If you haven’t read Body Positive Power yet I urge you to treat yourself to it this Christmas because I believe this book has the ability to open the eyes of pretty much everyone when it comes to popular opinions on dieting, the wellness industry and even the health industry. If after reading this post you think someone may benefit from the book too, why not send the link to this post over, the link to buy the book, or better yet send them the book as a gift. The links in the post for the book are Amazon affiliate links to find out more about affiliate links read my disclosure- this is not an ad and I have not been paid in any way to share my opinions on Body Positive Power, I just believe everyone should have a read.
I first came across Megan Jayne Crabbe aka @bodyposipanda a good few years ago, I can’t quite remember when, however I remember my exact reaction to one of her amazing dances in just her bikini - I was in awe of her. Her confidence, her body and of course her dance moves.
Body positivity isn’t about celebrating fat bodies, it isn’t about encouraging people to put on weight, it isn’t about promoting obesity. It’s about celebrating the body you have right now, celebrating yourself, your bloody wonderful body and all it can do right now. Not once you’ve lost that weight, not once your skin is clear, not once your thighs are slender. It’s about accepting and celebrating your amazing body just as it is, learning to like it and eventually love it. Megan has created a read which is so much more than a book on body positivity. It’s an in depth look into dieting and making peace with your body.
I have just finished re-reading the book in order to take notes for this blog post. I’m going to share quite a few excerpts, I’d like to make it very clear that I haven’t picked out the best bits. You won’t take away all of the life lessons and eye opening messages from this post, you really really do need to read the book to truly understand everything that Megan has to share, but I hope that this post inspires you to read the book, be that purchasing your own copy, listening to the audiobook version, checking it out at the library or borrowing it from a friend like I did - thank you Lucy, I have ordered my own copy now!
Megan has really gone above and beyond in her research for this book, so many interesting studies are mentioned and here is one I believe many would be incredibly surprised to hear about:
“Fun Fact: Studies have shown that the more we enjoy our food, the more nutrients we absorb from it. In one study that Linda Bacon describes in Health at Every Size, two groups of women were served a traditional Thai meal, one group was from Thailand, the other Sweden. The Thai women liked the meal more, and absorbed 50 per cent more iron from the food than the Swedish women did. Which means forcing yourself to eat things you don’t like in the name of health isn’t as good for you as you think it is.”
It’s amazing how our bodies work, that woo woo thing we hear time and time again “just do what makes you happy” even applies to food. Take note and pop it into action, I believe you’ll notice a big difference in not only your physical health but your mental health too if you focus on eating foods you enjoy.
A subject which interests me hugely when it comes to intuitive eating is emotional eating. I don’t believe it’s a bad thing, sometimes we really do need to eat emotionally, it’s the only thing that can calm us, here’s Megan’s thoughts on emotional eating:
“First of all, never ever beat yourself up for emotional eating, because guilt will only keep the cycle going. You’re not a glutton, you’re not a failure, you’re just coping with life in the best way you know how. Maybe your mental health isn’t great right now and food gives you a little something to look forward to. Maybe when you’re feeling anxious or like you can’t control the events in your life, food is something that’s reliable and soothing. Maybe eating something tasty even when you’re not really hungry for it relieves boredom or becomes a way of rewarding yourself. Whatever the reason, food serves an emotional purpose in your life. It’s probably not the best solution, but sometimes it might feel like the only one.”
Sometimes it really is the only option we have, that guilt we feel after emotional eating isn’t helpful, it’s the mind which has been taught by society to beat us up about it. If you find this happening to yourself, try talking back calmly to the mind. Tell it that it’s all ok, the food as helped you too feel better, the food we just ate can’t magically stick to our thighs and stomach in seconds, it won’t make us put on a dress size in 5 minutes. It’s just helped us feel a little, tiny teeny bit better, and it truly was worth it.
Many of us have thought a little too much about what life will be like once were “thin”. The amazing things that will happen, how people will look at us, treat us, fall in love with us. The clothes we’ll be able to wear. The jobs we’ll be able to do. The holidays we’ll finally be able to go on. The new friends we’ll have, the new way in which our family will love us. Megan puts it perfectly on page 122 - “It says a lot that in the ‘When I’m Thin’ fantasy we don’t just have a different body, we are a completely different person. We really believe that reducing the amount of flesh on our frames has the power to change every single thing about ourselves that we don’t like. Kudos, diet industry, genius marketing plan, but also, screw you.”
There are a few statistics in this book that will shake people to their very core. As a teacher these statistics worry me every time I hear them, girls as young as 5 become obsessed with their weight and how they look. The average girl goes on her first diet at the age of 8. Megan writes in the chapter Not Sick Enough “Adolescent girls who diet even moderately are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who have never dieted. Adolescent girls who’ve dieted severely are a terrifying 18 (EIGHTEEN!) times more likely to develop an eating disorder than those who have never dieted.” (Key research & statistics here)
There is a difference between disordered eating and having an eating disorder:
Eating Disorder: Any of a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits (such as anorexia nervosa).
Disordered Eating: Disordered eating describes a variety of abnormal eating behaviors that, by themselves, do not warrant diagnosis of an eating disorder. Disordered eating includes behaviors that are common features of eating disorders, such as: Chronic restrained eating. Compulsive eating.
Disordered eating can and often does lead to an eating disorder. Habits and behaviours becoming obsession plays a very big part in this. What I find so disturbing is that few doctors are open to diagnosing an individual with an eating disorder if they don’t fall below a particular weight.
Megan writes “Everyone, please stand back while I drop a truth bomb on this eat disorder myth: you can have an eating disorder at any size. Eating disorders are mental illnesses, not body types. Putting a weight requirement on eating disorder diagnoses is downright dangerous. Praising one woman for her dieting efforts, and diagnosing another with anorexia when the only thing that seperates them is weight is a complete misunderstanding of mental illness. Telling the woman who weighs 140 pounds to lose more weight before she’s allowed treatment would be laughable, if it wasn’t so horrifying.”
Another truth bomb that Megan touches upon in the book is who funds particular research. When we read studies and research, when headlines scream statistics regarding body size, health and wellbeing at us, how often do we take a proper look into the study before accepting what the tabloids want us to believe? How often to we uncover who actually funded the study? I’d hazard a guess at hardly ever. “Obesity research is almost solely funded by the weight-loss industry. Conducting studies is expensive, and government funds don’t even begin to cover them all. Luckily, our good friend the diet industry is there to give millions to studies aiming to prove that fat is killing us, meaning that in turn their sales go through the rood as we all run, terrified, to ur nearest weight-loss group.”
Megan goes on to write “A perfect example of this lies in the holy grail of health myths: the BMI chart. Not too long ago the cut-off point for women not be in the ‘normal’ weight range was up to
27.3 on the BMI chart. These days, the cut-off point is 25, what happened?
In 1997, the National Institutes of Health in the US brought together a task force of nine medical experts to decide whether the BMI categories should be lowered. Despite a lack of evidence those with weights in the upper end of the categories experienced more illness or decreased life expectancy, the experts went ahead and lowered the cut-off points anyway.
The day before the ruling, 58 million Americans were considered overweight or obese by BMI standards, the day after the ruling that number jumped to 97 million. Which means that millions of people in the US had become medically fat overnight, without gaining a single pound.
So why were the cut-off points lowered? Two journalists from Newark-based The Star-Ledger shed some light on the question when they uncovered some serious conflicts of interest: ‘Eight of the nine members of the National Institutes of Health task force on the prevention and treatment of obesity have ties to the weight-loss industry, either as consultants to pharmaceutical companies, recipients of research money from them, or advisors to for-profit groups such as Weight Watchers.’
Just think how many people overnight were willing to hand over their bank card details to the weight loss companies. I’m not saying that we all need to put on weight and become medically obese, what I am saying is that it is no wonder society is so fatphobic. It’s no wonder we grow up never ever ever liking our bodies and constantly wanting to change it. We’re only human, we’ve only been going along with what our society has taught us. But I have a feeling that with this book and her campaigning, Megan Jayne Crabbe is about to turn society’s norm on its head.
Society also has a lot to say about exercise and sculpting the perfect body. Megan writes “Laura Fraser wrote in Losing It that ‘the goal of exercise, for many women, isn’t to achieve good health, but a perfectly disciplined, slender body’. But why do our bodies need to be disciplined? You only discipline something when it’s wrong, when it’s broken the rules, when it needs to be taught a lesson. The fitspo image is providing us with one more way that we believe our bodies are wrong, they’ve broken the rules of what a fit body should look like and need to be taught, with punishing workout regimes, a lesson in how to conform. Haven’t we punished our bodies enough already?” Megan goes on to speak about the torturous things we put our bodies through and the benefits of joyful movement, finding the exercise that lights you up and what exercise looked like for all of us as children. It’s one of my favourite parts of the book.
Finally I’d like to touch upon a piece of advice Megan shares for when you find dieting talk uncomfortable. You know those situations when colleagues or friends are chatting about how much weight they want to lose, or the latest diet they’re on:
“Person: I was so bad this weekend, I ate like 3,000 calories.
You: Why do you think the number of calories you ate has anything to do with your moral value? You’re not a bad person for eating what you want, stop beating yourself up.”
And on that note, I’d like to ask you to please stop beating yourself up. You’re enough just as you are. You’re amazing, as is your body. It’s time to start loving every single part of you, especially the parts you’re so used to berating. There are some beautiful souls who share their own stories of body positivity in Body Positive Power which reminded me of Lucy’s Body Stories series on her blog.
As I said at the beginning of this post, I haven’t shared even 10% of the take-aways this book has to offer, but I hope that if you have gotten this far, you’ll be seeking the book out to read yourself.
Let me know if you like these in depth book reviews, if so I’ll try to do more of them here on the blog. Until next time, keep working on creating a neutral relationship with food and an unconditionally loving relationship with yourself - you’ve got this.