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Old 12-05-2009, 11:50 PM   #1
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Default Balance between "big and beautiful" and getting healthy

For me, and I'm sure for a lot of us, body image is a big obstacle. It's kind of a sad cycle since I have low body image because of my weight, but my body image also prevented me from caring enough about myself to do something about it.

When I was feeling especially down, I'd amp myself up with things like "big is beautiful" and "real women have curves" and "guys aren't attracted to toothpicks." I kind of lulled myself into this false sense of confidence that I was happy with what I looked like. I'd find myself dissing skinny women. Of course it was out of jealousy, I was putting them down to make myself feel better. I'd convince myself that all skinny women were bimbos, and at least I had curves, and they were just Barbie women.

Now that I'm in the process of getting healthier, I find that I'm having *real* confidence. I've only lost 11lbs, and I don't look all that different, but I feel genuinely beautiful.

I guess I just find it paradoxical that society has brainwashed us to think that skinny model-esque women are the standard for beauty. At the same time, food is essentially idolized which results in an overweight nation. So now you have millions of people that believe that they're not beautiful because they're big. But then you tell them that "big is beautiful." Yes, we deserve to have self-confidence if we're big OR small, but is big healthy? Where is the balance between loving whatever you see in the mirror and working to have a healthier life?

Anyways, I had a philosophical moment. This is what happens when you study for finals all Saturday night, lol.
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Old 12-05-2009, 11:56 PM   #2
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Where is the balance between loving whatever you see in the mirror and working to have a healthier life?
I think balance is the wrong word. They're just two different things. I don't think we need to balance them - I think we need to maximize both.
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Old 12-06-2009, 12:05 AM   #3
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Yeah, I don't know that "big" and "healthy" are mutually exclusive...morbid obesity does have health risks, but I believe that "healthy" comes in a wide variety of sizes. The issue is that our society tends to call "beautiful" only one body type that may or may not even be ultimately healthy.

I will never be simultaneously healthy and a normal BMI...to get to a normal BMI, I have to drop my calories below 1200 (not healthy), which hurts my exercise routine (also not healthy). Other body types are different than mine, but I find my current healthy body, that has an "overweight" BMI but is fueled on a healthy, clean 1500 calories a day to perform 6-8 hours of exercise a week, to be beautiful, societal standards be darned.

For me, it's important to understand that there's not just one, thin definition of beauty, but also to understand that morbid obesity was unhealthy, regardless of whether it was beautiful or not.
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Old 12-06-2009, 12:21 AM   #4
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I think balance is the wrong word. They're just two different things. I don't think we need to balance them - I think we need to maximize both.
Totally agreed! Loving and accepting yourself doesn't have to preclude you from working toward a healthy and optimally functioning body.
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Old 12-06-2009, 12:33 AM   #5
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It's a common, but entirely false assumption that feeling beautiful, liking what you see in the mirror, feeling confident and happy with your life - means that you're not going to be willing to make changes. Liking the way things are, doesn't mean that you can't, won't or don't want to make changes.

Believing that you're beautiful fat, doesn't mean that you pretend that fat isn't affecting your health. It also doesn't mean that you feel you wouldn't be just as beautiful thin (better not lose weight or I'll get ugly - I don't think many people really think like that).

My husband and I are fat, extremely fat (we are, we know it, and we're not ashamed of it). We don't hate ourselves or think we're ugly. We're confident and outgoing. We enjoy life. And we're trying to lose weight.

We are not healthy. We don't pretend that our weight has nothing to do with our health. We know that most of our health problems would improve with weight loss. We're working on it. Losing weight is not contingent on hating the way we look now (which is good, because we don't).

Most of my life, I didn't care about my health (I risked it often enough in the pursuit of weight loss for beauty's sake - not for health's sake).

Taking beauty out of the equation actually has made it easier for me to lose weight. I don't need thin-beauty to feel confident and strong and able. I don't have to be so afraid of being ugly, that I risk my health losing weight through starvation diets, dehydration and weight loss drugs.

I agree that it is not a matter of balance, because balance implies that beauty and weight loss, beauty and health, beauty and confidence, weight loss and confidence are not independent entities, but rather points on a spectrum. They're not at all the same things at all. Weight, beauty, confidence - they should be entirely separate things, unaffected by the other. They're not always - but that's because we confuse them, not because they need to be interconnected.

Separating them - now that's the trick, because social norms tell us that they should be related. Social norms are full of poop.

I'm beautiful fat - I will be beautiful thinner (whether or not I reach my goal weight).

I'm confident and smart fat, I'll be confident and smart thinner (whether or not I reach my goal weight).

I'll be healthier thinner, and I want to be thinner and healthier. But being thinner and healthier will not make me a better person, just a thinner and healthier one (but that's good enough for me).

If I don't lose weight, I'll still be a beautiful, confident, worthy human being (but I won't be healthier. I'm not losing weight to be beautiful, confident, or worthy - I'm losing weight to be healthier).
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Old 12-06-2009, 01:23 AM   #6
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I think the whole "fat acceptance" and "big and beautiful" things stems from completely giving up on losing weight, not thinking it's possible, and just accepting "who you are". The thing is that a lot of big people think that being fat is all they are... they imagine that if they lost weight, their life would be completely different. They can't imagine themselves being not fat. Most also have no clue about nutrition or even how many calories they consume daily. Depression and emotional eating also plays a big part.

And thin people who claim that they can eat anything they want and that they just have a fast metabolism, etc, don't help. They set up a false illusion, that some people are just genetically blessed while others aren't. Unless you are an athlete, have a metabolic disorder, a tapeworm or going through puberty, you can't eat a lot of food and not gain weight.
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Old 12-06-2009, 01:38 AM   #7
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I think the whole "fat acceptance" and "big and beautiful" things stems from completely giving up on losing weight, not thinking it's possible, and just accepting "who you are".
For some people, I think that's true. But for others, an essential part in starting to lose weight is believing that they're worthy, good people, overweight or not. I know this was important to me...when I had the belief that my being obese was so terrible that it made me a bad person, it intensified my emotional eating and made me feel like there was no point in trying to make my life better, because I didn't deserve it. It was only when I started believing that I was a good, strong, and worthy person at any size that I realized that I deserved to be healthier. And that's when change became really possible.

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And thin people who claim that they can eat anything they want and that they just have a fast metabolism, etc, don't help.
I think it's less that these people can eat more, and more that some people self-regulate better...they may very well eat whatever they want, but if they eat a larger meal, they don't get as hungry later as someone who has more problems with appetite control, leading to better regulation of calorie intake vs. outtake. In other words, they do eat what they want, but what they crave/want is in better balance with their energy output than what I might naturally crave or want.
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Old 12-06-2009, 07:27 AM   #8
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I don't think there is a contradiction between loving oneself and not liking what you see in the mirror. And I think that mandating that self love equals thinking you are beautiful no matter how you look like is unrealistic.

Ye, some women carry their weight in a way that is proportionate so they look curvy and even more attractive. But for most people, too much fat tends to blur the shape of the body - the tummy extends and the waist loses its shape, the chin blurs, bulges appear under bra straps etc. (I personally particularly hate when the lines of my face - my best feature I believe - get pudgy and blurry).
Does that mean that a person whose overweight is less worthy of love or self-love? No. Does mean ANYTHING about that person's inherent worth? Of course it doesn't. BUT - it does mean that most likely you look less beautiful than you would otherwise.

In terms of emotional health, for me this means being able to criticise myself (not just on looks, on anything), without feeling that this makes me a lesser person. So I'm not perfect .. big whoop. Who is?
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Old 12-06-2009, 07:38 AM   #9
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Kaplods, great post!

I got up to 198 trying to tell myself that size didn't matter. People can be healthy at larger sizes, but there is a limit. Just getting regular exercise can be pretty hard at higher weights. I know, because I tried keeping up with exercise for years but my attempts didn't last long.

I am healthier now than I was years ago at the same weight--because now fitness and good nutrition is part of my life.

I have friends who are "normal" body weight, and it might seem that they can eat anything they want and not gain--but after watching closely, I have noticed that what they want is different from what I wanted when I was obese. They don't want as much, they don't want it as often, and they make different choices. They do things like leave food on the plate when they have had enough. They have a small dish of ice cream, not a pint. They never go beyond two pieces of pizza--NOT because they are watching their weight, but just because that's all they want.

I agree with JulieJ08 and others--loving what you see in the mirror and being healthy are different realms. Each of us is a precious human being. That said, virtually all of us can improve our health and well being, regardless of size.

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Old 12-06-2009, 11:02 AM   #10
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Naama, I agree with what you have said also. Beauty is subjective and it's just *a* thing, not*the* thing, or every thing. We are all better or worse at different things. Saying one person is more beautiful than another (in the eye of the beholder) is only a problem if you define worth by beauty. It's just another trait, like being good or bad at spelling. That said, the feeling that beauty *is* worth runs deep, and so it's also good to be compassionate with others' feelings and our own.
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Old 12-06-2009, 11:50 AM   #11
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Sometimes I think that the "I love me now just as I am" thoughts are both helpful and hurtful in the process towards getting healthy. Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves and to not hate themselves or feel bad about themselves. On the other hand, I think we all reach an OMG point where whe KNOW we have to do something. At this point, some of us do something and some of us don't. I think that if a person reaches this point, and health issues are involved, trying to do something just simply isn't enough.
There is a great distinction between acknowledging a problem and trying to do something and actually doing something about it. Where is the line between loving support and enablement of a problem, both for ourselves and for others who need to get healthy?

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Old 12-06-2009, 01:20 PM   #12
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I think the whole "fat acceptance" and "big and beautiful" things stems from completely giving up on losing weight, not thinking it's possible, and just accepting "who you are".
For some people, possibly, but I think there's far more lie in this statement than truth. And it's a lie that is used against fat people who DO like what they see in the mirror or who like themselves (even the teeniest, tinyest bit).

We're told in many ways that a fat person who is not miserable, is a fat person "in denial."

It's garbage - just like many of the other dieting myths that are perpetuated, that makes weight maintenance harder than it has to be.

Sometimes ther'es a grain of truth - in that I discovered and identified with "fat acceptance" rhetoric when I too noticed that dieting only made me fatter. When I didn't diet, my weight was high, but entirely stable - no gains, no losses. When I dieted, I lost temporarily, but any distraction in focus meant a large gain. The fat acceptance rhetoric that dieting is responsible for more fatness, than dieting has ever been responsible for thinness - struck an immediate chord of truth to me.

It rung true, at the time, because "sensible, slow weight loss" wasn't an idea that had much press or popularity. So in part, I was responding to a truth in my life (crash) dieting caused weight gain - only I didn't know that it was only CRASH dieting, because at the time crash dieting was the only option.

At the time, no one, not even doctors were advocating slow weight loss - fat was SO EVIL (in many ways - morally, asthetically, physically - health-wise) you had to get it off AS FAST AS POSSIBLE. Slow weight loss wasn't logical, because it only meant living with fat longer (or so the theory went).

So yes, I did give up on weight loss, because I wasn't aware of the things that made weight loss possible, but it wasn't because primarily that I had (falsely) lost hope, it was because I didn't have the tools (they mostly weren't available at the time - and they're still too rarely discussed today).

Refusing to diet wasn't stupid, it was smart - it was how I found myself able to finally quit gaining. If I hadn't stopped dieting (in the only way I knew how - and in the way even the "experts" were advocating) I bet I would have ended up bed-bound two or three hundred pounds higher than my highest weight.

When I started this weight-loss, I was terrified. I had been diet-free and gain-free for a few years, and in my experience dieting only eventually resulted in weight gain. I knew I couldn't follow my usual path - I had to find a NEW WAY to lose weight. I did a lot of reading, trying to find a weight loss approach that I hadn't tried (or had tried too briefly to determine that it was ineffective).

Ultimately I discovered that low carb (the same low carb that I never gave a chance, because it was SO UNHEALTHY - a criticism that is still rampant) and slow, gradual changes work the best for me. The weight comes off, as long as I follow my plan (but 35 years of being told low-carb is "dangerous," I find it very difficult, even now that I "know" better to stick to the plan, because in the back of my mind I think it's "dangerous" to go too long without eating carbs).

It took months of seeing the evidence to actually accept that I'm allergic or intolerant to wheat. Rash after rash, didn't prove it to me, because I suspected that the idea, found in the low-carb and autoimmune books I was reading, was just anti-grain "propaganda."

Now that I've noticed it, and have been discussing it here and in other forums, and in person with people in my life, I'm being told what I had suspected that it IS just propaganda by folks wanting to sell books. I can't blame those people, I believed it too (and still must to a degree, since I so often test a theory I've proven to myself dozens of times).

There is so much misinformation and half-truths out there, it's a wonder that anyone ever finds a permanent solution to weight loss. The field of weight-loss isn't science yet. It's not even pseudo-science as much as it is superstition and magic.

It's not going to be science for a long time, especially since any attempt at science is so often criticised for giving the obese a reason to stay fat (that's the criticism at any rate to anything that doesn't advocate fairly rapid weight loss as the solution).

I've gone off topic quite a bit, especially as it refers to the main topic. Liking, loving and even finding myself beautiful and loveable (and finding a wonderful man who believes it too) has been critical in my success with weight loss. It irritates me to no end and I'm extremely tired of people telling me (in one way or another) that the very things that are helping me lose weight, are responsible for my being fat. I like myself too much. I don't hate myself enough. I don't hate fat enough. I chose a man who doesn't hate me fat...

I wouldn't lose more weight if those things were true - just my sanity.
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Old 12-06-2009, 01:27 PM   #13
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For some people, I think that's true. But for others, an essential part in starting to lose weight is believing that they're worthy, good people, overweight or not.
Kaplods, great post!

I really agree with both ladies.

Health is a separate issue from body acceptance (they have some overlaps, I think good body image is a component of good mental health).

I'm happy to see this thread. I've read so many posts here of woman who bash themselves terribly over the weight they've gained and how they look. Beauty comes in many packages. When in a group women tell each other that fat is unattractive, it takes on a will of its own.

I think with all that goes into weight loss, mentally, physically, emotionally, it helps me to approach it feeling as positive about myself and what I'm doing as possible.

I can't say my looks doesn't motivate me to lose weight, but health and physical well being are the overwhelming factors for me. I think my being physically healthier contributes to my being mentally healthier too -- I like myself better and I'm more driven to do and accomplish things that make me happy.

Hey, why not think a flaw is beautiful? Why can't we love ourselves and/or someone else for their flaws (physical and otherwise) instead of in spite of them? That doesn't mean we can't work to improve ourselves or want to improve ourselves. Just means giving that critical, judgmental voice a rest.
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Old 12-06-2009, 01:37 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by kaplods View Post
We're told in many ways that a fat person who is not miserable, is a fat person "in denial."

It's garbage - just like many of the other dieting myths that are perpetuated, that makes weight maintenance harder than it has to be.

It rung true, at the time, because "sensible, slow weight loss" wasn't an idea that had much press or popularity. So in part, I was responding to a truth in my life (crash) dieting caused weight gain - only I didn't know that it was only CRASH dieting, because at the time crash dieting was the only option.

At the time, no one, not even doctors were advocating slow weight loss - fat was SO EVIL (in many ways - morally, asthetically, physically - health-wise) you had to get it off AS FAST AS POSSIBLE. Slow weight loss wasn't logical, because it only meant living with fat longer (or so the theory went).

Refusing to diet wasn't stupid, it was smart - it was how I found myself able to finally quit gaining. If I hadn't stopped dieting (in the only way I knew how - and in the way even the "experts" were advocating) I bet I would have ended up bed-bound two or three hundred pounds higher than my highest weight.
you are ahead of your time with this thinking. I personally believe for many people who find themselves seriously overweight, this will prove to hold true.
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Old 12-06-2009, 02:18 PM   #15
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Kaplods and Mandalinn, I agree with both of you wholeheartedly, and this connects to something I was just discussing on another thread.

A huge part of how I got to 295 in the first place had to do with HATING how I looked and believing I was fat even when I was healthy, athletic, and a NORMAL weight.

Since I felt like a fat pig at 150 and 5'8" and I felt like a fat pig at 250 and 5'8" where was the incentive to get smaller?

I mean sure, incrementally I got bigger and bigger, I wore a larger and larger size, could do less and less, but we adapt to many changes in our lives-- we get wrinkles and gray hair and there is not much we can do about that.

What finally jolted me out of my complacency was a huge success-- I achieved something professionally that I had always dreamed of achieving and I realized then that I was not going to sabotage myself by letting my weight stand in my way. I had to look in the mirror and say to myself: ubergirl, you are a big success. It was only then that my shabby health and appearance started to matter to me. I felt like my outsides didn't match my insides. Before, sadly, I think my outsides were a pretty good reflection of my insides.

Losing weight is a long hard journey and you HAVE to love yourself to do it. Beating yourself up because you are fat and believing that life would be a bed of roses if only you were thin doesn't get you there. Or at least, for me, that was a strategy that failed me for about 30 years.
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