By Keri Glassman, RD and founder of Nutritious Life
The body positivity movement is in full force: The #bodypositive hashtag has been used over 11 million times on Instagram, and the shift inspired both designers and advertisers to cater to more diverse body types in their clothing and campaigns.
With 30 million people suffering from an eating disorder in the U.S. alone, this is undeniably a good thing. We need to embrace our bodies, not shame them and wish they resembled the images we see in high-fashion ads.
Still, many people want to drop pounds with the support of their dietitian or health professional, and as one of those dietitians, I wholeheartedly support people in this endeavor. For those above a healthy weight, shedding pounds can undoubtedly improve markers of health, reducing their risk of heart disease and certain cancers, ultimately lengthening their lifespan.
So yes, weight loss is a good thing for many people, but that doesn’t mean you need to abandon body positivity in the process. In fact, I’d argue that practicing more body-love can help you hit your weight loss goals.
How high self-esteem promotes healthy habits
Research suggests that higher self-esteem may lead to healthier choices. A Pediatric Obesity study shows that kids who are bullied are more likely to gain weight. You might think teasing would be a motivator of sorts, eventually leading to weight loss…But the truth is, weight loss is so much more complicated than that. The authors note that body dissatisfaction may lead to unhealthy behaviors, like binge eating, and say that stress hormones might play a role too. (Of course, bullying has a slew of way more serious side effects, including self-harm and suicide.)
I’d say the same reasoning also holds true for adults who are mean to themselves. Think about it: If you like and value someone, you’re more likely to treat them well, listen to them, and honor their needs, right? Well, the same goes for your body. The best weight loss plans emphasize making choices because you love your body, not because you hate it. It means saying no! to fad diets and starving yourself, and yes! to empowered eating and healthy foods that give you energy, the whole philosophy behind the Nutritious Life Eat Empowered pillar.
You’re allowed to have complicated emotions about your body
Look, our relationships with our bodies are complicated: One day we might love the way we look (say, after an empowering workout), and the next we might feel more meh (ahem, Day 1 of your period). That’s okay, and it’s all part of the process. It’s unrealistic to love the way you look every single day, but in your more negative moments, I hope you can embrace some more #bodyneutrality and practice forgiveness.
Ultimately, it’s okay to make changes to your diet and exercise regimen—for health or for vanity—as long as you do it the healthy way. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any body-positivity posts telling people to eat endless amounts of sugar and stop working out. Body positivity is about finding workouts you truly love, eating well, and being honest about your needs in the moment. It’s not about throwing your goals out the window. It’s about finding balance and being nice—and those are things we can all practice, weight loss goals or not.