10 life-changing things I learnt from 'Body Positive Power' by Megan Jayne Crabbe
*TW - the book and this post discusses eating disorders*
I've struggled with body image issues since way back in my early teens, and the older I get, the more I realise I've struggled over the years. It's something that in the past few years I've been working really hard on because wow it's pointless putting your entire life on hold until you've reached some unrealistic goal you've set yourself? And it's miserable to pick apart every photo of you? Looking back now to when I was at my thinnest all I can see is 1.) how sad I look, and 2.) that I really was slim. At the time, all I could do was scrutinise every tiny little bit of flesh on my body and wish it wasn't there.
I honestly don't know what I would have thought if I'd read Body Positive Power as a teen. Between there being no plus size representation in the media, no real body positive movement I was aware of, and my mind being pretty anti-self love, I'd probably have thought the whole book was some weird conspiracy thing.
Having now read it, I can 100% say the book's absolutely changed my mindset on so many things to do with my own perspective of my body, but also of society more generally. I've been shouting about the book to anyone who would listen for months now, and it's still making me have 'oh shit, I've been conned' realisations about the way I've been convinced to think about my body. I just think everybody needs to read it: there should be a copy in all libraries and schools, and I'm going to be lending my copy to everyone I know who's willing to give it a read.
Everything in the book was SO well researched - it was all fact or history based, with some of Megan's own opinion layered on top. So, let's get down to the things that absolutely blew my mind when I read Body Positive Power. I'm going in with a big hard hitter, so get ready:
1.) It's very 'convenient' that (more commonly) women starving themselves makes them less capable of spending time on improving their lives. Think about all the time you've spent obsessing over whether you should eat X or Y for dinner, or how you 'need' to reach a certain size to do something you're really excited about. It aggravates me so much to think about all the time I spent trying to eat as little as possible when I was meant to be studying for my a-levels, and how that may have impacted the grades I got. This obsession with thinness takes up not only a whole lot of mental space, but it physically weakens you too.
The book looks back at feet-binding in China and corset-wearing in Victorian times as being similarly ideals of feminine beauty, but having the convenient double edge of making women lose a lot of their independence (damaging their feet so they can't walk, and crushing their organs so they faint/experience organ failure).
2.) Studies have been done into the effect of the media on eating disorders and it is extreme. One key study looks into life in Fiji: prior to television being widely available, eating disorders were not reported as being in existence at all. Being round and soft and happy was perfectly fine, and as soon as this more traditional media became mainstream this all changed, and eating disorders exploded.
3.) Your body detoxes itself. I mean?? I have spent so much time and money drinking gross teas over the years (hello Bootea/dandelion root tea/almost every detox tea you can find in Holland and Barratt) and you're telling me it does nothing bar make me poo? Why have I never been taught that my body's good at detoxing and that there aren't loads of toxins building up in my system because I'm not drinking peppermint tea before bed? This was one of the biggest shockers for me. I mean, I stopped drinking the teas a few years ago, but I thought some of the more 'natural' ones at least did something
4.) Food is not a moral thing. Hear me out on this one - I've been so anti the idea that diet companies parade around about labelling foods as 'syns' or 'points' or any other negative connotations, but I haven't realised how much the idea of morality has spilled over into food. It's even down to little things like 'oh go on then, I'll be naughty', or the traffic lights system on nutritional information, or those Galaxy adverts where a woman is in a luxurious house, sneaking under a soft blanket ready to indulge in some chocolate. Food is simply a sustenance thing. There's no innate moral worth - there's different nutritional bases to food yes, but that is not, and should not be, related to some kind of moral judgement.
5.) Intuitive eating is what we should do as human beings. In essence it's just eating when your body is hungry, and eating what your body tells you it wants. Which instantly makes your mind head into overdrive of 'well, it seems to want doughnuts every day, so that's that then'. But studies have shown that when you're no longer denying yourself the things you want, it'll even out: you'll eat a balanced diet, stop when you're full and start again when you're hungry again.
6.) There are two types of hunger: mouth hunger and stomach hunger. This is really tied into the idea of intuitive eating. Mouth hunger is sort of like when you're watching the Great British Bake Off and all of a sudden you're reaaaally in need of a sweet treat. You weren't hungry before, but now it's all you want. Whereas stomach hunger (or the 'real' sort of hunger') is actually tummy rumbling, I wonder what we're having for dinner sort of hunger. Learning to tell the difference between the two is really helpful if you're trying to re-learn how to eat intuitively.
7.) Weight and health are not equal to one another. You are not categorically less unhealthy if you're fat, and you're not categorically more healthy if you're thin. There's no direct correlation between the two. Even having read all the evidence backing this up I can feel myself being a little sceptical on this, but think about it: factors contributing to your health consist of so many variables: do you smoke? Drink alcohol? Take drugs? Have any kind of illness? Exercise? Meditate? Eat vegetables? Etc etc. Deep down we *know* that these all impact our health and yet we believe that there's some kind of direct correlation between every extra pound and your health, excluding everything else? No.
And all those stories about heart disease and the obesity epedemic? Studies have shown (and the author references them extensively in the book) that yo-yo dieting has a more negative impact on heart disease than being overweight. They also show that more people die from illnesses related to being underweight than overweight, but the numbers of those dying with illnesses connected to being overweight are the only ones that are brought up.
8.) Always look at who's funding medical studies. In another convenient 'coincidence', a LOT of the studies suggesting that weight has a massive impact on your health have been funded by weight loss companies. And yet nothing's done about this blatant conflict of interest. For example (and this one really made me just WTF), the top end of the BMI bracket for a 'normal' weight range for women was cut by over 2 points in 1997. 9 medical experts were brought together to decide on this change - all had ties to the weight loss industry.
9.) The weight loss industry is massive, and making a whole lot of money for people who are using our own insecurities (that they manufacture) against us. And it should make us angry. We're constantly being hit in obvious ways like photoshop in magazines and online, but also down to the nuances of language used against us from a young age (e.g. having sweets as a treat for when you're 'good' already tying up this idea of food and morals). The misery that we feel, and the money we spend on feeling it is lining the pockets of people that are constantly thinking of new ways to make us feel unattractive and unlovable and unworthy.
10.) The body goals we're all being encouraged to strive towards are only achievable for 5% of the population. I'm sure we've all thought at one time that the reason why we don't have the big boobs, tiny waist, long thick hair, high cheekbones, peachy butt etc etc that we're meant to aspire to is laziness, or a lack of willpower. This was the biggest shock to my system - we're all encouraged to buy the priciest anti-wrinkle cream, and squat, and take little gummy vitamins to make our hair grow, but really a lot of it is down to genetics, and the whole notion is very exclusionary. Without a completely able body, white skin, good teeth, bone structure, metabolism, and hair passed down from your parents, and/or a hefty bank balance to fake it all, it's impossible to achieve the body goal you've been taught to believe you should aspire too. Megan talks about how we have this whole idea ingrained into ourselves that we should be, for example, a certain size. But, all of our bodies have a natural weight that we should sit at - this is the weight that you always come back to when you've balanced out after dieting. For me, it's around a size 14.
I could write for days on all the absolutely incredible ideas and details that are in the book, but I'm going to call it quits here and *hope* that I've inspired you to pick up a copy (which you can do here).