Is Body Positivity Anti-Health? Spoiler: No It Isn’t.
Lately, I am feeling fucking done with social media. I have never been one of those people who thinks, “oh, I’m just going to get rid of my Facebook page.” Typically I like it. It’s fun to keep in touch, to see creative things on Instagram, to follow trending nonsense on Twitter. Of late it’s just been too much, though.
In trying to figure out why, I realized it’s partially my fault. My feeds are full of fat-positive women doing and writing amazing things. I need it to balance out the onslaught of garbage elsewhere. But I read these things, and I have ALL THE FEELS. By turns I’m angry at the current state of things and relieved that there’s someone else out there thinking the same things I am and excited to see mainstream coverage of problems I’m living with and powerless to do anything about the whole mess and and and I feel like I just short circuit. I run through the “do I share this on my feed and potentially open up a can of worms” checklist. Then I see a post about “healthy” living (read: disordered eating) from someone I love and care about and I just want to burn the whole thing down Cersei style.
One of the other bits of this is that I’m going to stop worrying about laying out my entire case start to finish. I stop myself from sharing certain articles because I can hear the counterarguments in my head. This is a big, complicated mess, and it’s not up to me to explain it to everyone.
Well, I know burning down Facebook isn’t an option (how would that even work?) And no, I can’t just unplug. For one thing my work is, in large part, on social media. So I’m writing about it, and I’m going to start sharing more of the things I’m reading and remind myself that if stuff gets ugly, I can always block or delete.
For starters, this post by Regan Chastain (danceswithfat) on Ravishly tackles the ridiculous trope that body positivity is somehow anti-physical well being. Spoiler alert: it’s not.
“Self-love should be completely separate from health — health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances.”
Yes and yes and yes. I am not anti-exercise, but I am cautious in my recovery because I know how quickly it can balloon into self-hatred and restrictive eating. I am not anti-healthy eating. I *am* against the fetishization of “health” and the normalization of disordered eating.
Chopping fresh vegetables, savoring a great cocktail, cooking a lazy meal and getting to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smell of it? Those are all things bulimia took away from me, and it’s work to get them back. Hell, for a long time I couldn’t shop for groceries. No, literally. When my husband was living in a different state I had to call him to talk me through it. I went to the store with my dietician and asked her how I should be picking out mayonnaise. If you’ve never been through something similar, believe me when I say it’s a process.
But back to Regan’s brilliant piece.
“As I’ve written before, the only outcome of such a culture is that fat people aren’t allowed to do anything with our lives except try to lose weight, and that’s unacceptable.”
This is everyone’s problem. Not on board yet? Try a little experiment: next time you’re eating dinner with friends or sharing cake at the office and find yourself tempted to say something about being “bad” for eating something or feel compelled to say you’ll make up for it later at the gym, just don’t. See how it feels when everyone else around you is talking like that.
Here’s a hint from someone who does this on the daily: it’s super fucking uncomfortable. So much so that sometimes I think it’d just be easier to be like, “Oh hey I’m bulimic and trying not to relapse so can we just not?” and let the room fall into awkward silence. Combine navigating that daily maze with the social media onslaught of aspirational photos and workout slogans, and you get one burned out blogger.
If I can help shift this conversation, though, I’ll keep at it. I hope you’ll join me.