The idea of body acceptance is becoming more main stream as we see “plus size” models (a.k.a. normal people) challenging cultural norms and body acceptance and diversity activists standing up against fat shaming. As a counsellor, I work with clients struggling with disordered eating and body image, and spend much time working towards this goal of accepting ones body as it is (and not 20 pounds lighter or fitter or more cut or more muscular). I have also put this philosophy into practice and find, for the most part, I have come to accept my body; rolls and all.
Although I understand the importance of body acceptance and its relationship to how live our lives, is it truly attainable in a culture that shames and stigmatizes fat? An example of this occurred only a few weeks ago when I was in a session with a client (let’s call him Steve) challenged with accepting his large body. His “homework” was to focus on enjoying all foods without labeling one good or bad. He was to work on feeling his hunger and then eating what he wanted to eating (not what he “should’ eat).
Two weeks later he came back and reported the exercise what enjoyable and he felt less pressure and stress around food and eating. Unfortunately, as he was feeling more empowered and confident, all was lost when a friend made it his mission in life to point out what Steve should be eating to lose that weight. It was enough to send Steve back into feeling shame and guilt for his size.
If we live in a culture that constantly reminds us that it is not okay to be who we are in the present, how the hell are we going to accept our bodies the way they are? I think the baby step towards acceptance is to begin to appreciate what our bodies do for us. If you catch yourself standing in front of the mirror in the morning lamenting over a body part or how much you weight, try this simple exercise. Chose a body part, let’s say your arms, and feel gratitude for what they allow you to do. You can drive a car, dress in the morning, pick up your child, and write a letter. Imagine what life would be like without arms and take a moment to thank your arms for what they do for you (and not what they look like).
Just a thought.