14 May 2019How Body Positivity Helps with Weight Loss

Body positivity is a major trend in the health industry with everyone embracing and loving their bodies as they are. To some extent it is a push back to the many years of thinness being valued over everything else. The body positive movement encourages men and women to embrace themselves as they are right now and honor their bodies, regardless of size or appearance. This is an awesome way to help people who have felt ashamed of their bodies gain self-esteem and self-acceptance.

But, on the flip side of this movement is a growing obesity epidemic. Almost 40% of the population is obese in the United States. With obesity comes an increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Although being overweight doesn't automatically result in developing these diseases, it is one major risk factor. A healthy lifestyle and weight loss is encouraged by most doctors and registered dietitians in order to help reduce the risk of illness associated with obesity.

If you are overweight, does being body-positive mean you cannot desire weight loss for health reasons? I would argue that these two goals do not need to be mutually exclusive. Actually, I think that being positive about your body can lead to a desire for a healthier body, which may include weight loss. This desire will not stem from your body being "unacceptable" as it is, but because you love your body so much you want to take care of it.

Body positivity can be about accepting your body as it is now, but also striving for improvement. A good metaphor is how many people feel about their career. You can love and accept your job right now, but does that mean you don't set goals for the future to improve? Not at all. So why should our health goals be any different? You can love and accept your body today, but still set goals to try to improve.

By using body positivity as a starting point, this can open the door to exploring and honoring what works for you and your body. Over time you start to figure out what types of foods work best and make you feel amazing. The secret is listening to the signals your body is sending, instead of ignoring your body for the sake of being a certain size.

For example, if you are physically hungry, you should eat. Starving yourself to reach a certain size is not honoring your body's cues. But, does that mean you need to eat unhealthy food to honor your hunger? Probably not. Eating healthy food and learning what makes you feel satisfied is taking care of your body and what it needs.

Additionally, self-criticism only results in increased stress which can lead to emotional eating and weight gain. When you remove the criticism, you are free to make health and nutrition choices based on what works best for you, not to stuff down your negative emotions.

Long-lasting weight loss requires making lifestyle changes that will stick. The motivation to change your life must come from a deeper place than just wanting to "look good". In fact, a 2007 study found that when people were only focused on exercising for aesthetics, they were less likely to stick with it. Finding a deeper motivation, like self-care or how exercise makes you feel is what will lead to making physical activity a regular habit.

Although some may disagree, I would argue that body positivity can only help with weight loss and improved health over time. It is a great starting point for making positive choices for yourself and your diet.

Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD is a freelance health writer and dietitian with 12 years of experience in the field of nutrition. You can learn more about her at www.anareisdorf.com

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Weight Loss/Behavior

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