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An Honest Conversation About Body Image

A recent Time magazine article revealed that our societal drive to love our bodies more and to build self-esteem is just turning us into a more narcissistic culture. A truly positive body image should not feed your narcissism or your vanity.

Embracing your body as-is and loving yourself despite your flaws is trending lately, and that's a great thing. Jennifer Aniston's HuffPost essay on the objectification of women is just one voice in the growing chorus of positive body conversations. Loving our bodies is not enough though. What is fundamentally missing is the honest body image conversations. #BodyPositive conversations are on our collective mind as a society but they are tragically one-sided.

There seems to be an attitude from those within the movement to bash those who work on changing their body. Somehow those who are overweight are given more praise than those who are fit, and it's not driving the right message. I have been on both sides of the spectrum, being that I used to be morbidly obese. After having my son I got motivated to get healthy for my child, and since then I have received mixed feedback. Sure, there are more people congratulating me than not, but to my surprise I have gotten many, "don't get too skinny!" comments. People love to throw in there that no one loves a twig, and real women have curves. Funny thing is, I never once got a comment from someone telling me not to get too heavy, even though I was dangerously unhealthy. Thin shaming is every bit as problematic as fat shaming, yet most people don't blink an eye at it.

The misconception is that people who are working on their bodies cannot love themselves at the same time. The truth is, after growing and birthing another human being, I gained a new respect for my body. I decided that I loved it enough to treat it right, and that was the turning point for me. I didn't lose more than 100 pounds because I hated my body, I lost the weight because I decided to love my body and treat it how it should be treated.

I follow many other inspirational people on social media who have lost loads of weight as well, and I am shocked by the comments I see on their amazing transformations. They get backlash from getting surgical procedures done after losing the weight, as if that is a bad thing. I know the main surgeries after weight loss is the removal of excess skin, along with tucks and lifts, and they are not only for cosmetic reasons. Dr. Stephanie Power , a Toronto, Canada-based Plastic Surgeon says:

"As rates of bariatric surgery increase, more patients are seeking plastic surgery following massive weight loss. They present with redundant skin, which is often uncomfortable and negative for one's body image. Common body contouring procedures include tummy tuck and lifts of their breasts, arms, and thighs. These patients are not interested in purely cosmetic enhancement. It's more of a restorative process. Many studies have also shown improved quality of life following these procedures."

It can be plain old uncomfortable carrying around extra skin. Even if it is for cosmetic reasons, who are we to judge the choices someone else makes? If it makes them happy and increases their confidence, I am all for it. Our well-intentioned conquest to develop a positive body image should allow for people to make their own body change decisions without fear of judgement.

As someone who has had to watch what I ate for two years now, I know how hard it can be to face the pressure from outsiders who don't get it. "Oh, come on, eat the pizza!" Along with, "Enjoy life and eat what you want," are common remarks I get when I pass on the donuts or fast food. Why does eating healthy have such a negative stigma? Also, why does watching what you consume mean you aren't enjoying life? When I treat my body right I feel amazing inside and out, in so many ways. Knowing you have the willpower to avoid junk food, and the strength to work towards your goals is enough to keep you motivated day after day. Food is meant to be treated as fuel, and somewhere along the way humans have turned it into more than it is.

There is nothing wrong with treating yourself now and then, and you definitely shouldn't beat yourself up over it. You also shouldn't beat yourself up for working towards bettering yourself and your body, no matter what anyone says. Body positivity works both ways — you should love yourself no matter what size you are, and no matter how many stretch marks you have. That doesn't mean you have to accept where you are and remain stagnant. Change means growth, and I believe we should always be growing as humans. As long as you are healthy and treating your body how it should be, you should feel amazing.


Follow Gabrielle Pfeiffer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mylifeonawhim

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