First, Let’s talk about weight stigma
Let me start by saying that I have experienced weight stigma first-hand my entire life, as a child, teenager, young adult and now as a working health professional. Talking about weight, diets and body size can be a vulnerable subject to open up about. I wholeheartedly support you and want you to know that you are not alone (in the slightest).If anything, you should know that MOST people are struggling… I know this from counselling clients of all sizes, in all areas of life, of all ages…
Ending Weight Stigma!?
At any given point, ending stigma of any kind in our society, or how we start that process, rather, is to not shy away from sharing our truth, no matter how scary that may be. So, let’s tackle this one together; no judgement, no fear!Media and society have constructed an image of what a “healthy” individual should “look” like. This is problematic in many ways, affecting how we view ourselves, how we treat one another, and misinforming the core definition of health. It can lead people to think health is defined by the space we occupy (i.e. body size), as opposed to thinking about the bigger picture for our overall wellbeing.Perpetuating weight and body size stigma even becomes a “moral” issue – where food and weight defines one’s worth and value.
Let me tell you this: You are NOT a number, or a size.
Although it may be hard to believe at first (and that’s okay!), your health is so much more than just what you look like. Your body is powerful. Becoming your healthiest self begins with radically accepting yourself and your body, not focusing on what size it is, but what it can do in the smallest and greatest sense possible….regardless of your physical abilities or capabilities. Improving health should be a more compassionate process, focusing more on what you want to gain out of life, rather than what you want to lose.Health At Every Size ® (HAES) is an inclusive movement that puts an emphasis on self-acceptance and healthy day-to-day behaviours, not weight loss. HAES is built upon the pillars of:
- Respect — celebrating diversity in size, age, race, ethnicity, gender, dis/ability, sexual orientation, religion, and class
- Critical awareness — challenging both the information that’s out there and cultural determinants of health, and valuing your own knowledge of your body
- Compassionate self-care — moving and nourishing your body in ways that bring you joy, and listening to your internal hunger and satiety cues
HAES principles have been misinterpreted as “you can eat whatever you want” since weight doesn’t matter, but this isn’t necessarily the case. The goal is to shift one’s behaviours from being weight-centric to being more focused on actually taking care of yourself. This approach may or may not result in weight changes, however, that needs to be independent from actual healthful behaviors and habits. Your weight will fluctuate in life, and that’s absolutely normal. Health promoting behaviours and habits under this approach include eating a healthful, unrestricted diet, eating intuitively, physical activity, getting adequate sleep, and managing stress.If you’re struggling with how you feel about your body size or need help navigating the challenges of bias against your weight or size, here are some tips to get you started:
1. Eat What YOU Really Want To
Depriving yourself of foods you enjoy not only causes torment but can lead to unhealthy bingeing behaviour.Clients often book appointments with me to deal with the “problem of bingeing”.This might sound familiar to you, but let’s get real for a minute, and let me tell you: The “bingeing” is not the problem… the restricting is since it’s the root of the problem. It’s called the restrict-binge cycle (see picture to the right). Keys to a healthful diet are not eliminating foods or entire food groups (unless necessary), but more so about the HOW we eat, like mindful eating, and HOW we treat our bodies afterwards.
2. Happy Movement!
If you dread going to the gym, don’t go to the gym! I love going to Zumba classes or dancing around my apartment to infuse fun into movement! Exercising is meant to celebrate what our bodies can do, not punish it for what we ate. Whether you take a dance-exercise class with your best friend, or run around with your dog at the park, find an activity that makes you feel most empowered and energized.
3. Talk to Those You Trust
Identify those few people who accept you unconditionally for all your beauty and insecurities the way that you should. They can be your dietitian, counsellor, therapist, siblings, or closest friends—anyone with whom you feel vulnerable enough to share your struggles with, who will uplift you and provide you with support. A supportive community around healing your relationship with food & your body is one of the most sustainable things you can do for a long-term investment in your happiness.A strong support system makes all the difference, and they become the positive sounding board that we all need day to day.
4. Clean Up Your Social Media!
This one made THE BIGGEST difference to make the “noise in my head” a more positive one. We often don’t realize the type of thoughts/feelings we internalize when scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, and how much we compare ourselves to others, consciously or subconsciously. Cleansing your daily routine of unwanted and/or toxic images and messages can truly make a difference in your confidence and the way you see yourself.
5. Clean Out Your Closet
The day I decided my weight was no longer going to define me, I dove into my closet, tried EVERYTHING on, and got rid of EVERYTHING that didn’t make me feel good.Getting dressed stopped being a guessing game of “what fits me?” and started being “what do I feel like wearing today?” What a relief is that?! It may seem daunting at first, but start with one “type” of clothing first, and then it will get easier, once you notice the benefits and relief you get from this small, but mighty, change.
And Of Course, Be Kind To Yourself…For Goodness Sake!
The only way to start addressing the social stigma surrounding size and weight is to start with yourself, and how you can send ripples of positivity to those around you! Embracing the body that you’re in is easier said than done. But start with little things like reminding yourself every day of things you like about yourself, rather than focusing on “flaws” you’d like to improve. Write them on post-its and put them up on your wall, or use a lipstick to write it on your bathroom mirror.This will drown out the negatives, and help you see what really matters. Like eventually turns to Love, and spreading love is what breaks the power of society to define what our health means to us.