To me, this movement of body positivity is about loving and caring for your body. And if you love your body, you want to listen to it and take care of it. Some people say that body positivity encourages unhealthiness and obesity. But what is obese? What is healthy? This is a really hard question to answer and it differs for every person. All I can do is to share my own experience of being labeled obese and how I define healthy.
Now that I can actually listen to my body, I want to make clear why I exercise. I now exercise because I love my body and I want to take care of it, NOT because I want to change the way it looks. This is an important fundamental point. Right now I am not what I consider healthy and my fat gets in the way of me doing things, so I know I have more fat than my body needs. This extra fat makes my heart work harder and I do have an inherent sense of not being the in the best health that I can be. Even though I know that I carry extra fat, I still LOVE my body. My body allows me to have a family, to work, to love, and to have adventures. Even though I haven’t taken the best care of my body, it tries to give me everything that I ask of it. I feel that it’s critical that I love my body just as it is today, without shaming it for holding the extra fat so that I can embrace it and take care of it.
I have a long history of hating my body. I would use diet and exercise to beat it into a shape that I thought was acceptable. I’ve gone through several cycles of weight loss and, although I may temporarily lose weight, I would always gain the weight back plus more. I hated working out and I hated sweating. Exercise was torture because I hated connecting with my body because I hated it so much. This never worked in the long term because the weight loss didn’t fix my negative self image. Let that statement sink in for a moment. The weight loss didn’t fix my negative self image. Even at the fittest point in my life, I still saw myself as fat because I didn’t fit into the narrow definition of what a beautiful body looks like and based on my doctor’s BMI chart I was still obese.
Since I became aware of the power of body positivity, the thought of exercise now feels different because I love my body! I’m not trying to beat it up. I’m trying to take care of it. I had several friends raving about how much fun Omni Fight Club is so I gave it a try and it has seriously changed my life. If you’re looking for a fitness studio in the Bay Area, you’ve gotta check out Omni (I go to the one in Livermore, but there’s one in Pleasanton and soon one in Walnut Creek). Read more about Omni Fight Club here!
Now that I’m listening to my body, I notice that it actually likes the way it feels to workout. My body confidence has increased by feeling stronger and healthier and this increased physical confidence has spilled over into my home and work life. I still struggle to balance the time but I notice that working out at Omni doesn’t get pushed to the side. In fact, I actually want to make the time to work out! I joined with the initial commitment to go twice a week and now I want to go four times a week. I never would’ve thought I would actually enjoy working out, but Omni makes it super fun!
It’s been a really long time since I’ve stepped on a scale as those numbers have only brought me heartache. Nowadays, the only time I get on a scale is when I go to the doctor for my physical and they always bring up the BMI charts and tell me that I’m obese. As long as I can remember, I’ve always been in the obese category on that BMI chart, even when I was at my fittest, healthiest and strongest when I was cycling daily because I was 165 pounds. The BMI chart and the number on that scale only managed to torment me because no matter what, I would be obese.
With this newfound confidence and determination to get a handle on my health, I’m trying to learn as much as I can about health and I’m very early in my journey. I learned about Fitness Wave Nor Cal through Omni Fight Club. Last week, I had an appointment to have my resting metabolic rate measured (the rate at which I burn calories if I just sat on the couch all day) and my body fat percentage. Going into it, I was guarded, expecting similar results as a doctor’s office visit, that in order for me to be “healthy” I would be looking at a severe diet and goal weight that seemed unattainable. But the results were surprisingly positive! I want to share this with you because I’m sure there are other people out there who have always been discouraged by the traditional definition of what being healthy means in numbers.
My lean body mass (the weight of my bones, muscles and organs) is 130lbs. WOW. Just wow. This is surprising because this is much higher than normal for a woman of 5’2″. I always knew I had muscular legs. It seems to be generally agreed that a healthy body fat percentage for a 40yr woman is 25%. Since my actual lean body mass is 130lbs, my healthy average weight should be 165-170lbs. But based on the BMI chart, based on my height, 165lbs means obese. THIS IS WHY BMI CHARTS ARE TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY and why you can not judge if someone is healthy just based on the way they look. The BMI chart says I should weigh 135lbs and that is not a healthy weight for my body type….and this is so discouraging and it makes me sick that this was a factor in me learning to hate my fat body.
Of course, BMI and body fat are not the only measures of health. Good news is my blood pressure and cholesterol is normal and I have good blood sugar response so I’m not in the pre-diabetic zone.
Armed with this new information, I feel as though I now have some validation that when I listen to my body, take care of it, and just eat in moderation, I can be healthy. Healthy looks different on everyone. Although I am not in this healthy zone yet, I am not beating myself up or saying that I’ll love my body when I achieve this goal. I love my body now and I love the life that it gives me. Showing my body love by taking care of it by exercising and eating what feels right is totally what body positivity is all about.
I’ve heard so many women talk about how they’ve thought about doing a photo session with ultra-spective, but they have a few more pounds to lose. Or they won’t do it because they hate this or that about their bodies. But the reality is that the process of experiencing a photo session with ultra-spective, the process of letting your guard down and being vulnerable in front of the camera, is a liberating experience that builds your confidence and helps you change your mental attitude toward your body. And that’s even before you see your awesome self in the portraits! I’m passionate about raising awareness and promoting confidence through body positivity because I want to help as many people as possible get out of the mental trap of negative self-image and all the destructive behaviors that come with negative body image. This is the reason and the goal behind the #ConfidenceCampaign events.