again with this, shall we?
I don’t believe everyone is beautiful. I’m not, for instance, and there isn’t an inspirational quote or Facebook meme that’s going to change that. The fact is, the ‘body positive’ movement doesn’t actually make me feel positive about my body. And all of those photos of slim women contorting themselves into awkward positions to emphasise their “fat” rolls, or taking close-up photos of their cellulite don’t make me feel positive about my body, either. In fact, all those photos do is prove that size still matters: that people are STILL obsessed with their body shape, and that, oh yeah, if you stand sideways to the camera and deliberately relax your stomach muscles, your belly will look a bit bigger. WHO KNEW?
The fact is, the ‘body positive’ movement doesn’t actually make me feel positive about my body.
Wouldn’t it be more effective if, rather than constantly telling people to stop obsessing over body size, we all just, I don’t know, stopped obsessing over body size? Wouldn’t it be refreshing if people started posting photos of themselves in bikinis at the beach, without having to type an entire manifesto to accompany it, talking about how they were terrified to post the photo, until they remembered how beautiful we all are, and now they’re striking a blow for womankind by bravely wearing swimwear to swim in? Wouldn’t it be great if pulling on a swimsuit wasn’t seen as an act of heroism, and everyone simply accepted that swimwear is just what people wear to the beach, no congratulations necessary?
Wouldn’t it, though? Or is it just me who secretly suspects that at least some of the people ‘bravely’ posting photos of themselves in their undies are actually just doing it so everyone can tell them how amazing they are, rather than because they genuinely believe we’re ALL beautiful?
We’re not all beautiful. We ARE, however, all beautiful to someone – or we can be. Perhaps that would be a better message: or, better yet, how about a message that being “beautiful” doesn’t actually matter – that we’re all still WORTHY, whether we’re beautiful or not … and that’s all that matters?