Love Every Body

Today is Love Your Body Day, sponsored by NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body Campaign and the National Eating Disorders Association for 2012 NEDAwareness Week. The theme this year is “Let’s Talk About It”, to encourage critical thinking and discussion of the messages we get sent about acceptable bodies and appearance.  I hope this conversation includes all the different ways and kinds of bodies that get policed and judged as not good enough.

What makes it so hard for so many to love their bodies?  So many things!

I have previously addressed how self-love, including loving your body, is often challenging for trauma survivors.  Trauma can instead lead to body disconnection, discomfort or even hatred.  The same may be true for transgender or gender variant people.  What if you feel like your body has betrayed you? Or is not congruent with your gender identity? It is important to be aware that there are many different paths towards comfort within one’s body.

I have written about the link between dieting and eating disorders and our cultural problem with conflating health with size.  Normative beauty standards hurt us all.  Messages about women’s acceptable bodies and appearance surround us:

Every day, in so many ways, the beauty industry (and the media in general) tell women and girls that being admired, envied and desired based on their looks is a primary function of true womanhood. The beauty template women are expected to follow is extremely narrow, unrealistic and frequently hazardous to their health. The Love Your Body campaign challenges the message that a woman’s value is best measured through her willingness and ability to embody current beauty standards.

Body policing, and frankly weight-based bullying gets coded as concerns for health and thus justified. For example, under the guise of waging “the war on obesity” , strong4life launched this billboard campaign in Georgia:

Certainly not a message consistent with loving your body. With all the recent attention to the horrific impact of bullying on children, how could anyone think this sort of campaign was acceptable? Shame does not promote health! You cannot bully, stigmatize or hate someone into healthy change. Health has to include the physical and emotional; can you contemplate the emotional impact on children of viewing these billboards?  We need to all stand up against weight or appearance based bullying, whatever the excuse.

So what can you do today to love your own body or to help change the cultural climate that insists only some bodies are worthy of love?

You can join Marilyn Wann‘s I STAND… campaign!   

The “I STAND…” photo series turns the Strong4Life hate campaign into an invitation to celebrate diversity and enjoy a Health At Every Size® approach. You can get involved too! Set your own STANDard by sending your (unedited) photo and your credo (“I STAND…”) to marilyn@fatso.com.

You can also learn about and contribute to The Billboard Project which has raised funds to install counter-messages of body love and acceptance for all children.

You can find information about approaches to health and well-being that are free from weight-based assumptions and weight discrimination here and here.

What if we moved beyond loving our own bodies to loving every body? We all deserve body autonomy and the right to embrace health as we define it!

 

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6 Responses to Love Every Body

  1. Kerro says:

    I am horrified by that advertising campaign! How outrageous that any society would think that kind of shame ‘appropriate’. Certainly not going to lead to any self-love, as you point out. I am equally horrified, though, that the rate of childhood obesity is so high, and that some children are developing diseases associated with adult obesity (type 2 diabetes, etc). Perhaps more horrifying are TV shows I’ve seen where children have never seen (and can’t name) “basic” vegetables, never had a home cooked meal, etc. I wonder if this is part of loving your body, too – giving it the nourishment it needs, instead of something out of a box. I’m in no position to lecture anybody about this sort of self-love, so I’ll run away now. ;)

    • Hi Kerro-

      I absolutely think we all need information about and access too a variety of nutritious (and tasty) foods as well as opportunities to move our bodies in ways we enjoy. (Access is of course complicated in all sorts of ways, for example whole food costs more than processed food often and is not readily available in poorer neighborhoods.) The emphasis on all. When this kind of “advice” is directed only towards people of a certain size or body type it is further stigmatizing and assumes that we can know something about the behavior and health of others just by looking at them. I put advice in quotes because often it is offered up more as a way of blaming and othering folks who are fat, not coming from a real place of concern. And even if it is, no one has a right to impose advice on another without them requesting it.

      Thanks for commenting and inspiring me to say a bit more about a subject I clearly have more to say about. :)

      • Kerro says:

        As one who’s been on the receiving end of those judgements, I couldn’t agree more Dr K! Yet I tune in to The Biggest Loser every night for a bit more shame and a bit more ritual humiliation. I think there’s something seriously wrong with me … And our society.

        It puzzles and interests me how this is different in different places and cultures. In poorer Asian countries, fat is held in high esteem as a sign of wealth. Yet quite the opposite here, where it is those at the lower socioeconomic end of the spectrum who carry the burden (no pun intended). And then theres the corporations that continue to pillage the planet and make cheap, garbage food at all our expense. I despair. :(

      • Yes. And then there is the diet industry making big, big bucks off of our insecurities that they do everything they can to feed (pun only slightly intended).

  2. Will says:

    I was bullied and molested by a boy on my elementary school bus. I couldn’t tell anyone about it at home because at home I was being raped by both parents. I had a very small frame as a little girl and as a young girl being raped growing up. Small girls are bullied too, all the time. As an adult still recovering from this, I know that you have to teach kids self-worth comes from within. Teach them by precept and example. I today have to be conscious of hot showers. Self-harm can become a big problem with kids who are bullied and attacked sexually. It’s not about the outside appearance, it’s about letting these dear ones know just how important they are to us,no matter their size, or anything of the outward nature….It truly is a nightmare being bullied but I believe as society come together for our young people we can bring them hope and a better future.

  3. Pingback: Treating Trauma Link Roundup | Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma

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