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Episode 14

Body positivity? And weight loss?

Wall of with word love

Do you love your body as it is? Or do you want to lose weight?

  • There’s drama between those who are body positive and those who want to lose weight, and we often feel like we don’t fit in, right? Everyone’s angry and think that they’re the ones who are right.
  • Take the best of both worlds and blend them for the perfect balance. It actually has a name: Being body neutral, or body neutrality. What’s the difference? And what’s right for you, honey-bunches?

There’s more to health than weight

  • Losing weight isn’t always what you need to become healthier.
  • You can be overweight and healthy.
  • Having a magazine cover six-pack doesn’t make you healthy, either.
  • Wanting to lose weight to get healthier is a good thing.
  • Your focus should always be on health, not weight.
  • Body neutrality is the balance between the two.
  • Your body has a story to tell. Appreciate your body for what it can do.
  • There are risks to not exercising. Even if you’re young, you should still think about your health in the future. Working out – even walking – will help you avoid falls and osteoporosis.
  • Have thin friends? They may be struggling too. Things are not always as they seem.
  • Try not to lose weight too quickly. You want to keep your muscles. 

For a coached walk:

Slip on your walking shoes and join me for a walk. (Or just have a listen wherever you are. I’m cool with it.) You can go for a brisk walk or take it slower. It’s all up to you.

There are two versions of this episode: One with background walking music and one without. There’s also a bell at the halfway point in case you want to turn around.

Body positivity, weight loss and body image

With body positivity, we want to accept our bodies as they are, completely. On the other side, some people want lose weight, fit into smaller-sized clothes, or do more things physically.

There’s nothing wrong with either of them. It’s all good.

  • Let’s mix the two together.
  • Focus on making your body stronger and healthier.
  • Become more confident and love who you are.

Small steps to a healthier lifestyle.

  • Think of the future you. Start strength training, try Pilates, take a brisk walk, or do some low- to moderate-impact exercises. Add some balance training. Your bones will thank you.
  • You want to be able to do the things you want to do. Your body has to be prepared and in shape enough.
  • If losing weight is going to help you be healthier, then do it.
  • Plenty of people who are considered overweight are perfectly healthy. Losing weight isn’t always the answer.

Whatever you choose to do, do it for your health first. You don’t need six-pack abs to be healthy, but if you want them, go for it. It’s your life. You choose. You only live once (well, that’s what I say to myself when I eat cake, so maybe not).

The pressures of social media.

Society and social media have these weird body expectations (we see them in ads, on magazine covers, on social media). We’re told we should be:

  • As thin as possible
  • Have six-pack abs
  • Be super buff
  • Oh, and also have a big booty

We’re being brainwashed into thinking that those things are signs of health, and anything other than that is unhealthy and undesirable.

That’s why fad diets are everywhere. Everyone wants in on the secret of getting six-pack abs and a flat belly in a week.

Appreciate your body.

You body’s a wonderland and everything about it tells a story. Those smile lines, the wrinkles on your forehead and around your eyes, the stretch marks, the scars…

…they are all reminders of your journey through life. Remember the good things. Smile. Appreciate what your body has done. Become your own happiness project.  

Body neutrality: The best of both worlds?

It’s not mentally healthy to constantly push yourself at 100% when working out, or frantically avoiding any foods that could make the number on the scale creep up a little.

  • If you live your life in the space of fear, you eliminate joy. You eliminate the special moments. You eliminate living fully.
  • If certain foods trigger you and you tend to spiral out of control if you eat them, you may have to avoid those foods for a while. Give yourself some wiggle room and try other foods that make you feel happy.
  • Find exercise you enjoy and don’t force yourself to do things you absolutely can’t stand.

Don’t hate on others.

  • Try to understand people who aren’t where you are.
  • Society might feel that thin is in, but there are plenty of thin people who are unhappy because they can’t gain weight.
  • Thinner people are made fun of more often than overweight people – to their faces. It’s not OK to comment negatively on someone’s “thin-ness” as much as it’s not okay to comment on someone’s “fat-ness.” Words are powerful and they can hurt.

Hello, it’s me. I love you.

  • Grab a notebook and write down things that you like about yourself. (C’mon. Do it, do it.)
  • It can be anything from your eyes or your brain, your skin, shoulders, or legs.
  • Or write on sticky notes and hang them where you can see them. Change the content of your notes as you grow and evolve. Learn to like all the parts of you.

Quotes from this episode about loving yourself, being healthy and kind:

“You want to love yourself. You want to accept yourself. And bottom line – you want to make sure that you’re healthy”.

“I am an emotional over-eater. In the past, especially when I was upset, I would eat. I will always carry that with me, because that is who I am. That is my story.”

“Walking and strengthening your core – even doing some basic push ups on the stairs – are all things that are really good for you and that almost everyone can do.”

“She asked, ‘Why is it okay for you to make fun of me because I’m skinny? I can’t gain weight.’ And that really opened up my eyes.”

“If someone works really hard to do something with their bodies that makes them happy inside, it’s not okay to shit all over that.”

“We all have seasons in our lives where we’re bigger or smaller.”

Podcast Transcript

"I want to lose weight, but I also want to feel good about myself. I want to feel like I accept my body and I love my body, but I want to fit into my pants. I don't know what to do."

Today, we're going to talk about the dilemma and the difference between wanting to lose weight, but also wanting to learn to love your body and appreciate your body. We have two kinds of distinct camps.

There's a body positivity movement where we want to accept ourselves 100%. Everything is fabulous and we love our bodies no matter what size they are. We don't want to think about losing weight. And then there's the other camp that can go a little bit to extremes, which is losing weight, exercising hardcore, and wanting to fit into a certain size. And guess what? There's nothing wrong with either of them. But in the best of both worlds, we would be able to merge the two and find what works for us.

Whether you're in the camp of accepting yourself a hundred percent as you are and not making any changes, or you want to lose some weight and do something different with your body, they're both okay. Body positivity shouldn't mean that you don't want to take care of your health. You want to love yourself. You want to accept yourself. And you want to make sure that you're healthy.

Now, if you're younger and I tell you that as you get older, you start to lose more muscle mass, and that could set you a bigger risk for falls and injuries and potentially osteoporosis, that's not going to ring any alarm bells with you. You're just going to go, "Yeah, well, I have like 30 years."

But if you start now, if you start today and you start with walking and then you start doing some weightlifting or Pilates or something that's going to give you a little bit more strength overall, that's going to be amazing for your health as you get older. We need to look at the big picture. We need to think about what's going to happen to us when we're older. If you're trying to lose weight, you want to make sure that you don't lose weight too fast to where you lose muscle mass. Because you will lose some muscle mass with the diet that you're on.

Every time you cut your calories, you will lose some muscle. You want to make sure that you are working out with weights in order to keep the muscle or try to maintain as much of it as you can. I've been losing muscle for quite some time now. The last couple of years, I haven't been consistently lifting weights and I need to get back to it.

Taking care of your health is the number one priority. Let's think about how we can do that. If we don't want to lose weight-- if you are what society considers fairly overweight, you can still be healthy. I know many people who are healthier than their "thinner" counterparts because they do take better care of their health. You can absolutely be healthy. And that should be your number one focus.

If your cholesterol is creeping up there, if you don't feel good, if you are pre-diabetic, which I have been for many years, then you may want to think that you do need to lose weight for your health. If your feet hurt and you want to not put as much weight on your feet or your knees, then you do need to think about losing weight for your health. But you don't need to think about, oh, I want to have a six pack. I want to be super ripped. I want to be super lean. But again, if you want that, that's perfectly okay.

I feel that body positivity has come around because men and women especially, but I feel like it's more towards women, is that society expects us to look a certain way, especially western society. We have to be thin. The thinner the better. We have to have a six pack. You'll see in all these ads and fad diets, 'Get a flat belly', 'The flat belly diet'. Well, if you weigh 200 pounds, you can't get a flat belly in a week. Not even with surgery. It's not possible. It really depends on how lean you are, how much muscle mass you have and how much fat you have. All that balances out. Only that and training your abs. The combination of all of that is the only thing that's really going to reveal those abs and give you "the flat abs".

You want to run away from the scams and the people feeding you lies. And we all want the lies. I want the lies, too. I think I did episode six where I talk about licensed scams and what really works, but they all want to sell us some kind of a dream. And the only thing that works as we've talked about is to take it slow and step-by-step. You can lose weight faster. It depends what your goal is and how motivated you are, because doesn't it all come down to motivation?

When I was really active in the training community and I was involved in different groups, different organizations, different forums, I still remember this really shocked me. I don't think I've talked about it before, but I might have. Fellow trainers were talking about people who come to the gym, then they go home and eat cookies or whatever, and they don't follow what the trainer thinks they should be eating. There was a youngest trainer and he said, "You know, I'm wasting my time. They're not going to listen to what I say. I don't want those kinds of clients."

I was really shocked because you're not wasting their time. They're at the gym. They show up, they work out, they build some muscle, they might gain some stamina. It improves their moods. And long-term, their health is getting better. What do you mean you're wasting your time? You're the trainer. You don't have the right to say they're wasting your time.

You're there to serve them. Why in the world would you think that because they do something when they get home that doesn't fit with what you want to do, why is that not okay? I was really shocked. I was actually kind of hurt because I thought about all those people who have gone to him over the years, and maybe he just dismissed them because they didn't do what he wanted.

They're not there to be bikini bodybuilding models or for competition. They're there because they want to get healthier and want someone to help them along. Lately, everybody's divided into different camps and only their way is the right way. That's where we really need to talk to each other, accept each other and understand that it's okay to tell people that you want to lose weight, but it's also okay to tell people, "I'm really happy just the way I am."

I think a bigger portion of us, especially women, are not happy. I've lost over 80 pounds. I always have this flap on my lower stomach, but when I gained weight, like I gained those 10 pounds living in this mold house, which was episode 12 I think, I don't like it because then I can feel my stomach flap more when I walk, when I'm wearing looser pants or skirt. I don't like that feeling. I also don't like the feeling when I'm cycling and I weigh more, and I have to pull my butt up the hill and my butt weighs more than I'm used to. It's a lot more work for me to pull that butt up the hill.

I will never have the body that I wish I could have because I love the look of muscles. I love to be lean. I can be somewhat lean, but because I do have a lot of extra skin that kind of went out the window, so I've turned the focus on accepting me for who I am-- the scars that I carry, which is my excess skin. I've really focused on appreciating what my body can do instead of always going, oh, I don't look like this. I can't do that.

Appreciating your body for what it can do. Accepting your body for its limitations. We all have limitations. And realize that a lot of the influencers we see and the bodies that we would like to be like, they also don't look like that all the time. They look like that in photo shoots. And of course, there's Photoshop and other things that work to help people look a certain way. We need to help each other realize that our bodies are fine and our bodies are what they are. Our bodies are testament to what we have been through in life-- thus the internal and external scars.

I am an emotional overeater. In the past, especially when I was upset, I would eat. For example, instead of drugs, I would eat food. So I will always carry that with me, because that is who I am. That is what happened to me. That is my story.

Your body tells a story. And that's why if we have smile lines, if we have wrinkles around our eyes or crow's feet, we just lived a good life and we laughed. I don't have many wrinkles on my forehead, but that's because I've spent so many years in front of my computer working on boring projects. So, it's like natural Botox. It's nature's Botox because there's no expression on my face. I have wrinkles around my eyes and around my mouth, but my forehead is smooth as a baby's butt. Because nothing surprises me when I'm working.

What can we do to bring those ideologies closer together? If you're always working out and you're afraid of everything you put in your mouth, that's not good. That's not healthy either. It's about finding the balance, finding something that gives you joy. If you have your child's birthday party and you don't eat a minuscule piece of cake ever because you're frantically afraid of gaining weight, that's not a good way to live.

I had a former friend who was a fitness instructor. She would bring water to class when she taught classes like spin. But she wouldn't drink the water because she didn't want to get on the scale after and see the number go up. It was just water. I can lose three pounds of water weight from all the darn sweat, but she wouldn't drink it because she didn't want to see the effect on the scale. That is not healthy physically or emotionally. She obviously wasn't in a good place.

As I talked about in the last episode with triggers (the sugar), just make sure that you don't trigger into negative spiral and negative emotions. Try to be a little gentler on yourself. Especially if you have kids or busy life, you can't always fit in the kind of workout you want. So if you're in that camp of, 'I want to exercise as much as I can', 'I want to eat super clean', but then you're not enjoying it. If you're enjoying it, then maybe it's okay. But a lot of times you deprive yourself and then you're not enjoying anything. If you say, oh, I love my body and I accept myself for who I am, but inside, you secretly don't, then you're setting yourself and people around you, up for failure.

Because you're not really happy. You're projecting something that you are not. It's not authentic. It's not who you are. If you don't like the skin flapping around your stomach like I don't like it, it's not going to feel good and you're not going to be in a good place. So, do what you can for your health and for your body. But find something that will make you feel good and happy.

I like to work out hard. I like to spin hard. I like the way it feels. I like the way it makes my brain feel. I feel strong. I feel empowered. I love to lift weights. I love to use the TRX. I love the way my body moves when I'm doing the suspension training. It just feels amazing, but that's not for everybody. By walking and strengthening your core, even doing some basic push ups on the stairs, those are all the things that are really good for you, but everybody can do even if you don't like exercise.

Don't hate on other people who aren't where you are. Try to understand where people are coming from. I have another story to tell you. I think most of us feel that it's okay to talk badly about "thin" people or "skinny" people. I have done that. I was actually put in my place by a very skinny friend at one point. And I'm really glad that she made me aware of it. I posted a meme years ago, "In a Picasso painting, I would be the painting and Kate Moss would be the brush" or something like that. She private messaged me and said she's always struggled to gain weight, which most of us think would be great.

But it's not so great if you're always struggling. People make fun of thin people much more than they make fun of overweight people. because somehow, it's okay to make fun of thin people. But some thin people are thin but they don't want to be that thin. They feel uncomfortable. They've been made fun of. She said, "Why is it okay for you to make fun of me because I'm skinny? I can't gain weight." And that really opened up my eyes. No, it's not okay. When I was traveling, I met up with this woman and another friend of hers. She said something like, "Oh, well, skinny like her", talking about me. First of all, I'm not skinny. And I wasn't skinny. I was thinner because I was traveling and I was super happy because I like to travel.

But the way that she said was like, "Ughh, she's skinny." I wasn't skinny, but that shouldn't be okay. Would I say to someone, "Ughh, she's fat"? No, I would never say that. Because I don't look at people as being one way or another, or what they look like. I just like them or not based on their personality. Think about the words that we use to each other and think about how we can support each other.

When Adele lost a lot of weight, there were people who commented negatively on it. Why? Why can't we just celebrate whatever someone wants to do? I have a friend who lost a lot of weight and got a really good shape. And he said, "People were telling him like, "oh, are you sick?" They were making snide remarks like, "Yeah, you've lost weight, but there's something wrong with you. You don't look good."" But he did look good. He just looked different and he was happy with what he'd done.

And that's not okay. If someone works really hard to do something that makes them happy inside, it's not okay to shit all over that. Is it? No. You can be happy about your body. You can support body positivity. I support it. As I get older, I'm learning to accept myself for who I am and think about all the things that my body can do and has done. Some people want to make a change.

I want to lose the 10 pounds I gained because I want to fit back into my clothes. I don't want to buy new clothes. I hate shopping for clothes. It doesn't matter what size I was; I don't like it. I'm short. I have short legs. Every other jacket's arms are all too long. I used to shop in the kid's department because my arms were so short. But it's okay whatever you want to do, just as long as you're healthy. Take little steps and try to remove all that negativity.

The negativity around food. The negativity around exercise. Work those things into a way that makes you feel good. Whether you feel good as a bigger size person, whether you feel good as a smaller person, it doesn't matter. And we all have seasons in our lives where we're bigger or smaller. When you're pregnant, most of us tend to get pretty darn big, right? My stomach was gigantic. There are other times when you're in college. You don't have a lot of money. You're thinner because you don't have money for food. Or when you're older, you're not as hungry. So maybe you just don't eat as much.

That's just a season in your life. And I'm not going to sing 'Seasons in the Sun' because that song makes me cry. If you've never heard that song and you want to cry, go listen to it. It is beautiful and terrible at the same time. Now, you can do or you're not going to want to, but write a couple of love notes to yourself or write down some things that you like about yourself. Because there's got to be something that you really like about yourself. You have amazing features. You've got great skin. You've got beautiful eyes. You've got a great smile. You've got a good personality. And having a good personality, by the way, is not an insult.

I've had people tell me when I was heavier, "Oh, she has a good personality." You know what? I'm a damn nice person. Doesn't matter how much I weigh. Well, that was angry. Write down the things that you like about yourself. Some people have beautiful hands. I don't have beautiful hands. Some people have great shoulders. Some people have great legs. My grandmother had great legs all of her life. She was more top heavy, but I just remember she had these slender legs, but they were a little muscular. They were great, beautiful legs. What do you have that you like? Think about it and write it down. You got to write it down because writing it down makes it real. One of my friend's daughters writes motivational sticky notes and sticks some up on her mirror. She can look at them every day and then change them out.

So as you grow and change, you can change out the sticky notes. If you don't have any privacy, or if you just have a little piece of a closet, you can slap some sticky notes behind your clothes. It'd be cool if you had a secret room, but very few of us do. So, behind your clothes on the wall. Have a little sticky note system, or just write some notes down for yourself on your phone. Doesn't really matter. Just appreciate who you are, appreciate where you are, but also try to make some changes in your life for the better.

I've got some great guests coming up on future episodes, and I can't wait to share them with you. I think you're really going to resonate with what he has to say. And you'll be amazed because you'll learn that you can actually eat pretty much what you want and he'll tell you how to do it.

You can join my Facebook group, which if I can go back in my memory bank, is https://imperfectlyhealthy.group. I've got tons of free recipes, mini challenges that are really doable, that change certain things in your life, not necessarily about weight, but watching less TV, etc. There are bunch of these fun little challenges. So, jump on over there and I will welcome you in. There are amazing, super fun people. I'll see you next time.


Helen is an author, entrepreneur, certified personal trainer, and lifestyle coach. She lost over 80 pounds and kept it off for 16 years. She loves travel, chocolate, and cats.