Exercise and Self-Love - they aren’t mutually exclusive!

posted by 
The Body Positive
October 24, 2016

Summary: A news reporter with Yahoo Beauty reached out to The Body Positive last week and asked us to comment on an issue that’s raised in a video they shared with us. We responded too late to be included in the article, but here’s what we said.

In THIS VIDEO, a group of plus size models complain about things that they’re sick of hearing. It mostly involves the way people make assumptions about them based on their size, like their eating habits and their levels of confidence.

But one issue that warrants some real exploration is the way their fans respond to photos of the models exercising:

“Don’t get too skinny!”

“Why are you working out if you love your body?”

“Nooooo, I thought you were confident!”

These responses highlight several interesting issues. First of all, they promote a few misconceptions about exercise: 1) that it always results in weight loss, and 2) that anyone who exercises is trying to lose weight. I think the models hit the nail on the body positive head when they say that they exercise BECAUSE they love their bodies.

It's sad that so many people believe that the only reason anyone would want to exercise is because they hate their body and they want to lose weight. Yes, everyone deserves to love themselves exactly as they are, right now!  AND yes, we should all treat our bodies with love and respect by tuning into our innate body wisdom so we can hear internal cues for nutrition, movement, and rest.  Our society has been taught that everyone should be trying to lose weight at all times, and, in order to do so, we have to eat less and exercise more. We at The Body Positive know that people naturally come in all shapes and sizes and that everyone deserves to pursue balanced self-care. It is not an "either/or" situation. It's a "yes, and!" situation. Exercise is a health-promoting and life-affirming practice, and it should be pursued in ways that feel positive to the individual.

We discourage people from exercising with the intent of losing weight because research shows that weight loss behaviors do not actually lead to long term health.

Sometimes exercise results in weight loss, and sometimes it doesn't. We encourage people to pursue self-love and to treat their bodies in kind, through respecting their individual needs for movement, food, and rest, and loving it no matter what it looks like.   

The fans’ responses also communicate that they will experience a loss if the models do lose weight. Many people are desperate for role models who look like them in the public eye. So often, we see a new actress or model appear who's heavier than what we're used to seeing and it feels great because these people are experiencing success and getting attention. Since we relate to them, we feel validated and worthy of that same success and attention. We start to feel proud of our bodies, rather than the shame that we're used to feeling. Then, when they lose a ton of weight, suddenly our role model is gone and we go back to feeling the same as we did before. We feel betrayed by someone who we thought was our ally. The weight loss may sometimes happen because these women fall victim to the immense pressures and scrutiny of the public eye and they want to fit in, but it also sometimes just happens. At the end of the day, other people’s bodies are not our business. Furthermore, the fact is that everyone is deserving of love and respect, even if their body type is not represented in the media.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Share this post on facebook and tag The Body Positive in your comment, or comment on our Facebook post that links to this blog.

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