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Body Positivity/Body Toxicity

The thin line between love and hate and Body Satisfaction can erase it.

I not be the biggest fan of every statement made in The Body Keeps the Score, but I remember when my body held a grudge. So, dear reader, let me paint the picture.

Somewhere in between food scarcity in childhood, finding comfort in food, and the over-indulgence in rich and tasty foods, I got lost in the pillowy exterior that my nephew once affectionately referred to as, “fluffy.” I was so offended by the term that I responded sharply with, “Shut up!” That was the day I realized just how unhappy I was.

I grew up a lonely latchkey kid, a Xennial if there ever was one, and food was my friend. By age 13, I was wearing a size 20. As I grew taller, my weight became more evenly proportioned and so I was an 11/12 at age 16 and stood at 5’6”, but the message about the number on the scale had taken root. It didn’t matter that I looked different, the number on the scale was unchanged and so I internalized it; I was still fat no matter what.

By age 25, I was wearing a size 24 and hadn’t noticed the weight slowly creeping up until I woke up unable to conveniently find clothes that made me feel good. Friends and family would say things like, “You’re pretty,” and “If you’re unhappy, let’s go shopping and find something you feel good in.” And that was fine to keep covering up the underlying problem, but it solved nothing. They were body-positive, but I was unhappy with how I looked. No one had to insult me into feeling that way (although I had endured a great amount of verbal abuse, rejection, and shaming.) I was deeply unhappy because I wanted to look different. I never wanted to be unhealthy in any direction. Neither a size 2, nor a 22 would've worked for me. I wanted to move without aching, I wanted to walk without heavy breathing, and I wanted to go outside in the summer without chafed thighs and heavy application of baby powder, thank you very much! I wanted to look at myself and think, “Damn girl, you look great!” I didn’t want to tell myself “every body is a bikini body,” I wanted to feel that I looked good in the bikini. All of that starts within.

In 2013, I had a complete Roux en Y procedure, otherwise known as gastric bypass surgery. This was a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I had people on both sides of the coin telling me that either the surgery wasn’t necessary if I just worked hard and got in the gym, or that I was fine the way I was. Ultimately, I drowned out all commentary until I remembered my voice was the only one worth listening to. After the surgery, I had people congratulating me on losing around 130 pounds and I had people sending me messages after every picture I posted telling me, “You look sick, it’s time to stop now.” All of it was wildly offensive because they were as silent as the grave when I was obese and upset. I never wanted to be skinny, I just wanted to reach self-satisfaction.

Messaging is incredibly powerful. Companies spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, to program your mind favorably towards their cause, so why can’t you program your mind to view yourself more favorably? (Of course you can! I recommend cognitive behavioral therapy.)

We now exist in a time of decreased civility that leads to driving the simplest of statements, and the original point of that statement, careening toward a cliff. In a time of ad hominem attacks, strawmen, deflections, and abject nonsense, it’s very easy to see how the plot can get lost. Imagine looking at yourself in the mirror and saying, “I am not happy, I really need to lose 15 pounds so that my clothes can fit better.” Someone you barely know overhears you and chimes in: “I weigh more than you do and I am happy with how I look, there’s nothing wrong with you. What are you trying to say about me and people who look like me?” and now you’re off to the races. While you were making a statement applicable to you, the interjecting second party’s body positivity became toxicity real quick! And that’s how most things go these days. No one was invited to the party, but a group came anyway, and now the cops are there because it got unruly.

Ultimately, it all boils down to projection. People make you the pitcher into which they pour all of their thoughts, emotions, jealousy, optimism, desire, and just about anything else. A strong sense of self and purpose becomes the best defense against this in any context, but especially when it pertains to you, your body, mind, health, and anything else that primarily affects your well-being.

Body Positivity, which was a movement designed to promote the idea that all bodies should be viewed positively, has become synonymous with a level of toxicity that is quickly approaching Chornobyl levels because we are focused on telling people “It’s okay to be fat.” While that is certainly true, it should come with the caveat, “if you’re happy in your skin,” just as it’s okay to be skinny if you’re happy in your skin, and anything in between. Being satisfied with where you are along your journey is where the most important work comes in. I would argue that it is time to move away from body positivity and focus on a new phrase: BODY SATISFACTION. When we get down to it, being satisfied is another way of saying that you are content, and no one can determine what constitutes contentedness for you but you, so why allow others and their perceptions of you (or even their perceptions of themselves,) to do so?

Without self-satisfaction, nothing that anyone says to you cancorrect a negative self-image, and negative statements only lend themselves to reinforcing the way you already feel, becoming confirmation. I would even argue that

leaning so hard into body positivity, without addressing self-esteem in a therapeutic setting, contributes greatly to body dysmorphic disorder.


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