Apparently I talk a lot about bodies now. But I've been thinking about bodies again this week, and I realized I had more to say, so here goes.
I'm sure many of you saw Lady Gaga's incredible halftime show at Superbowl LI. It was a phenomenal performance, by one of the most talented and hardworking performers of our time, and for part of the performance Lady Gaga's un-photoshopped belly was on display. And there were some reactions to that online, and there were people saying that her belly didn't look so great, that she looked "flabby." Lady Gaga's own response
to these comments is beautiful, but these comments reached farther than one person, and many people were left wondering, "If Lady Gaga is fat/flabby, what does that make me?"
I'm a member of a fitness group on Facebook, and several members started an #allbelliesarebeautiful hashtag in the group. Since I didn't see many larger bellies shared, I decided to share my belly and I was blown away with the response-my belly picture had the second-most reactions and responses out of any picture in our group. One thing that multiple people commented on was how happy and joyful I looked-I think for most people, this is one of the first times they've seen someone their size or shape post a picture of their stomachs and be openly thrilled with their appearance.
I've been open before about how I used to not love my body, and that for years I actively fought against the idea that my body was beautiful. What I haven't explicitly shared was that I struggled with disordered eating for over half my life. Starting somewhere between fourth and sixth grades, my relationship with food and my body became very damaged and unhealthy, and I let it continue that way for years. When I was diagnosed with diabetes at 18, I allowed that to justify my eating disorder, and when I was diagnosed with coeliac disease at 20 I used that as another excuse for my problems with eating.
I'm not going to go into too many details, because that's not the point of this post, but it was only around age 23 or 24 that I was able to openly admit how bad my eating disorder was and how much anxiety I actually had around food.
I don't know if I'll ever be able to consider myself "cured" of my eating disorder. The most I can say now is that I'm in recovery. I targeted the mental aspect with a counselor and I have a great nutritionist who knows my history and works with me to understand my concerns and goals. I'm better than I was, but every day it's tempting to fall back into old habits. When I'm tired and stressed it's easy to forget that my body can only do the things it can when I take the best care of it possible. It's easy to push food to the side as distractions from whatever else I'm doing.
What I see time and time again is that people desperately want to love their bodies and they fall into the trap of thinking "I could love myself if I lost 5 pounds," or "I'd be beautiful if I was just one inch smaller." But what I hear from the responses to my belly picture and to all the belly pictures people shared is "I want to feel as beautiful and love myself as much as that person does."
What I've experienced in my life is that goals like those above keep moving just out of reach-I have a better relationship with my body and I am happier with how I look now than when I was 50 pounds lighter. And I'll reiterate that what I find the most helpful is looking at what your body can do, and how its size and shape impact that. My body knows what balance it wants to maintain to be its healthiest, strongest self, and it'll keep on just fine as long as I take good care of it-exercise when I feel sedentary, stretch when I feel tight, eat when I feel hungry, sleep when I feel tired.
Every time I get ready to hit "publish" on another bodies post, I ask myself why I do this. Bodies and body image are hard things to talk about. And as much as I feel comfortable about having a larger body and how I learned to love it, I can't speak to much thinner people. Certain things remain the same-that you should trust your body to know what's best for it, and give your body what it needs when it needs it, but I've never had people wonder if I was unhealthily skinny, and I've never dealt with some of the medical problems that plague my thin friends.
Ultimately I really do believe in body positivity and self-love. And I think most people can benefit from seeing as many people as possible say things like "I learned to love my body without changing my size at all," and "I got a new piercing/tattoo and it helped me feel ownership over my body." And I think that we in the crafting community have to be so aware of our bodies, especially when making garments, that it can exacerbate negative feelings. So, here's a friendly reminder that it's possible and okay to love your body exactly as it is, that your body is an amazing thing and does so much for you, and you deserve to feel beautiful and strong and you deserve to love yourself.
**I feel it's important to note that I am not anti-weight loss. There are dozens of reasons why people pursue weight loss, either through diet or exercise or surgery, and that is a conversation for you and your doctor only. But I do strongly feel that your own feelings of self-love and self-worth should never be dependent on your body weight/shape/size, and that is what I'm trying to combat here.**