Please, Stop Talking About the Size of My Body

Health takes many forms and cannot be predicted by body size.

On April 4, the University of Utah hosted the “Body of Evidence” workshop created by Paige Smathers, RDN, and Jessie Hoffman, Ph.D. from Positive Nutrition in Salt Lake City. Lindsay Kite, Ph.D., and Lexie Kite, Ph.D. — co-directors of the non-profit Beauty Redefined — also spoke about their work.

During the workshop, they presented research-backed information about nutrition myths and body image resilience. Beauty Redefined has a motto — “You are more than a body.” This workshop meant a lot to me because, over the past three years, I’ve had many struggles trying to figure out my relationship with food, my body, and my health. Attending that night helped me realize how far I’ve come in the last six months and inspired me to continue on the path I’m on. Please, Stop Talking About the Size of My Body

The Impact of Societal Expectations

A few years ago, my body changed. It wasn’t intentional weight loss. About a year and a half prior, I began struggling with anxiety. I felt stressed out, never good enough, and physical symptoms like headaches and nausea became more frequent. Instead of addressing these difficult emotions by finding a trained therapist or counselor, I made the common decision that I could get a handle on this thing on my own.

Like most people who use the internet, I started seeing articles about gluten causing X, Y, or Z health problems and I thought, “Wait, I have X, Y, and Z. Maybe I should try eliminating gluten from my diet.” Thus I began my slow descent into an eating disorder. But no one knew this, of course. To the world — and in my own mind back then — I was just trying to get healthy. I was sure that there was enough research out there that I could use to piece together the exact right way to eat for optimal health.

The Destructive Path of Diet Culture

Those who have been down this path will attest that once you start looking, there are so many conflicting messages out there. Elimination diets were how it began for me. I tried to cut out major food groups, and I would feel like a failure if I couldn’t keep it up for more than a few days. I became obsessed with sugar and carbs. I was duped into thinking that a ketogenic diet should be applied to the general public when really all the research that has been done with this diet is in patients with epilepsy.

There are multiple books written on this subject and there is much to learn. However, the important takeaway is that trying to control my health through my food led to more anxiety than I had before. Mentally, I was exhausted. Physically, I was hungry. However terrible I felt on the inside, though, was not considered when I encountered people that immediately wanted to comment on my body.

The Harmful Effects of Unsolicited Comments

“Wow, have you lost weight? You look so great!” This is a common compliment, one that I received countless times during my journey. While it may be well-intentioned, it reinforces the harmful notion that smaller bodies are better bodies. This perpetuates the cycle of dieting and body dissatisfaction. Comments like these disregard the person’s overall health and well-being, focusing solely on appearance.

Understanding Health Beyond Size

Health is not a one-size-fits-all concept. There are many factors that contribute to a person’s overall well-being, and body size is not a definitive indicator. Health can be seen in many forms: physical, mental, and emotional. We must shift our focus from the size of our bodies to the health of our minds and spirits.

Embracing Body Neutrality and Positivity

The “Body of Evidence” workshop taught me the importance of body neutrality and positivity. Body neutrality encourages us to accept our bodies as they are, without judgment. It’s about recognizing that our worth is not tied to our appearance. Body positivity goes a step further, encouraging us to celebrate our bodies for what they can do, not just how they look.

The Journey to Self-Acceptance

My journey has not been easy, but it has been worth it. I’ve learned to listen to my body, to nourish it with what it needs, and to appreciate it for what it can do. I’ve found joy in movement, not as a means to change my body, but as a way to celebrate it. I’ve sought out therapy to address my anxiety and have learned healthier ways to cope with stress.

The Importance of Support Systems

Finding a supportive community has been crucial in my journey. Surrounding myself with people who understand and respect my journey has made a significant difference. The speakers at the “Body of Evidence” workshop, like Lindsay and Lexie Kite, provided valuable insights and encouragement. Their work with Beauty Redefined has been instrumental in helping many people, including myself, see beyond the physical and embrace a more holistic view of health.

Moving Forward

As I continue on this path, I am committed to spreading the message that health is not determined by body size. We need to challenge societal norms and expectations that prioritize appearance over well-being. It’s time to stop talking about the size of our bodies and start focusing on our overall health and happiness.

Conclusion: A Call to Change

Let’s change the conversation around health and body image. Let’s support each other in our journeys and celebrate our bodies for what they are capable of. Remember, you are more than a body.

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