When body positivity doesn't make you feel positive about your body

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.

But still.

Still.

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.

Yeah.

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.

BUT.

(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? 

body image and diet

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? 

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COMMENTS
  • Rowena

    REPLY

    I feel this. As much as I get the ‘beautiful’ movement and think it’s had some great consequences, sometimes I feel like all it’s doing is reinforcing that, in the eyes of the world, beauty is the most important thing. Beauty is fantastic, wonderful, valuable – but it isn’t the be all and end all.

    March 14, 2018
  • OK, two tips for you:
    1. Track everything you eat. Write it down, put it in your phone whatever, but track it. You don’t have to join a fancy diet club, the secret is tracking. Eat plenty of fruit, veg, healthy carbs (wholewheat pasta, brown rice), lean meat, fish and low fat dairy and you’ll be fine. But write it all down and then you’ll see just how much that little bit of chocolate/wine/whatever is over the week. A little bit is OK, but you’ll be able to see if you’re overdoing it.

    2. Take half an hour to yourself a couple of times a week to go out for a walk/run (weather permitting of course – the impending snow this weekend is impeding my exercise plans too!) – that’s why you have Terry to look after the baby. And if you can’t get out, try to do something in the house – there’s loads of free workout videos on You Tube, some of them only 10 minutes or so. And get your Fitbit back on your wrist and set a daily goal – even if you have to run on the spot in the front room to reach it, it all counts.
    x

    March 14, 2018
  • So I am 8 months post baby almost, and I am still not happy with my body. However, I now weigh the same as I did pre-baby, and have done since she was 2 months old (and no, I have no idea how that happened, I really wasn’t dieting!). I need to lose 4 stone to get to a healthy weight granted (and did before I got pregnant), but what is bothering me mainly at the moment is how the shape of my body has changed. Mainly the fact I now have a stomach, with a very unpleasant tuck in it from my c-section. It ruins the look of every item of clothing I own, except for sack-like things. Which is what I have been living in. I naively assumed that once back to my pre-pregnancy weight I would have a similar body, but nope. I am now hoping that losing the 4 stone will fix the scar overhang but my GP says it may not as some layers of tissue were not correctly stitched (wahey, thanks doc, though I was losing loads of blood and he stopped me dying so there is that) so I may always have a lovely lump to show for my procreative efforts. And a baby of course! Ha! 🙂 I don’t know what the point of this is, just that the scales can’t really express the changes your body can go through post-baby. And I guess I just have to get used to that. She was worth it after all! xx

    March 14, 2018
  • Ginger

    REPLY

    Motivation really is the hardest thing! I totally understanding wanting to lose it, and when YOU want to lose it, it’s not anyone else’s business about concepts of beauty or otherwise or just not caring. I will be cheering for you!

    March 14, 2018
  • Besides the part about recently having a baby, it’s like you’ve read my mind in this post. I’m so frustrated with trying to lose an unexpected 15 ish pounds, and I refuse to believe it’s because ‘I’m just getting older’ (probably has something to do with the wine for me?). I’m not happy with more than half my wardrobe not fitting me, and I do think it’s fine to not be happy with my current body composition especially since my whole life it’s been about 15 pound less. I can so relate to everything about this. Nice to know I’m not alone. ?

    March 14, 2018
  • Lucie

    REPLY

    Hi Amber,
    Just stopping by to say I totally get it. I am 9 months post partum and still 12kg to loose. I feel so bad. None of my clothes fit. My husband reassures me but I still feel bad even though I know my body is sticking to these kilos because of breastfeeding (it was like that for my first baby even thought I gained less and had then less to loose and it was like this for my mom, too). Thanks for writing about this.

    March 14, 2018
  • Alice

    REPLY

    I was back to pre pregnancy weight within a week – clearly more of it was water than I realised! But then gained weight when I went back to work……….. and i thought I would lose weight breastfeeding, but no, not an ounce, it just made me eat more I think.

    It’s a balance isn’t it – we shouldn’t go round telling people they need to lose weight, especially if they are a healthy weight already – but if you are not normal *for you*, then who has the right to say you shouldn’t aspire to what feels right for you? That’s equally bad.

    March 14, 2018
  • Sharon

    REPLY

    Here’s some encouragement – I’ve had lots of kids (7) and I found that I lost weight in “bunches”. I would plateau for a while, long enough to really be discouraged. Then all of a sudden, I would drop 5 pounds. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. I quit weighing myself every week because it was upsetting but then, all of a sudden, I would lose! Also, breastfeeding usually makes it easier but I have heard of a few women who didn’t lose until they weaned. I feel your pain. I’m trying to lose 5 pounds right now and can’t get anywhere. I’m in 50’s and wow, is it hard! Hang in there!!

    March 14, 2018
  • A

    REPLY

    You are all very lucky by the way – my partner has already said to me several times “you aren’t going to get fat are you” – I suppose he accepted it that I gained weight while pregnant but is worried that I have since (not a lot, about 3kg, but I’m small so it shows).

    March 14, 2018
  • Jean

    REPLY

    Thank you for your honesty. I have the same issue..haven’t had to lose weight before in my adulthood. Now I do. Like the woman above I did lose baby weight “in bunches” by doing nothing. Now I have older lady weight to lose and just am NOT feeling it. Thank you again.

    March 14, 2018
  • Caroline Skydemore

    REPLY

    I never lost the 3 stone I gained with the twins. I mean, I lost 2 of them, but the third just kinda stuck. Since having my latest, though, the weight is falling off me – to the point that I went to see the Dr last week because I am losing weight too fast without actually trying to… But that’s another story. Point is, hormones are a b – wish I could offer more helpful advice but that’s all I’ve got for ya!

    However, if it’s sticking to your diet that’s the issue there is one thing that works for me to an extent. Try to spend some time pampering yourself too. Have a bath, primp, preen, shine, deep-condition and moisturise to an inch of your life. Regularly. Sometimes I think we make it all about the diet, but if we make an effort to care for the outside too it is somehow easier to care about what we’re putting inside. Might not make a difference to you but always helped me along. x

    March 14, 2018
  • Myra

    REPLY

    I’m with you on the don’t care approach, but I reckon it will take you abut twenty years to feel like that, and maybe not even then. My body shape change was permanent, but mostly other women succeeded where I didn’t.
    You have such beautiful clothes and are longing to wear them again comfortably. Take every day as it comes, and allow yourself a sweet treat once a week. Good luck, keep trying as I know it is for your own sake.

    March 14, 2018
  • A

    REPLY

    Just to give you hope by the way – all my friends who have had children have eventually got back to normal (a couple of them did have to wait until they stopped breastfeeding – I think you will eventually.

    March 14, 2018
  • Hey Amber, not sure how it works for breastfeeding moms but have you read about intermittent fasting?

    March 14, 2018
      • You’ll lose it soon, especially if you’ve always been thin and had no weight issues. Once the weather is better you can take Max on walks and do way more in terms of leaving the house, if you have the time. As for eating less, poor you, with your boring salad ? as a new mummy you deserve all the chocolate in the world but we definitely need to make sacrifices. Important thing is for you to feel like yourself. You may be Max’s mother but you were your own person first and you need to feel great. ❤️

        March 14, 2018
  • Lila athanaselis

    REPLY

    The number one reason I am sure that you are not dropping weight is because you’re not eating enough.
    I do hope your main meal isn’t a salad, as it won’t work like that, that should be a side dish unless it’s filled with avocado, chicken, tuna et cetera, high protein foods. Munch on some cheese, not carrot sticks, although you can have those if you like them too obviously.

    Treat yourself with kindness and you will see a difference.
    I think you are getting plenty of exercise with the amount of steps you’re doing with baby Max every day.
    It’s just your body will be holding onto the weight if it’s not getting enough calories in.

    Ditch the diet talk and go back to your routine before Max came into your life, and I’m sure you’ll start to see a difference. ❤️

    March 14, 2018
  • Anya

    REPLY

    I totally understand and feel you. I m
    Shortish too And i easily feel the changes in my body even if put just a pound or so.
    With my case getting a personal trainer looked like a great ideea and it
    Helped tremendously. It s just 2 h a week but i move very efficiently in those and helped decrease my food anxiety. Additionally i no longer have a scale. I have a measuring tape if i reaaly want
    To track. But since my motto is eat well move be happy and feel healthy ( i like that i can bike to work for example feels
    Very empowering for an ex couch potato like me) i really don t go and weight myself anymore.

    March 15, 2018
  • Laura

    REPLY

    Being pregnant I am fearful of this issue too. However I did Slimming World pre pregnancy and lost 3 stone. Remained on plan and have not gained much at all – 7lbs in 5 months of my pregnancy to be precise. Of course this could change as I make my way to the last trimester but I am hopeful.

    It might not work for everyone but it’s pregnancy/ new mum friendly and it’s not counting points like weight watchers; you can eat like a normal human and even have Nandos on the regular and lose weight. If you can’t get to a group you can join online. I know I sound like I work for them! I don’t it’s just the plan has changed my life for the better and I want people to feel as elated and as in control of their weight as I do.

    Regardless-Try to remember your managing to keep a new baby happy and fed and for now (with what you’ve been through) that’s enough.

    March 15, 2018
  • With you on the cabin fever justifying you turning to chocolate thing. I decided to give up sugar (well: sweets, cake, ice cream, fizzy juice, all of my major food groups, basically…) for Lent, but I broke it back when I had to work from home for three days because I was sad and anxious and needed a distraction. Desperate times, etc.

    I gave the amount I spent to my charity fundraiser though, so I’ve justified it to myself. Apart from the bit where I’m still talking about it, obviously.

    x

    March 15, 2018
  • Kristian

    REPLY

    I did lose a lot of my baby weight right away…. because I’m diabetic and figuring out my new insulin needs was a nightmare (not enough insulin=your body is starving even if you eat, so it burns the fat because it can’t process the sugar for energy). It was really uncomfortable to have people comment on “getting back to pre-pregnancy weight so fast” when my health was really suffering for it (no, for real, I once had someone say they wished they had a disease that meant they lost weight. No. You don’t.) . But to make it worse…. I gained back like 10 lbs. after getting the insulin situation figured out because it turns out getting back into old routines is hard with a baby and being as active is hard with a baby. Not sure what to say about this, because I too struggle with the motivation and balancing baby and life…. just that I really, really apperciate the honesty and candor you write about this topic with. Good luck figuring out things!

    Also, Max is like, the cutest thing!

    March 15, 2018
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