If you are in the U.S., I hope you had a very Happy 4th of July.
(Don’t forget our Body Freedom Beach Day on 7/9..see end of this post for that!)
It’s that time of year when the theme of Freedom is top of the mind for us.
And while that typically is about feeling free and being free in our home country, I also tend to relate it to feeling free in our Body Home.
To me, there is no more important place to cultivate a sense of freedom than in one’s own skin, in one’s self.
Because when we feel free within ourselves, we get to experience life fully. We get to experience the unique, amazing wonder that it is to have a body and every beautiful sensation that comes with that. We feel connected to our spirit, to our soul and with that, we feel the drive to give our gifts to the world. We shine our light, our love, out and onto those who come into our world. Life is richer when we can enjoy the body we are privileged to have.
In order to cultivate that freedom, we must be willing to let go the things that keep us in chains.
And one of the things that has been top of my mind lately, one of the things that keeps our Body Freedom at bay, is the way in which we as a society feel entitled to discuss each other’s bodies, especially when it comes to one’s weight.
How many times have you experienced someone commenting on your weight when they see you, either that you’ve gained or lost weight?
How many times have you experienced the comment “you look great” followed by a comment about your weight or the question “have you lost weight”? (Which really means we equate “looking great” with “losing weight”.)
How many times have people asked you about what you are eating or what kind of exercise regimen are you on because of your appearance? Or have you also experienced someone suggesting a diet you should follow to lose weight?
I can tell you that I’ve experienced all of the above.
Just a couple of months ago, I was subbing at the school I used to teach at full-time. And never was it so apparent to me how entitled we (especially WOMEN) feel to discuss one another’s bodies.
One co-worker said to me, “Anita, you’ve lost weight! It looks good on you! It fits your personality.”
I looked at her baffled, not even sure what just came out of her mouth.
What does that mean??? How does my weight fit my personality??? How is my personality connected to my weight exactly?
I’m guessing it was meant to be a compliment but to me, it was anything BUT!
Another co-worker stopped me in the hall, with my students behind me, and said, “Wow! You look so skinny! Tell me what you are eating!”
(Again, this didn’t feel like a compliment at all. It felt weird to have my body discussed in that way, in the hallway, with a group of kiddies next to me.)
And while some co-workers seemed to “approve” of my weight, another felt it was her right to voice that she didn’t like the way I looked. “You look like you are wasting away,” she said with an unapproving glance. I responded that no, I was in no way wasting away.
Her words stung me and stayed with me.
Honestly, there was a lot I wanted to say to all of these women. And in many ways, I wish I had said more.
While many people might equate being referred to as skinny as a compliment, I don’t. I will admit at one time in my life, someone calling me skinny would have put me on cloud nine. But that was when I had a very different mindset about food, about weight, about weight and worth. Now I see it for what it is. I think equating thinness to beauty and as a compliment is everything that is wrong with our society. I think we have zero rights to comment on each other’s weight and bodies in this way.
I’ve been on the other end of this too, with well-meaning family members and friends telling me it looked like I had gained weight , that I should “watch it”, that I looked a little heavy, and have I thought about Weight Watchers? Or Atkins?
Umm, yeah, I had…and I did those diets + hundreds others…and got more and more screwed up about food.
Of course, when I weighed more than I currently do, no one could see that I was basically starving myself because I didn’t look like what we equate an undernourished woman to look like. Ironically, now that I have a healthier relationship with food and my body, I’ve been accused of having an eating disorder, of not eating enough, simply because I weigh less…but no one knew that they were feeding my disordered way of eating when my body weighed more, back when I actually WAS definitely not eating enough.
We assume a hell of a lot about someone based on their size.
It’s wrong, and it’s unacceptable.
And we have seriously no idea what we are talking about when we make these kinds of comments. We have no idea what someone is or isn’t doing or feeling just by looking at their body size.
We have a sick obsession with talking about each other’s bodies like we have a right to pick each other apart, as if weight and size are totally acceptable things to discuss in such a cavalier way.
The gross amount of attention we put on size is a common reason why many women who start to take weight off will unconsciously put weight back on…the sheer amount of attention their weight-loss brings can feel uncomfortable, therefore causing them to want to hide. Helping my clients ease into and deal with attention, to feel safe and at home in their bodies at every stage, is a big part of their journey.
And while most women will openly be up in arms about the impossible standards of beauty we are told to meet or how our patriarchal society objectifies women, we fail to see how we do it each other on a daily and almost unconscious basis.
But I can’t help but think if we didn’t make body size such a big deal, if we didn’t feel entitled to ask someone about their weight, if we didn’t equate weight with worth, wouldn’t we all feel a lot more free in our Body Home?
Wouldn’t we go to the parties, on the trips, on the dates we want to go to?
Wouldn’t we stop putting life, love, living our purpose off to until some future “perfect weight” time?
Because if you’ve learned anything from this piece, I hope you’ve learned that there will never be a “perfect weight” at which everyone will like or approve of your body.
You will be too heavy for some. You will be too thin for others. You will be “just right” for yet a whole other group of people.
Some people will like you more because you lost weight. Some will like you a whole lot less. Same goes with gaining weight.
Honestly, screw them.
The people that really matter will love you regardless of the number on the scale.
And I say that with love, because honestly, they have no idea WHY they are even saying what they are saying. They have no idea that they are just regurgitating body beliefs that they got from society, their family, the media. They are just making comments that unfortunately are just as normalized as “Good Morning” or “How’s it going?” are.
Your Body Does Not Have to Be Up For Open Forum Discussions!
Make having a happy, healthy relationship with your body, with food, your measure of success. Let that guide you. Tune in and check our how YOU feel, not what someone else says is good or bad for you.
Make freedom in your Body Home the goal.
And take notice if you are participating in this kind of body talk…and make a very conscious effort to stop. It’s ok if you catch yourself remarking on someone’s weight…it takes time to undo. What if you know someone who lost weight as a result of them trying to get healthier? I still say talking about one’s weight in such a public, uncensored way just ain’t cool. Bottom Line: Do not greet someone with a comment about their body size.
Next time, I’ll give you some tips on how to compliment without focusing on weight.
Trust me, we women have WAY more important and rich discussions to have than “hey, you look like you lost weight”…we can do better than that!
Want to surround yourself with other women who are committed to living free in their Body Home?
Then please join us on Sunday, July 9th from 1:30-4:30 pm in Marina del Rey Beach right at the Driftwood station, next to the Venice Pier, for our Body Freedom Beach Day.
This free, informal event is designed to recognize our 5th Annual Body Freedom Day and get your summer going in a body-positive direction.
I’ll be giving a short talk on what is real, lasting Body Freedom and then there will be plenty of time for fun-in-the-sun and connecting with one another.
Please bring your organic sunscreen, your fave snack, and your favorite swim attire for a great day together.
Planning on going?
Please RSVP by emailing Anita@Anitaavalos.com
I hope this piece helped you in some way today and know that I’m rooting for you to make this your most confident, adventure-filled summer yet!