HAES And Its Impact On Body Positivity

There are plenty of posts out there criticizing the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement. My problem with most of them is they miss the point of the idea of HAES.

What is HAES?

You can get the full idea of HAES at https://haescommunity.com, however the basic ideas are

  • The movement celebrates body diversity in an intersectional way by honoring differences in size, age, race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, class, etc.
  • HAES challenges scientific and cultural assumptions and values body knowledge and people’s experiences.
  • HAES encourages compassionate self-care by finding the joy in moving one’s body and being physically active, and also eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors your body’s signs of hunger and satiety.

Why do I like it?

These basic ideas are what I love about HAES. It has helped many people realize that just because they aren’t losing weight, it doesn’t mean they can’t be healthy. I want to emphasize that, as someone with chronic illness, I understand that “healthy” is not a universal goalpost. Each of us do have our own personal health goals, even if being generally healthy isn’t in the card for all of us. Knowing there is no failure just because an arbitrary number isn’t reached on the scale is a relief to many.

Health At Every Size is not an “excuse to give up” any more than body positivity is one. Do you recall the part where “joy in moving one’s body” and honoring “your body’s signs of hunger and satiety” was mentioned? Yeah, that isn’t giving up; it’s finding what works best for you.

I Stand against the practice of presuming health and fitness based on appearance. HAES

Embracing the HAES basics has helped me to love my body and care for it in the way that is best for me personally. It allowed me to see that while some bodies react to stress and food shortage by losing weight, mine holds on to it. I appreciate that my body is doing its best to care for me, and I love that previously this body would be the preferred type. After all, being able to hold on to weight would help in a famine. It’s isn’t my body’s fault that isn’t the current conditions. Dieting and chronic illness are different stressors with the same results for me as a famine.

So, Health At Every Size has been a wonderful thing for me and many other people. People misunderstanding the movement doesn’t change that fact, or the reality of what its purpose is.

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

15 Great Body Positive Quotes To Share

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for some great stuff to share online. Just for you, here are some great body positive quotes all ready for you to share on Pinterest, Twitter, etc.

I am allowed to look sexy, feel sexy, and be in love. I am worthy of all of those things, and so are you. -Mary Lambert

Why should I change something as beautiful and complex as my body, when you won't change somethinga simple as your mind?

You don't encourage people to take care of their body by telling them to hate it. -Laci Green

Self hate isn't okay at any size.

There's nothing body positive about tearing down anyone's body.

Admire someone else's beauty without questioning your own.

Girls of all kinds can be beautiful-from the thing, plus-sized, short, very tall, ebony to porcelain-skinned; the quirky, clumsy, shy, outgoing, and all in between. - Tyra Banks

Want to get a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body.

To me, beauty is about being comfortable in your own skin. It's about knowing and accepting who you are. -Ellen Degeneres

Sexy isn't about what you wear. It's about how you feel. The more passion you feel, for yourself and your life, the more passion others will feel for you.

Never compare yourself to others and celebrate what makes you, you. -Tess Holliday

All bodies are summer bodies.

You were born an original. Don't die a copy. -John Mason

Your worth is not measured by the size of your waist.

I hope you enjoy these. There are a lot more on my Body Love | Body Positivity board over on Pinterest if you are interested.

I’ve also compiled a great list of body positive accounts to follow on social media. If you’d like some more sources for great body positive stuff to share, just sign up and I’ll send it to you.

 

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

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4 Challenges To Body Positivity For Spoonies

Body positivity can be extra tough when you are a spoonie. When your body doesn’t cooperate and you have to fight it all the time, it can be hard to believe that “all bodies are good bodies” or “there’s no wrong way to have a body”. In fact, for some of us it isn’t even true that our bodies are doing all they can to keep us alive! It’s pretty hard to be positive toward something actively trying to kill you.

So, how do you stay body positive as a spoonie? For one, it helps to refocus yourself on what you can do rather than what your body can’t do. Whatever limits you may have, there is still a list you can make of what is possible. Make that list, and see what you can do to add to it. Learn something new, take up a fun hobby, expand that list any way you can. As you see the list grow, it will help you find appreciation for what your body is capable of still.

All Bodies Are Good Bodies

Being self-conscious about weight is a common thing for people with chronic illnesses or mental health issues. People can’t control their weight the way they think they can. (link link)  Spoonies have even less control over it. Between illness symptoms, physical limits, and medicine side effects, weight gain and loss is pretty well out of our hands. Even eating “perfectly” (whatever that may be) and exercising all the time won’t give guaranteed results, so just do what you can to care for yourself, and then let the numbers go. There is no perfect weight, and your body has other concerns anyway. Stressing out by worrying about your weight is more harmful than just letting your body find its natural set point given what you are doing.

Never compare yourself to others and celebrate what makes you, you. -Tess Holliday

We are all told that we should get more exercise. Movement can help our bodies to feel better and help us to feel better about our bodies. There are many reasons a typical exercise routine isn’t reasonable for a spoonie. Some have conditions making them exercise intolerant (link, link), some have injuries or limitations for other reasons. There is usually some way to find movement you can enjoy though. I miss dancing. My P.O.T.S. doesn’t allow it without me getting very winded and light-headed now. So, I’ve adjusted my dancing to less movement or chair moves. There are many resources out there depending on your limits. A physical therapist can help you work something out too.

Some days are harder to me to stay body positive, when I focus on things I can’t do anymore. When finding new things to do isn’t enough, sometimes I rethink new ways to do what I’ve lost. Cooking is much harder for me now that I can’t stand as long. I really miss it sometimes, so now, on my good days, we have a chair in the kitchen I can sit on as I cook. I can’t garden like I used to, so we went smaller and have a few container plants now. Many things can be rethought and adjusted like that.

Just like most things for spoonies, body positivity is possible with adjustments. Do you have other challenges to body positivity you would like to see discussed? Please share in the comments!

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

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5 Myths About Body Acceptance

People tend to jump to a lot of conclusions when it comes to body acceptance or body positivity. This leads to some common myths. I’ve chosen five of them to discuss here.

1) Body acceptance is only for women.

Not true! Body acceptance is for everyone on the gender spectrum. Women tend to be the focus, because the pressure on them is more obvious. Even so, other people on the gender spectrum find themselves under pressure to conform to certain standards also. There is quite the lack of representation for them in the body acceptance movement though. I will be attempting to be inclusive, but will likely tend to lean toward addressing women and femmes since that is my perspective.

I’ve searched for some sources of info and support from other views for you:

This is a wonderful article with links to good sources.

Body Positivity For The Modern Man – Tumblr

Another great article with links

The Good Men Project has a host of articles in their archive

There is a very noticeable lack of gender neutral body positivity sources. After searching for some time, I think your best bet is to search Tumblr and/or Pinterest for “gender neutral body positivity” or something similar (without the quotation marks). I will be keeping an eye out for any good links, and will be sure to update with them as I find them.

2) Accepting your body, as it is right now, means you are lazy.

Not at all! Many people think those who love body acceptance do so as an excuse to not take care of themselves, but that is not the case. Body acceptance encourages you to cultivate love for yourself and your body, and show that love by taking care of yourself. Showing yourself love includes eating food that you enjoy and makes you feel well, staying hydrated, and moving your body in ways that are enjoyable and make you feel good.

You don’t do these things with any intent to change your body, only to care for it. There doesn’t need to be any guilt over how you actually care for yourself either. Your self-care is always up to you. There is much more to this idea, but that isn’t the focus of this post. If you are interested, you will want to look into Intuitive Eating or mindful eating. If done without a dieting mindset, intuitive eating and/or mindfulness can be a wonderfully body positive way to approach food and self-care.

3) Body acceptance is only about appearance.

Absolutely not. While there is a good amount of focus on all body shapes being acceptable, that is not the only important part. We also need to be able to see what our bodies are capable of doing. Many times people are able to start by appreciating how their bodies function, even when they can’t appreciate and accept their bodies otherwise. Appreciating the strength of your legs, how your arms embrace your loved ones, how your ribs protect your organs, all these things are part of body acceptance.

A side view of a nude torso with fat rolls. The photo is edged in words describing what "this body" does.

4) Body acceptance can be found overnight.

I honestly laugh at this one. I feel I can safely say no one ever has. We are conditioned to hate our bodies. That message comes at us from all sides, everyday, and a single article or decision won’t overwrite it.

Being body positive, or even just neutral toward your body, takes making a decision each day, and helping your brain rewire itself in how it thinks. Don’t feel like you’ve failed if you are still struggling after a few weeks. As long as you are working toward accepting of your body, you haven’t failed.

Which brings us to our final myth.

5) Once you find body acceptance, you will never struggle again. (Or you will love your body at all times.)

Even the biggest names in body positivity struggle some days. No matter how clearly you are aware of the lies in the media, these messages have still made a deep impression. This takes a long time to counter, and we are still getting ongoing negative messages, even if we take steps to adjust our “media diet”. (Media diet = what we see each day).

Of course this will lead to days where you struggle no matter how well you’ve been doing. Everybody does. But you will have tools and knowledge to help you through those days.

sketches of different bellies with pastel watercolor over them
credit to glasmond glasmond.tumblr.stfi.re

Something that helps me on rough days is listening to music. I made up a playlist on YouTube full of great songs that encourage body positivity and self-love. This play list is especially for my readers, and you can only see it if you have the link!

I feel strongly that everyone deserves to have positive feeling toward their body. Hopefully this post helps alleviate some of the reservations you may be having, or give you answers for anyone in your life questioning your choices. Please feel free to email me at leighbryant@flawedmessylife.com with any other questions or concerns you may be having.

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

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3 Big Obstacles to Body Positivity

Girls don't just simply decide to hate their bodies, we teach them to.
It’s only one of many obstacles to body positivity.

We are not born critical of our bodies. It takes years of outside exposure to change this, and unfortunately some are influenced much earlier than others. Where does this influence come from? Quite a few places actually, but I’m going to focus on three here.

The Media

The media is a huge influence on all of us. Everyday we are exposed to the media in some form. TV, magazines, billboards, the internet: we are bound to see one, if not all of these each day. With that exposure comes lots of “perfect” bodies; bodies that are all very similar, with little diversity.

Shoutout to all the girls out there trying to love themselves in a world that's constantly telling them not to. @nourishandeat
When a person is only exposed to one type or form of something, anything else seems odd. So we only see tall, thin/muscled bodies, and then compare ourselves to that false norm. In reality, there is no “normal” body. Humans are vastly varied creatures, and that is really the beauty of us. If we take measures to fill our views with a variety of figures, our own is not a shock, but another added to the mix.

I accomplished this by tweaking the accounts I follow online. Most of my social media time is spent on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I’m also on Twitter, but don’t see as many photos there. My searches focused on accounts that show people with non-mainstream bodies. Plus-sized models, body positive accounts, and key words like: curvy, body love, thick, and “all bodies are good bodies”, are good searches to start with.

Click below and I’ll send you a list of some of my favorite accounts to follow. I have done the work for you, and you get a list full of great body positive accounts! You will also be added to my mailing list to be notified about new posts, if you aren’t already.

Hyperfocus

With the expectation of certain body types, we start to narrow our focus to particular body parts. Standing in front of the mirror, we laser down on to the perceived faults of each individual bit. Focusing on one part ends up giving us the same effect as repeating a word over and over. We have all done it. If you repeat the same word for long enough, soon it just doesn’t seem like a real word anymore. You are not a butt, a set of thighs, or upper arms though. We exist as whole beings, and when we take our whole body into account we can fully appreciate the beauty that is present. There truly is beauty in every body, and when you view a variety of bodies daily you start to see that.

How Clothes Are Sized

The final of the three obstacles to body positivity I want to talk about today is clothing sizing, or more specifically, the inconsistency of sizes among brands. I’m pretty sure everyone is aware of this problem. If not, it is a rare thing to find clothes in different brands that actually fit the same in the same size. A size 10 in one brand is like an eight in another and 12 in yet another. Now, while this is a wide-spread problem, few people put together that it is an issue with the clothes and not our bodies. When you go into the dressing room, and try on some clothes, if they don’t fit, simply try on something else. Don’t worry about the number on the tag. Just find something that fits. You can use sizes as a general idea of where to start, but that’s all they are good for. If the clothes fit, and make you feel good, that is all that matters; not the number on a tag.

We have many other influences in our life that make body positivity a challenge, but I just wanted to start with these three. The good news is that we can counteract the influence, and make a change for ourselves. I hope my suggestions here can help you start making that change, and help you remove your own obstacles to body positivity. Please feel free to share you experiences in the comments, or come over to the Facebook page and join us there!

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

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What The Heck Is Body Acceptance, And Why Do I Need It?

A popular “buzzword” lately has been “body positivity”. Not everyone feels ready to have positive thoughts toward their body. In that case, it may be easier to try for body acceptance.

What is body acceptance?

Simply put, body acceptance is just accepting your body as it is with no judgement. It is a step toward body positivity and loving yourself without requiring any change. Another way to look at it is body neutrality. This article covers it well. Just not hating their body can be a huge step for some people.

I’ve talked before about acceptance. Self-acceptance is recognizing and accepting all parts of yourself with no judgement. You can read more here and here. Body acceptance is similar. It is being aware of your body with no judgement. It’s seeing your body as neither good nor bad, but simply a body. If you aren’t ready yet to jump into body positivity, acceptance is a wonderful place to start.

Why body acceptance?

Why be accepting of your body? Well, basically, you are living in the body you have right now, and it does you no good to hate on it. Even if you are sure that, no matter what, you want to change something about your body, you are still living in this body currently, and being negative toward yourself will help nothing. Real change can only come from a place of love, and that is what body acceptance (and body positivity) can give you.

You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself, and see what happens. - Louise L. Hay

No matter what you may find to be flaws with your body, it is important to find peace with it now as it is. Your body doesn’t have to earn your respect and care. It deserves to be treated well just as it is. It is taking care of you daily, the best it can.  You can return the favor by keeping up with your self-care and being gentle with yourself.

How to start working on it.

There are a few exercises you can use to work on your body acceptance. One of the simplest, though not the easiest, is to spend time each day in front of a mirror (naked if possible). Find at least one thing nice to say about your body each time. If you find yourself having negative thoughts about your body use my method of Beating Negative Thoughts to interrupt yourself, and start turning them around. The goal may be body positivity, but it is fine to shoot for neutrality or acceptance at first.

My body is my home, and I will not tear it down.

Now make a list of things you like about yourself that have nothing to do with your body. Shoot for 5-10 to start. It helps to remind yourself how much more there is to you other than your body. You have a lot to offer the world, and you should be proud of that.

Another helpful activity is to start a body gratitude journal. Spend time each day writing down things about your body you can be grateful about. Perhaps it is the way your legs allow you to go on walks, or the way your hands help you to do your hobbies. Maybe you are grateful for the hugs your arms can give, or the great food you get to taste with your mouth. Before long you will have an amazing list to read back though, and see all your body does for you.

If you would like some more ideas, Buzz Feed has a nice list of activities suggested by readers here.

Body acceptance is not an instant thing. There isn’t a quick fix. It is very worth working on though, and I hope you will be willing to take steps in that direction. Everyone deserves to be comfortable in their body.

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