To be body-positive is to believe that all bodies, no matter their shape, size, age or ability, are equally worthy and to behave in a way that reflects this belief. As with anything else, what you don’t do is just as important as the practices in which you do choose to engage. This list of six things body-positive people never do is a useful tool by which to measure your journey.
Body-positive people don’t ...
1. ... obsess over the number on the scale.
Imagine you’re standing in a friend’s living room and she says, “This room is 180 square feet.” Unless you’re an architect or interior designer, you probably won't have a reaction to this; it's simply a fact. It doesn’t carry an emotional charge, nor does it lead to thoughts like, “Well, this room is obviously an unlovable failure because it hasn’t achieved its ideal square footage.”
Why should the number you see on a scale be any different? Body-positive people experience their measured weight the same way as that imagined 180-square-foot room: as a fact without an emotional charge. And why is that? The scale doesn't reflect how happy you are, how loved you feel, how well you nourish your body.
2. ... exercise out of obligation.
Instead of exercising to burn a certain number of calories or out of a desire to create rock-hard abs, body-positive people move because it feels good. They love the hip-shaking energy of Zumba, the simplicity and fresh air of a walk or the adrenaline rush of skiing a black-diamond run. Exercise is a source of pleasure, and body-positive people prioritize it for exactly that reason.
3. ... think they have to "earn" the right to eat.
To stay alive, our basic physiology requires that we have air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat. To believe that we need to earn the right to eat is akin to believing that we need to earn the right to breathe. Ridiculous. Instead of getting caught up in this nonsensical way of thinking, body-positive people eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’ve had enough. And they enjoy themselves in the process, no guilt involved.
4. ... think or say cruel words about anyone’s body, including their own.
In our society, it’s incredibly easy to judge other people’s bodies (there are entire TV series based on this premise). However, body-positive people refuse to engage in mental or verbal commentary that focuses on body-shaming. They recognize that a person’s self-worth isn't tied up in what his or her body looks like, so they don’t waste energy thinking along those lines.
5. ... get caught up in society’s latest definition of beauty.
Body-positive people are smarter than the latest catchphrase — even when it is seemingly in support of their cause. Phrases like “strong is the new skinny” or “real women have curves” still uphold the idea that a particular body type is better than others. As such, they’re just as disempowering as the ideal of the 6-foot, 120-pound model with big breasts and a thigh gap. Body-positive people recognize all bodies are equally worthy.
6. ... compliment people’s bodies when they lose weight.
Our culture loves to highlight weight-loss success stories, which results in us being programmed to believe that it’s a great idea to tell a person who has lost weight that he or she looks great. Body-positive people know that this seemingly nice comment contains within it the implication that said person didn’t look great before, and that his/her current body is superior to his/her previous body. Since body-positive people believe that all bodies are equally worthy, they are conscious about making sure their words reflect this belief.
If you read this list thinking, “Well, all of that sounds nice, but if these are the rules on what body-positive people don’t do, then I’m not even close. And honestly, I’m not sure if I’ll ever get there,” I can relate. I was in your shoes once.
Here’s what I want you to know: body-positivity is a journey. It’s not as simple as reading an article, adopting the recommended practices and boom, magically you’re there. Like anything in the personal growth realm, it begins by establishing a strong sense of self-worth and along with it, strong practices of mindfulness and self-compassion.
If you’re in the “I’d like to be body-positive someday” camp, honor and nourish that desire. Be mindful about your thoughts and actions, and practice self-compassion when you fall back into old habits. Little by little, you’ll get there.