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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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!