A few years ago I was able to meet with the amazing Rebecca Scritchfield. Rebecca’s focus on body kindness was unlike anything I had ever learned and I’ve appreciated being able to follow her over the years. As a woman who has dieted her whole life, letting go of dieting completely and growing in body confidence while still wanting to lose weight was/is very difficult for me. It’s a complete mind shift. For 25+ years, I thought the only way to body kindness was through weight loss and dieting. It’s only these past few years and my eyes have been opened to true body kindness, regardless of one’s weight, but it has been a difficult concept for me to implement and accept.
During my last appointment with Rebecca she told me, “you’ll come back to body positivity when you are ready”. That has always stuck with me because deep down, I love who I am and I’m tired of always wanting/needing/trying to lose weight. Still, I continue to face the battle between body positivity (accepting who I am completely) and wanting to lose weight in order to live a healthier life. The truth is, I want to lose weight, I want to weigh less, and I’ve only ever seen weight loss through the lens of dieting.
During a Facebook Live session last week Rebecca brought up the question “Can you be body positive and still want to lose weight?“. You can watch the Facebook Live video on the Coffee Cake and Cardio Facebook page, but here’s a little synopsis.
- What is body positivity? – A movement that people buy into as a part of their belief system and values. A movement that is grounded in respect – respect of all bodies. All bodies are good bodies – including your own.
- If you want to lose weight you need to first understand why you want to lose weight. You need to get connected with the real ‘why’ – What kind of life do you want? What kind of life do you want to live? Separate your goals from your appearance – appearance doesn’t impact health. Don’t focus on the weight loss – focus on changing your habits. Focus on respecting your body.
- Can you be body positive and still want to lose weight? – Nobody can really say when they’re ready to let go of dieting. It goes back to the question of why you want to lose weight – You can’t lose weight when you hate your body. Loving the body you’re in, even if you want change and want to be different. Being content in the body you’re in doesn’t mean you’re complacent. A diet is anything you do with the express purpose of a weight loss goal. That is another reason why dieting can’t be body positive – you can’t control your weight – you can control your actions and your behaviors – you can’t control your weight. It’s up to you to shift your mindset – to change your actions and behaviors – your weight may or may not change as a result of respecting your body and changing your actions and behaviors in order to reach your goals.
Although this Facebook Live chat was more for other registered dietitians, I quickly realized that I was the hypothetical person they were talking about. I am the woman who wants to love her body but also wants to be healthier. I am a woman who sees weight loss as a path towards a healthier life and wants to weigh less. I am the person who wants body kindness and a life without dieting, but I also want to lose weight.
I have spent the past 5 years in my personal life and on this blog in a back and forth battle between body positivity and weight loss. On one hand, I want to lose weight, a lot of weight. I’ve wanted to lose weight and to be thin for as long as I can remember. On the other hand, I want to be at peace with who I am; a strong, athletic, and muscular woman who may never weigh less than 200 pounds. I want to move away from weight loss and for my life not to be consumed by the need to weigh less and to be someone other than who I am. I want to be at peace, to be happy, and to make the most of my strengths; physically, emotionally, and mentally. Ultimately, I want to be healthy, my version of healthy, not the healthy that society tells me I need to be. I want to be physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy. I want body positivity, but I also want to get back to a healthier weight.
The big question becomes, how do you lose weight while also accepting and loving who you are? According to Rebecca, you achieve this by making changes to your actions and behaviors, not by dieting. As a chronic dieter, the road to body positivity is a challenge because of the propaganda, the hope that dieting brings, and seeing the success others have had through dieting. I often find that there are two roads when it comes to dieting. You either find someone who hops on the race track. They follow a strict diet, lose a lot of weight, and then work towards body positivity as they learn to maintain their weight loss. Some master this, but a lot of studies show that most regain some, all, or even an excess amount of weight from following a strict diet. The other road is a long and winding road. This road involves making small, permanent changes to your habits, which lead to weight loss over time. This person makes lasting changes, but this journey takes a longer time. It’s like that back country road. It’s not always beautiful, and although it takes longer to get you to where you want to be, it ends up being worth it and getting you to your final destination.
I don’t know how to answer Rebecca’s question, “Can you be body positive and still want to lose weight?“. The time I’ve spent focused on body positivity has been wonderful, but not losing weight, when you want and need to lose weight is difficult. I struggled to lose the diet mindset when focused on body positivity and because I wanted/want to get back down to a healthier weight, I returned to dieting not long after stepping away from the “diet to lose weight” lifestyle. These past few years I’ve tried to find a happy medium, because I want to believe that there’s a healthy way to diet. I want to believe that dieting can be a result of respecting your body enough that you see the reasons you’d benefit from losing excess weight.
At this point in my life, I am trying to focus on consistency. I am focused on enjoying my workouts, getting enough sleep each night, managing my time well, creating healthy boundaries around work, and eating the right amount of food for my body. I am following a diet because I just don’t trust my habits. I need to learn healthier habits and following a plan gives me structure to change. As hard as it is to be body positive and still lose weight, I believe if you lose weight over time, make healthy changes each day, and make yourself a priority, that your body productivity will grow as you grow. It’s not always easy. I still struggle with what I weigh and how I feel about myself. What I’ve come to recognize is that I just don’t feel like myself when I weight over 235 pounds. 230 is my comfortable weight, 220 is my happy weight, and 210 is the lowest weight I have been at as an adult. I don’t know life below 206, but what I do know is that I was happy and healthy at 210. For now, I am focused on getting back to 230. Then I’ll work on getting back to 220, where I’ve been happy many, many times. I want to maintain that weight and to slowly work back towards 210.
I want permanent change and I want body positivity. I, much like many of the readers who have reached out to me over the years, want to be a success and want to live a life without dieting. Listening to Rebecca and reading her words (I can’t wait to read her new book) gives me hope and although I haven’t let go of dieting yet, I’m working towards it… it just might take me a while.