Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Body-Positive Manifesto

Lately, I've been pretty much eating and wearing whatever I feel like, and let me tell you, it's pretty glorious. It's also somewhat unprecedented in my life. For almost as long as I can remember, I've spent a lot of my time thinking about what I'm eating and mentally counting calories, or worrying about how to 'make up' for things I ate.

In the past year or so, though, I feel like those thoughts have finally begun to wither away, replaced by thoughts of 'is this good for my body? Am I eating nutritious things? Will this behavior/food help me live well?' And when I decide to eat things purely because they're delicious, I don't feel the terrible remorse that used to ruin the act of indulgence.

I like to eat things like this!

I also like to eat things like this!
…a lot!
Cherries are good for you and an indulgence, since they cost so darn much.

It's a liberating thing to make peace with your body: to realize that your shape, size, and general appearance has absolutely no bearing on your value as a person, and act accordingly. It's a magical feeling when you hit that point where things like 'all bodies are good bodies' and 'you are beautiful' starts to ring true instead of sounding like well-intentioned bullshit.

It's a little hard to believe how much mental energy I used to waste being preoccupied about my body flaws, as I'd come to see parts of myself. While I knew, on a rational level, that resenting parts of my body as though they weren't actually me was symptomatic of a weirdly dualistic approach to the mind-body problem that I rejected as a philosophical position, I didn't know how to stop.

For the first time in forever, I feel like the choices I make about food and exercise are truly choices I make for me. I've found that it's an odd positive-feedback loop. I'm happier because I'm not constantly worrying about my weight, which means that when I do choose delicious unhealthiness, I enjoy it more, which makes me feel more positive about my life in general and thus more excited to do things that will help me live longer (e.g. eat kale and quinoa salad and lift weights). To put it another way, without the artificial superego of body shame, it feels more worthwhile to try to live a long life.

In other words, I can go out and do a 5k run/walk with my parents right after my wedding hair trial, just for fun

I won't apologize for eating whatever the heck I want. Food is fun and gives me so much enjoyment; why demonize something so joyful? I work out to have strong arms and muscles that people don't expect on a petite, chubby woman, not to shrink and take up less space. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment whenever I up the weight I use for a particular exercise. I like feeling strong -- no, I love feeling strong!

Everything is more fun with neon sneakers!

I feel weird about how many of these sentences start with "I." It reminds me of a passage from A Room of One's Own that talks about the way that the letter "I" dominates the pages of male-authored texts. But I also feel like it's important for me to train myself to become comfortable with taking up space, even if it's digital space. Part of self-acceptance, I think, is realizing that your thoughts, opinions, and right to stake out a piece of the public sphere are on the same level as everyone else's, and deserve to occupy the same amount of space and attention. This is something women are socialized in many ways to shy away from, and so that's something I'm consciously working on.

I think that the only way to get to the world I want to live in -- a world where women aren't literally murdered for rejecting men, or subjected to unthinkable campaigns of online harassment and hate speech for daring to engage in critical thinking -- is for a hell of a lot of women to stop apologizing for who they are and what they think. And I want to be one of those women.

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  1. Preach on sister! I freakin' loved this - loved your body positive week and everything you've said. Can we meet now please? LOL

    1. We really need to hang out -- whenever you post photos of the night sky and drinks the size of your head, I'm like 'YES WE WILL GET ALONG JUST GREAT!' We can get In-N-Out on the 15 freeway and see all the sights :).

    2. Don't tease me, woman! It will happen...I'm manifesting it right meow!!

  2. YES, couldn't agree more! I'm so happy & relieved to be at the place where I'm happy with my body and fully accepting of my curves. It's brought so much peace into my life and chased out the pressure & misery I use to feel. Thank you so much for sharing Emily, truly inspiring. Happiest weekend, girl! xo

    1. It's truly astonishing how much more mental energy I have to use for things I enjoy now -- glad you're in a good place too! Honestly, it helps to hear that other women have gone through the struggle to accept their wonderful, strong, lovely bodies and come out on the other side! <3

  3. YUP AND YUP! While I am not feasting on mac and cheese and ice cream sandwiches every night (umm can I though?), I am so sick of wondering "should I eat that though?" before eating something. ENOUGH! I decided to stop counting my calorie intake on my fitbit back in March bc I noticed it was causing some scary habits and feelings (I'd feel SO worried and scared and upset if I didn't keep it to the calorie limit the Fit Bit world declared the right amount for me) and then I decided to ditch my Fit bit totally the other day bc it was starting to make me feel guilty when I didn't work out enough and you know what? F THAT! I work out as much as I can, I eat (mostly) balanced meals, and I take care of my body. Enough of these "rules" and numbers and cookie cutter expectations! Sure, I won't be happy if I gain weight and my pretty dresses don't fit but it certainly doesn't define who I am. I WILL EAT THAT COOKIE AND I WILL ENJOY IT!!

    OK my rant is over. Moral of the story/TLDR? I love you and we are foodie friends and we need to wear our Kitchen Kellys and go get a burger together some day!! =D

    1. YES TO ALL OF THIS! Especially the bit about hanging out and grabbing burgers :). Every time you post a baking recipe, I wish I was better at baking.

      I didn't realize the Fitbit tracked calories -- it's good that you recognized that you didn't like what it was doing to you and stopped that self-recrimination in its tracks! I'd been considering getting a Fitbit because I'm curious about how much ground I cover in the average workday, but counting calories has never been a positive for me. Focusing on overall health and sustainable habits, to my mind, is the way to go.

      TL;DR -- <3! <3!

  4. Sounds like the whole "intuitive eating" thing I've been reading about lately, which sounds to me like the best type of diet.

    Also nice Virginia Woolf reference. She's one of my favorite authors.
    - Deva

    1. It really does sound like a smart, sustainable way to live. I've found myself listening to my cravings more, and often, they're for things like green vegetables and watermelon. ALWAYS watermelon.

      Woolf is amazing! And so are you <3