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Reclaim it! Body Acceptance as a Process

October 21, 2010
Eyelid glue to give “Asian” eyes a more “Caucasian” or “Western” look

Eyelid glue to give “Asian” eyes a more “Caucasian” or “Western” look

I have always believed that loving your body is pretty damn hard and pretty damn radical. Demanding respect for our bodies and resisting public ownership is a feminist act that seriously screws over the patriarchy. I see women taking back their body sovereignty from campaigns against eve-teasing in India to fat women in the United States reclaiming fashion to collecting stories about street harassment globally.

But I think it all starts personally with resisting the pressure to relentlessly pursue a thin, white, beauty ideal. For most of us, it is impossible, but it’s easy to believe that products can help.

For me, it was a choice to become body positive. I had to make the active choice that I was going to change the way I view and treat my body.

After years of dieting and hating the way I looked, liking what I see in the mirror now is a significant change, in fact, a pretty life-altering one. The Stages of Change model is often used by counselors talking someone through a big decision or change like breaking an addiction. The model looks like this:

Click image for link

For a more detailed explanation see here. The basic idea is that changes don’t happen over night, and that the only person who can truly decide to make a change is oneself. It moves from pre-contemplation, which is denying there’s a problem (No really, I would be SO much happier if I lost 10 pounds.) Through action, when a person takes meaningful steps to terminate unhealthy behaviors and replacing them with healthy ones. To maintenance, where the actions are continued and reinforced.

So how can this model help us to become body positive? I like that the model looks at change as a process. You have to give yourself time to contemplate the change and what body positivity would really look like for you. In the preparation and action stage it asks you to set goals and identify what steps you need to take to achieve them. I also like that it acknowledges that true change takes maintenance, and that relapse can be a part of the process, not the end of it. Sometimes I can feel terrible when, after spending so much time blogging and advocating body positivity, I let the number on my jeans get me down in the dressing room or feel extreme guilt for eating something I want to eat. But true change involves means continually reinforcing the steps it took to get you there, until they become routine.

What is your goal for how you want to treat your body? What are the real steps to take to reclaim it? For some women it can mean hiding the scale or not allowing themselves to read trashy weight-loss magazines. For this women, it meant throwing out the spanx. For good. When I really decided to make the change to accept my body, my action steps included not allowing myself to count calories, surrounding myself with women who refuse to engage in fat talk, and starting a body positivity initiative on my campus. Blogging about body acceptance is just one way I maintain treating my body with respect.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie B permalink
    October 22, 2010 10:08 PM

    Becky, this is wonderful: “contemplate…what body positivity would really look like for you.”

    I think for me, right now, body positivity means trying to teach myself that my happiness with my body is not about how it looks – I am happy with how it looks for the most part, now, but I can’t expect to look the same in 10, 20 years. And in 20 years, I want to be happy with my 43 year old body, and not wish for my 23 year old body. I loved reading the “what do you like about your body” post over on Harpyness, but there’s part of me that feels uncomfortable calling out this or that part of my body as particularly hot… I don’t really feel comfortable celebrating one aspect when it means ignoring something else. So, body positivity needs to be something unconditional for me – it’s all me, and if I’m going to be happy and healthy about who I am, then accepting whatever state my body is in has to come with that.

    And, really, 2 pages into some “women’s magazine,” and my self-esteem’s in trouble and I’m in for buying the next great beauty item that will solve everything…until the next one comes along…

    Thanks for posting all of this!

  2. Bea permalink
    October 26, 2010 8:56 PM

    Becky,
    I loved this post. Especially the part about refusing to engage in “fat talk”. I find it depressing how causally the general public uses overweight people as their punching bags. I think it’s important to try to bring attention to how inappropriate this sort of behavior is.

    I also liked the part about finding your own way to body positivity. I think this is something that every women (and possibly many men) struggle with. I know I often feel inadequate because I don’t have fashionable clothing or fancy products, and it has sometimes been difficult to remember that these things don’t really make me feel any better about my self. However, I have decided to stop letting corporations steal my money and my self confidence.

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