Have you ever put off doing something based on your body weight?
For example, “When I lose weight, then I will:
- Wear a swimsuit at the beach or pool
- Go to the gym
- Attend that reunion or social event
- Buy better fitting clothes
- Start dating
Living in a society that is obsessed with body size and weight loss, it’s easy to internalize the message that we should reject and even loathe our bodies. As a result, we may choose to avoid certain situations or activities until we feel more comfortable in our own skin.
‘Weighting’ to Dance
Whitney Thore started dancing when she was age 4 and became a professional dancer and instructor in her late teens. Like many females, she grappled with her body image, but in her freshman year of college, she gained 100 pounds partly due to an undiagnosed and untreated condition of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). She stopped dancing as her body size grew, and she spiraled into a deep depression that had her contemplating suicide due to the level of body loathing she was experiencing. Fortunately, one day she decided enough was enough and she chose to dance again instead of waiting to lose weight first. Her choice to start dancing again literally saved her life.
She and a friend ended up making a dance video that went viral, and while she made it for herself and was admittedly expecting a backlash of comments from ‘body-shamers’ online, she instead received an overwhelming amount of love and support from strangers from around the world, which placed Thore in an unexpected spotlight on the conversation around the impact of weight stigma on body image. Thore ended up creating a No Body Shame Campaign that is simply about not hating oneself based on body size – no matter one’s size. Thore states in a Huffington Post article: “The No Body Shame Campaign just promotes loving yourself. I’ve been thin, I’ve had eating disorders, I’ve been kinda fat, really fat and super fat and the thing that stayed with me always was shame.”
Body Loathing vs. Body Compassion
When we put off doing what we love until we reach a certain body size, we are basically telling ourselves we aren’t acceptable until a certain weight is achieved. However, body loathing does not work for motivating self-care and heathier behaviors – period. In fact – it’s de-motivating, but often we equate self-compassion to self-indulgence or ‘giving up’, yet research shows that self-care behaviors come from self-regard, not from being self-critical.
Ask yourself: Have you ever been at a body weight in your past that you wish you were at today?
If so, when you think back to that time in your life – were you self-accepting or still self-rejecting, but in a smaller body size? When I ask this question in my body image classes, more often than not, most people recollect that they were just as self-critical of themselves at their past weight as they are at their current weight. It’s even possible that the weight one is at today will be the new coveted weight a few years from now…and so it goes when stuck in the internal body image war.
While there are certainly instances where weight can limit certain activities due to safety, limited mobility, and/or situations that require specific weight parameters, I find that for many people limitations are self-imposed due to body loathing and/or fear of judgment from others as opposed to what is actually doable. For example, foregoing traveling on a plane, because requesting a seatbelt extender invites a sense of shame at having to make that request in the first place. With that said, each person’s weight and comfort zone with activities and situations is personal, especially in a culture that accepts and even encourages weight stigma (discrimination based on body size, weight and/or shape), so it’s no wonder that many fall prey to internalizing this mindset.
However, if you are someone who has been putting off certain activities until a certain weight is achieved, I invite you to take a moment to evaluate how this strategy has been working for you. Maybe this mindset is preventing you from either participating in any activities you once enjoyed or is stopping you from trying out new experiences. Maybe – just maybe – this strategy is leading you to hold off living life to its fullest until that perceived ‘acceptable’ weight is reached. For some, that mindset might come at a high cost.
So, think about any activities that might have been placed on the back burner until a certain body size or weight is reached, and re-evaluate if there is at least one thing on that list that can be experienced sooner - rather than later?
What are you possibly ‘weighting’ for?