The other day I had a teacher apply at The Yoga Casa. I explained that I was only interested in hiring a body positive yoga teacher; that we are a body positive studio, anti-diet and accepting of all bodies. This teacher went ahead and applied and said, “check out my blog.” So I did. The first article I saw was
“2 Strategies to Conquer Weight Loss.” My heart sank.
Why would someone who is writing articles about weight loss think they would be a good fit for The Yoga Casa? I realized, it’s body positivity’s fault.
See, the body positivity movement has been stolen, drowned out by well meaning women. It has become a white washed version of itself, commandeered by mostly Caucasian women who are a little chunky and yet stand little to lose by showing their bellies in public (myself included here, let’s call it like it is).
Body positivity is ACTUALLY about dismantling the fear of fat and fat people. The movement originally belonged to black women (especially during the civil rights era) but fat fear dates back even further. In her book Fearing The Black Body, Sabrina Strings writes:
“As early as the 18th century, fatness was derided as evidence of African “savagery” and immorality. Slenderness, by contrast, was considered evidence of Christian elevation and Anglo-Saxon superiority.”
You see, it benefitted Anglo-Saxon people to make themselves seem superior to African people so they could enslave them. Although some would disagree, these beliefs still lay dormant like an underwater river, poisoning our society. Thinness is still revered as more hygienic, more healthy, more visually appealing and more worthy. So how do we dismantle that? Let’s start with the arguments against it.
2. “But it’s still unhealthy to be fat. The fatter you are the more health risks you have, right?”
There is growing science to support the idea that health and weight do NOT actually go together even if they might be correlated. At The Yoga Casa, we believe in the HAES model (Health at Every Size) developed by Lindo Bacon (and supported by a stream of scientific study). The HAES model supports the idea that you can be healthy even if BMI, your pant size, your mom (or even yourself) considers you to be “fat”. In fact, it might be that the down pouring of negative stigma associated with being “fat” that is the real culprit to our poor health.
Before I started getting involved with the Embody Love Movement and learning about HAES, I was obsessed with my weight. It was like a waterfall of guilt that I thought about everyday, all day. I felt guilty about what I ate, how much I ate and “dang it, why am I always so hungry?” It consumed me. Counting calories, points and grams of fat became my life. Breaking free of that created a sea change in me and I’m so much better off because of it.
3. “But what about my friend who lost 100 pounds? She’s much happier and healthier now.”
It’s true. Some people DO lose weight and might feel better. I wonder though, do they feel better because now they fit the ideal body type that our society reveres? Do they feel better because they can go to the grocery store without getting comments from other shoppers about what’s in their carts? Do they feel better because no one stops them at the coffee shop and says, “there’s a skinny person in there waiting to get out, try my (insert costly meal plan, expensive personal training, or quasi-safe supplements here)”?
But some people ARE successful. Of the people who go on diets 5% will lose weight and keep it off over 5 years. 5%? That’s it?
(I just got my Covid vaccine and it’s supposed to be around 94-95% effective. Would I have taken it if it was only 5% effective? No way.)
That means a monsoon of people (around 95%) will gain the weight back in 5 years or less. So, even if you do believe that weight loss is good for you, there is no single diet that has been shown to be effective in keeping weight off for longer than 5 years.
AND, yo-yo dieting has been shown to have negative effects on your health. Another wild thought, some studies indicate that the people who are successful at keeping off the weight often use disordered eating techniques to get them there (proven weight loss strategy? anorexia!) It’s sad but eating disorders that are diagnosed in “thin” people are often seen as great weight loss plans in “overweight” people.
Body positivity is more than just having a “love yourself” t-shirt and wearing a two piece when you aren’t sure if you should. It’s about embracing people of ALL sizes (yes, even sizes that are too big to fit into clothes from Lane Bryant). It’s about changing the way we treat people in larger bodies. It’s about changing the way we think about health. It’s about creating equity in our yoga spaces, in our families and in our lives.
(I apologize for my lack of resources in my writing but much of this is what I have learned over the years. A simple internet search will confirm most of it though. I also invite you to read Anti-diet by Christy Harrison. Also here’s a great story from This American Life about being fat:
Read my thoughts on yoga, teaching, parenting and everything in between. Shout out to Tiffany Stewart for help with the writing.