“In a society that profits from self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act” ~ Caroline Caldwell
I have been bombarded by weight loss and fitness adverts on social media the past couple of weeks, and as someone with a history of disordered eating and body dysmorphia, I have found them particularly triggering – It’s toxic online this time of year.
On the run up to Christmas all adverts encourage us to overindulge – You deserve it right? Yet as soon as Boxing Day hits the weight loss and fitness message is in full swing – “You fat bastard, it’s time to lose the flab“.
Why in 2020 are we, and especially women, still judged based on our weight and appearance? Why is so much emphasis and value placed on a number on a scale? When will society and the media stop this damaging message and start valuing us based on what really matters: intelligence, kindness, compassion, generosity, sense of humor, creativity etc?
My history with eating disorders and body image
I’ve always had an unhealthy relationship with food and the perception of my body. In my late teens and early 20s I was a compulsive overeater, and in my mid 30s I developed anorexia. I have lived my life in many bodies, with my weight swinging between extremes.
What I now know is that this disordered eating was just a manifestation of my anxiety and depression. I hated the way I looked at my smallest just as much as I did at my biggest, and that self loathing was the main problem.
Although I have made a lot of progress both with my eating habits and body image, I still experience periods where my thoughts turn to calorie restriction and self loathing. My eating disorder recovery is reliant on avoiding negative messages and unhealthy weight loss examples. I often feel like I’m balancing on the edge of a cliff. As long as I avoid my triggers and spend time reaffirming the positive messages I have learned about self worth and body image, then my recovery stays on track. But the slightest deviation from this can cause a spiralling of intrusive thoughts and a return to disordered behaviours.
This is why these adverts, and the general message we are constantly force fed, but especially in January, is so damaging for me. It’s an unhealthy ideal to live by no matter your history, or your size. It’s time we fought back.
An unhealthy message
Diet culture has created and enforced the belief that our worth is defined by our size, weight, shape, and appearance. It worships thinness and equates it to health and moral virtue, which means you can spend your whole life thinking you’re irreparably broken just because you don’t look like the impossibly thin “ideal.”
This ideology has become so ingrained that you would be hard-pressed to find someone that has never struggled with feeling less worthy or valuable because of how they look.
The weight loss and fitness industry thrives by convincing us, the consumer, that there is something wrong. Something wrong with yourself, with your clothes, with your body, with your life. They promote a message that life will be better and happier if you buy what they’re selling.
We are subjected to a constant stream of celebrities and influencers pushing slimming shakes and the latest fad diet, while posting heavily edited photos displaying impossible beauty standards. These products do not work – they are dangerous and come with some horrible side effects. We are being sold a lie. And Instagram is a cesspit of ‘before and after’ extreme weight loss images.
The constant message that we are not good enough or worthy of happiness is so damaging, and this extreme diet culture is causing harm to our health. It can cause low self esteem and self worth, and can also trigger mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and body dysmorphia.
Diet culture is killing us all, and we all need to be tearing it down.
Of course, if you live with chronic ill-health like myself, these diet and fitness adverts can cause even more distress. Being told we are not good enough because we cannot go to the gym and workout 5 days a week, is yet another ableist message to add to the growing list we are subjected to.
A more positive message
Imagine how freeing it would be to accept yourself and your body the way it is – freedom from judgment and freedom from advertising’s sales tactics.
For the sake of my health I have been blocking all the weight loss adverts I see, but unfortunately there has been an endless supply, so another soon takes its place. It’s important for me to actively seek positive messages about my self worth to counteract the negativity.
So I have been cheering myself up by looking at body positive media. I have actively skipped any fat shaming articles I see online and have instead soaked up some words of wisdom from my favourite social media accounts. I can make the choice to change the channel and love myself, instead of being swept down a river of self-hate.
There are many social media accounts that promote healthier ideals. They offer a breath of fresh air and boost my self esteem. Here are a few of my favourites, and some suggested by my readers:
- There’s good in store
- Nerd about town
- The Disabled Hippie
- Mari Stracke
- Nina Tame
- Imogen Fox
- We Worthy
- The Positive Page
- Gina Martin
- Selma Blair
- Jameela Jamil
- Matt Haig
- Sarah Millican
- Action for Happiness
- Your Fat Friend
- Ragen Chastain
- Michelle Allison
Your weight does not define your self worth
Life is tough enough without spending it being at war with ourselves. It’s time we empowered everyone to see their self worth not based on appearance but on what really matters.
This is your reminder that you are an amazing human with so much to offer. You are perfect just the way you are, right now.
You are worthy, you are enough, you matter, and you deserve happiness.
I would like to end this post with some positive quotes that help me stay on track when negative thoughts impact my life. They are a reminder that you are worth so much more than your weight or size.
“You are capable. You deserve to feel good as hell, and you deserve to find that.” – Lizzo
“Life is so much more beautiful and complex than a number on a scale.” — Tess Munster
“The best gift you are ever going to give someone – the permission to feel safe in their own skin” – Hannah Brencher
“Every piece of you is a burst of beautiful” – unknown
“Fat is not a bad word” – unknown
“Feeling beautiful has nothing to do with what you look like” – Emma Watson
“Loving yourself is the greatest revolution.” – unknown
“Your body, your rules. Do not let society fuck you up!” – unknown
“Stop trying to fix your body. It was never broken.” — Eve Ensler
“Sexy is not a size… your body is not a battleground. Your value is not measured in pounds.” – unknown
“Dear Body, you were never a problem. There is nothing wrong with your size… you’re good enough already.” – unknown
“You have been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” — Louise Hay
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
“And I said to my body softly, ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.” — Nayyirah Waheed
“I say I love myself, and they’re like, ‘oh my gosh’, she’s so brave. She’s so political. For what? All I said is ‘I love myself, bitch!”— Lizzo
“The most important day is the day you decide you’re good enough for you. It’s the day you set yourself free.” — Brittany Josephina
“You can’t hate yourself happy. You can’t criticise yourself thin. You can’t shame yourself worthy. Real change begins with self-love and self-care.” — Jessica Ortner
Thank you for reading. What are your favourite social media accounts for spreading a positive message?
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