When Every Body But Yours is Beautiful

The world is messed up you are fineWe had our first call for the Body Love Obstacle Course tonight.  This subject came up so I decided to repost this.  One of the most common e-mails that I get is from blog readers who say that, while they completely understand size acceptance for everyone else, and they find bodies of all sizes beautiful and valuable and awesome, they just can’t get there for their own bodies.

For me, the thing that triggered the idea that I could ever be happy with my fat body was the realization that I didn’t feel about other fat bodies the way that I felt about my body at the time. I was trying to quit a terrible diet program, and when I told them I was quitting, they made me go into a little room with a poster about not quitting and a woman brought in a binder with pictures of fat women, and she started flipping through it silently.  She said “You might not know it, but this is what you look like and these women will die alone eating bon bons in front of the television and is that what you want for yourself…”

What I realized in that moment was that I didn’t find anything wrong with those women’s bodies, in fact I thought that they were beautiful.  I didn’t expect that they would never find love (and I didn’t know what bon bons were but that’s another thing.) So it occurred to me in a rush: if I thought that their bodies were beautiful… and if I looked like them…then maybe it was possible to think that my body was beautiful.

Of course that was the beginning of a long process.  I started that process by focusing on what my body does instead of how it looks.  I made a massive list of all the things that I appreciate about my body – I included things like blinking and breathing, I included standing, walking, reaching,  hugging and any other action I could think of.  I included that I love my curly hair and my eyes that change color.  I wrote down anything that I could think of that I liked about my body, or that my body did.

Then I committed to really paying attention to my thoughts and every time I had a negative thought about my body I would replace it with a positive thought from the list.  Every time it crossed my mind I would thank my body for doing anything that I could think of  – hey, thanks for breathing! I appreciate you reaching for that!  Way to climb the stairs!  Whatever I could think of.

More than any work that I have done, this started to shift the way that I felt about my body.

At the same time I made a point of noticing something beautiful about every body that I saw.  When something about someone caught my eye because it was outside the stereotype of beauty, I focused on what was amazing about it.  When I had negative thoughts I reminded myself that I had been spoon-fed these ideas by industries that profit from my thinking them; and that if they didn’t serve me or didn’t feel authentic, then I was free to replace those thoughts with thoughts that I came up with on my own that did serve me and felt authentic.

I stopped engaging in body snarking altogether and I started to interrupt it or walk away when other people did it.

I actively sought out pictures of people who were outside of the stereotype of beauty.  Some places I can recommend for this are below, feel free to leave other ideas of body positive places in the comments!

The Fit Fatties Forum Photo Gallery

The Adipositivity Project (NSFW)

The Flickr Athletes of Every Size group

Videos like this one from the Fit Fatties Forum:

I looked for similarities between the people I thought were beautiful and pictures of my own body, and I reminded myself that other people were looking at me and seeing the same beauty that I saw in those women.

And I had a lot of compassion for myself.  Changing thoughts and patterns that are ingrained, and sometimes reinforced by the culture around us is really hard work.  It takes time, there will often be backslides and mistakes, and the best ways to NOT succeed are not having compassion for the learning process, not having patience, and trying to rush it along. I know for me I decided that I was going to get there, and then I held that thought all the way through.  Patience, persistence, and belief that I would get there were the keys to my success.

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16 thoughts on “When Every Body But Yours is Beautiful

  1. Love this article. It pretty much mirrors my own journey. I stopped the negative thoughts about my body and replaced them with something positive or even neutral. “I have brown hair” is way better than god you’re ugly, which is what I used to tell myself.

    Keep up the good work, Ragen. It does make a difference and I appreciate you and your blog more than I can say.

  2. They actually pulled out the stereotype of the fat woman, alone in front of the TV, eating bon-bons? I thought that one died out years ago!

    As if they had any clue how any of us are going to die, or what our love-lives will bring us. Jim Fixx died of a heart attack while jogging at 52 years old, after publishing a book seven years earlier on the health benefits of jogging, and how running would help people live longer. I remember that news story was quite a shocker. Meanwhile, my wife’s fat grandmother was still going strong (and incidentally had outlived two husbands and did not die all alone, eating bon-bons in front of the television).

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that includes the beholder in the mirror. Quite often, what really differentiates someone who is attractive to us from someone who is not, is more based on their attitude and outlook, and less on their outside looks. Beauty isn’t how we look, it’s who we are, and a beautiful person will remain beautiful regardless of what life does to the body.

    1. Oh noes! We’re going to die alone eating bon bons in front of the TV? I don’t exactly know what bon bons are, but anything with that lovely French name is sure to be delicious. And I would adore binge watching reruns of old sitcoms. What a way to go! Better than being surrounded by judgmental a$$holes whose approval of me is contingent on my size!

        1. Bugs Bunny cartoons and “Rocky and Bullwinkle!” I could laugh myself to death while eating chocolate. Yep, Heaven IS for real!

      1. Bon bons are a kind of chocolate candy. They are yummy.

        As for dying alone in front of the TV while eating these, well, I wouldn’t mind. I’d rather die that way than by falling into a wood-chipper.

        It’s not how you die, but how you live, and my life is filled with love and laughter, If I happen to be alone in the house at the time of my death, it will not be a tragedy.

    2. For years I had no idea what bon-bons were either. In Canada, there is a brand of candy called Bon Bon, but they are terrible. I knew the French word “bon” means good, so eating good-goods was going to kill me? I didn’t follow.

      And dying alone? The stereotype from the 1900s which had some traction in the 20th century, was that fat women had insatiable sexual appetites. The cure for this being joining a nunnery? Neither one makes sense.

      I guess when “concerned” others or “doctors” want to scare us, they use a foreign word to sound more edumacated.

      1. Hee! Maybe bon bons are symbolic of all the good stuff in life that those “concerned” others give up in the name of thinness. Munching on celery makes you mean, I guess.

        1. Bon-bons are like turkish delight. Bad and/or tragic people are always eating them in fiction, but if a bully accuses you of being a bad/tragic person via implying you eat them, it’s a fair bet said bully doesn’t have any more idea what they actually *are* than you do.

          So to be helpful, I’ve consulted with Google on the matter, and now have a definitive answer: turkish delight is a kind of starched, flavored sugar-gel that sometimes has nuts in it, and Bon-Bon is a purple and white My Little Pony.

          …so they’re saying we’re going to die watching, specifically, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

          1. I guess they figure fat people are so hungry they could eat a horse, so a My Little Pony isn’t safe, either!

            1. *looks at Tirek*

              *looks at fork*

              *looks at Tirek*

              *looks at fork*

              Well, I don’t see how this could possibly go wrong.

  3. Many replies already covered that bon-bons are yummy and TV can be a pleasure as well, so I’ll tackle the “dying alone.” What does it mean NOT to die alone? That you will leave a grieving spouse? That’s somehow better? Or does not dying alone mean that you die at the same time as another person? You’re both caught in a fire or a car wreck, or drown in a sinking ship? THAT’S somehow better? People say the strangest things!

  4. Love this. Unfortunately I was raised by a parent who would see a fat person and vehemently say “I hate fat people”. I have realized how prejudice I have been, so working on it. It makes it hard to accept yourself when you can’t see fat as beautiful!!

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