Sunday, February 26, 2012

Don't shame thin bodies, duh

You do not empower one person by oppressing another person. In the body acceptance movement - all bodies are accepted, period. 

This is NOT the answer. 
Sometimes in an attempt to empower people with fatter bodies, thinner bodies are put down. I have seen memes similar to the one above circulating Facebook and Tumblr. Memes like this are counterproductive to the body acceptance movement. I was glad to see this refute a few days later.

Phew, that is better.
Lets travel back to visit high school Ashley to learn more about accepting all bodies. 

 In high school I attended an event called Challenge Day. I know many schools around the country host these events, and it was even featured on MTV. This was a really powerful event for me, and I am glad more students get to have this experience.

Pink-haired 15 year old Ashley 
Challenge Day at my school included a "cross the line" activity. Statements were proposed and if you identified with the statement, you "crossed the line" by taking a step forward. The question was asked, have you ever been teased because of the the size or shape of your body?

The words stung as memories of being taunted on playgrounds, boys mockingly flirting with me to get a rise out of their friends, and being pelted with crab apples while walking home from school flooded my mind. I took a big step forward. I then looked from side to side and was suprised to see who had also crossed the line with me. A thin, blonde cheerleader stood on the other side of the line, tears streaming down her face. I had always thought she was so beautiful, how could she have possibly experienced the shaming that I did? There had even been times I assumed that if I had her body, all the pain I had felt from bullying would disappear. But then I remembered boys mocking her flat chest, height, and thin "boney" legs in the school hallways. I guess our experiences with our bodies were more similar than I thought.

I wanted to hug her that day but I never did. Therefore, I dedicate this post to anyone who has ever felt shamed about their body. This blog post is like an "internet hug" to all those who have ever felt like either of us did not that day. Be reminded no one should be shamed for being too big, too small, for having too many rolls, not enough breasts or the excess/absence of any other body part. This is an internet hug to any person who has ever felt devalued because of the treatment of others in response to their body.

Be reminded, ALL people and all bodies are valuable.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Letting go of Ashley the "Skinny Bride"

So are you still training for that race? 

No, I am no longer on the training plan I mentioned before. I stopped because I felt pressured to spend my fitness time in a more "productive" way. I started doing HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts, specifically Insanity. After a few weeks I stopped my Insanity workouts, and am now back on a running plan. 

If I didn't like HIIT and Insanity, why did I do it in the first place? 

This really is the tip of a much bigger iceberg in my journey of body acceptance. I felt I needed to do HIIT because these workouts are the fastest way to build muscle mass and lose body fat. If you are unaware, there is a really big day coming up in my life in which over a hundred people will all be staring at me. I felt pressured to "look my best" which pressured me to do workouts I don't like, and diet, which I don't want to do anymore. 

Well, I am officially done. Consider this a public service announcement on all issues of my body and my wedding. 

I, Ashley Thompson, am officially giving up my since childhood fantasy of being a skinny bride. Many girls have their dress, colors or flowers picked out for their wedding long before they have a ring on their finger. The only thing I dreamed about was being a skinny bride. I used to think marriage was a milestone that represented that your life was coming together. You were growing up, starting a new chapter of your life, and had a least some of your shit figured out. I thought that once I grew up, and had my shit figured out I would magically be thin, too. Now I realize that the together-ness of my life has nothing to do with the size of my body. Finally I feel ready to give up fantasizing about being something I am not, and learning to nourish and love what I am, body included. 
If this isn't what having your life together looks like, I don't know does. 

Compared to my current weight, I have weighed more, and I have weighed less. I have spent LITERALLY  spent the last decade of my short life dieting. For once in my life I am going to make a commitment to myself to nourish and take care of my body and love it, not matter what shape it may be. 

For friends and family who think commenting about my weight, or my exercise/eating habits is appropriate - stop. 

It has, and will always, negatively impact my ability to accept my body. Talking about my body does not motivate me to lose weight or improve my health. If anything it fuels self destructive behaviors. Trust me, I literally have a degree in health behavior, if there was a magically way to make people lose weight, I would have heard about it. Also weight loss is not the same as improved health. I am continuing my commitment to improve my health, I am just no longer using the amount of weight I can lose as my measure for success in this endeavor. In my attempts to lose weight I have picked up some healthy behaviors and some destructive behaviors.

All in all, I do have my shit figured out, it just looks different than I thought it would when I was younger. 

I have a job that I love, I spend my time reading about issues I care about, I have an amazing fiance that I am excited to start a family with, and I have my whole life ahead of me. I have yet to figure out the how-to-eat-without-dieting thing, but I am working on it. I do know that being obsessed with my weight has not improved my physical health and definitely has negatively impacted my mental health.

I do know trying to lose 30 pounds before my wedding will not help improve my ability to accept my body or improve my health. 

In case you are still a little confused, here is a recap: 
  • No, I am not dieting for my wedding. 
  • Yes, my body could change, but that is part of my current journey to find a weight I can maintain without dieting. 
  • No, you are never allowed to comment on my body or my physical activity/eating habits, even if you think what you are saying is a compliment. It is not a compliment, by the way. 
  • Yes, health promotion is still an important aspect of my personal and professional life. I have just learned that promoting health looks different than I originally thought and a healthy me might look different than I originally though. 
  • No, I have not yet learned how to eat without dieting, and accept my body, but I do now those two goals are what will lead to improved health, and happiness in my life - not dieting/weight loss. 
Phew, that feels good to get off my chest!