Today is International No Diet Day. I wasn't sure what I wanted to say, here, about it just yet. And then I read this post by Medicinal Marzipan, which made me cry - and made me think. I can see so much of myself and my experiences in her words.
We are surrounded by a societal standard that makes it crystal clear that if we have bodies that are "different", that we are unacceptable and must change ourselves to fit the stereotype. It's the square peg, round hole problem on an international scale. We certainly don't expect that people to conform to a single eye colour (quick, get colour contacts, the societal 'norm' is brown eyes! not blue! brown!). We don't expect people to be the same height (how would you fix that anyway? stilts? surgery to remove pieces of bone to make you shorter?). We, as a society, accept that some people will have dark hair and some light - and we even (mostly) get radical hair (Pink, Purple, Mohawks - whatever - it's just a form of "self-expression") and tattoos. We are a society that is clearly perfectly capable of understanding and sometimes appreciating nonconformity. But this just doesn't seem to extend to body shape and fatness, or differently abled bodies.
Our society assumes that fat as a "problem" that must be fixed. Those of us who are fat are subject to either scorn and ridicule or, at best, people trying to "help" you "fix" your "problem". It is rarely assumed that we are healthy. It is rarely assumed that we could be content in our bodies or accept ourselves as we are. Yet, if we were simply blue eyed instead of brown, few people would feel it was appropriate or helpful (or anything but rude!) to give us their opiion on our eye colour or try to convince us that it was in our best interest to change it.
What it seems to come down to, in my opinion, is fear. If you haven't BEEN the fat kid being teased or bullied, you have SEEN a fat kid being teased or bullied. No one wants to be teased or bullied. From childhood, we carry this "fear". We want to escape our time "being" that outsider. Or we want to avoid "becoming" that outsider. And yet, it never seems to occur to us that if we, as a society, could shift our perceptions and accompanying behaviours - being fat wouldn't have to automatically mean being an outsider in the first place. And then we would have nothing to be afraid of. Because here's the problem: We're passing on this fear to our children. And they will pass it on to their children. And so on. We're breeding fear and there is not nearly enough awareness that this is the REAL problem.
Imagine how would the world, and your life, be different if...
~ No one had ever told you that you weren't good enough because something about your body was different?
~ You were taught as a child to eat when you were hungry, until you felt satisfied (regardless of the time of day or what was "planned" for meals) - instead of told to finish what was on your plate or eat "just one more bite" of mashed potatoes or told you must wait until dinner so you don't 'ruin your appetite'?
~ You had never experienced (or seen) someone being made fun of, or bullied for being fat?
~ You understood that when your body feels sluggish and slows down, it is conserving energy and what you need is to pay closer attention when you're hungry to what your body needs, and get more sleep - not beat yourself up for being "lazy"?
~ Your doctor had told you that being fat is not a death sentence, that being fat doesn't mean you will automatically get diabetes and develop high blood pressure - that fat people can actually live very long, healthy lives?
~ You knew that when you are hyper and have lots of energy, and can't seem to sit still, that your body is telling you to move more because it has more energy than it needs in that given moment?
~ Someone had told you, when you were very young, that what your body LOOKS like is not an indicator of what your body FEELS like, or how healthy you are or aren't, or how valuable you are as a human being?
~ You could look in a mirror and see and accept yourself exactly as you are, beause no one has ever told you that you're not good enough because you don't look like them?
~ You felt confident wearing clothes that fit properly because there's no reason to think that the curve of your belly, or the extra softness in your waist or hips were unattractive and must be hidden behind baggy clothes?
~ You felt just as valuable, loveable, and worthy as everyone else - and found that walking through the world with your head held high, ready to meet anyone's gaze - was the easiest and most natural thing in the world?
How would the world, and your life, be different if you knew - and had always known - that you are just as worthy of love, respect, kindness, consideration, and happiness as anyone else - no matter what you look like?
Take these questions into your day. Pay it forward. Give a little extra kindness to other people who aren't like you. And give a whole lot of extra kindness to yourself. You deserve it. You are worthy of it.
YOU are beautiful ... right now... in this moment... exactly as you are.
I've been spending a lot of time exploring the body-positive, fat-positive, and alternative bodied yoga communities lately and I have to say that it is so incredibly empowering. Between that and studying Dr. Linda Bacon's book: Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, I am having all kinds of revelations. It's pretty incredible, actually.
I thought I was in a great place about my body, and I was. But every day, I am reaching an even more self-empowered, self-loving place and it's due in large part to the inspiration all around me.
I originally started reading about the HAES method so that I could support my future students with methods supported by an already well-established body-positive community. I thought I understood it pretty well, but digging deeper into the science behind it has been really inspiring and eye-opening.
Yoga allowed me to feel comfortable in my skin and connected to my body. Every time I step on the mat, I become more familiar with how my bones support me, how my joints move, how my muscles feel when they are working to support me in a pose, or lengthening and releasing in an opener. I play with sensation all of the time, but it seems that with all this attention I'd been giving to the inner workings of my body, I've also been ignoring the visual representation of self that I show the world. How much attention have I really been giving to how my body LOOKS, rather than only how it feels.
I used to believe that it was really important for full figured yoginis to avoid mirrors in their yoga practice. Now, this wasn't a shame based belief, but rather my own experience which had told me that what I feel in my body when I'm properly aligned in a pose, may not look in the mirror, the way it looks in my mind. I found mirrors to be distracting for this reason. Because my body doesn't look like what I pictured a pose should look like, I found them to draw my focus in a negative way. But, what I've learned is that it isn't the mirror that is the problem - it's the idea that a different body doing yoga is so distracting. The reality is that EVERY body looks different, doing yoga or anything else, so what better way to honour the unique shape of my body than to see it with a clear, non-critical eye?
This morning, after my morning shower, I stood in front of a mirror, naked and looked at myself - really looked. I looked at the bulges above and below my waist, my "fat rolls". I looked down at my thighs and the way they wiggle. I lifted my arms out to my sides like I do in Warrior II and really looked at the parts that hang down, my "wings". I looked at every tiny wrinkle that I could see, and I felt my belly.
And then, it occurred to me to ask myself one very simple question - "Who decided that any of these things about a body were 'unattractive'? The infamous they? What exactly is unattractive about a wrinkle? What quality does a fat roll have that could possibly cause it to be seen as ugly?" I engaged every part of my logical brain, actively TRYING to come up with a reason to dislike any single part of my body. And the most amazing thing happened! Nothing. That's right. I couldn't think of ANY reason to see these parts of my body as unattractive - by anyone's standards.
When I really stopped to think about all of these things that society calls imperfections or even flaws, all I could see was parts of the body I inhabit, the body that I love. I just couldn't think of a single logical reason why any part of me should be considered unattractive. What an epiphany! They are wrong. Whoever they are. Just because they think these things about my body are unattractive and just because there are societal misconceptions about beauty, doesn't mean I am obligated to agree with them, does it? Definitely NOT!!
So with this new awareness, I realized, looking in the mirror, that I LIKE all the parts of my body, not just the ones accepted by them. And if they don't, then it's their loss.
My belly gives me softness and cuddliness. My thighs hold me and support me and give me a comfy place to sit down when I'm on a hard surface. My skin and many parts of me are super-soft. I think that's pretty cool. So... to them, I say...
"Bulging Bellies and Jiggly Thighs For The Win!"