DISCLAIMER: Some content may be triggering. Please read at your own discretion
I’d been following @bodyposipanda for a while on twitter when she released her new book Body Positive Power: How to Stop Dieting, Make Peace with Your Body and Live. Having been in a relatively good place for just over a year I didn’t think I needed to read it, but the next time I was in a bookshop I picked it up and thought why not, I’m sure it has some spurring go-girl statements and recovery tips and ultimately I couldn’t resist a book that’s bright pink! Now I realise it’s been one of the most important books I’ve read for my mental, emotional and physical health.
Before telling you any more, I want to stress that it may not be the book for everyone. It might not be for you at this time in your recovery, but when you are ready, it is an exceedingly positive book for both men and women who struggle with their body image, self-esteem, the pressures of diet culture and eating disorders.
Looking at potential triggers for body image issues and eating disorders, Megan speaks the truth about the diet and weight loss industry with some shocking research findings and statistics. Sharing her personal struggles and traumatic experiences, I found myself almost crying at times, that there is someone else, that there are lots of other people, who feel the same way I do. I found alarming similarities in thought and behaviour, particularly to do with exercise obsession. The overall tone of the book is one of humour and sincerity, to the point where I found myself bursting out laughing on trains almost shouting “yes that’s so true!” The book is written in a relatable and comedic manner with phrases that are infectiously empowering.
“Imagine if we all stopped expending so much energy on trying to change our bodies. We could do anything we dreamed of. We could get s**t done.” (p. 23)
The body positivity movement is defined as “accepting our bodies as they are, at any size, and challenging the oppressive systems that teach us we aren’t allowed to do that” (pg. 76). After retelling her own story, Megan encourages us to question the lies we’ve been taught about our bodies and start to heal from the damage they’ve caused. She outlines research studies and reveals the untruths we are fed by the media and diet related products, which are ultimately companies seeking to turn a humongous profit by feeding people’s insecurities. There are plenty of chances to get angry about the diet industry and the oppressive thin-ideal plastered over every inch of print and media advertisement. Megan highlights the toxic side of social media, the before and after pictures, the #bodygoals, the celebrity endorsement of diets, the people putting you down. We don’t need any of that.
‘Belly Love tips’ are scattered throughout the book, sharing tips on how to appreciate the beauty of your belly, and any other body part you currently despise. Her honesty is compelling and again made me realise that we are not alone in our negative thoughts.
Megan explains that being at war with our bodies is utterly unnatural and that any form of deliberate food restriction is denying our basic instincts. She describes the all too familiar diet-binge cycle and encourages a simple idea which has been over shadowed by the diet industry. She calls this intuitive eating. Listening to your body. Deciding for yourself when and how much you want to eat. How crazy is it to have to remember to listen to your own body?!
Historically women are the oppressed sex for a number of reasons, and have had to fight for equal rights, equal pay and equal standing against their male counterparts. Women have been physically restricted by corsets, with not enough breath to argue. Nowadays we may see society, particularly in Britain, as having a much more equal playing field, but sadly women are still inferior to men in many situations and in a feminist rant Megan concludes “we cannot take on the world while we’re hungry” (p. 97). Having battled with anorexia nervosa, Megan is highly sensitive to triggers and heads up certain sections with –stop reading– and –start reading–. Delving into her past experiences, she is brutally honest, which gave me a real insight into another sufferer’s life. Built on research, she explains the psychological, socio-cultural and physiological causes and effects of eating disorders, which really gave me chance to ponder the causes of my own disordered eating habits and personal reservations. There aren’t enough words in this blog to reiterate all the possible causes, but Megan clearly emphasises “It’s not your fault!” (p. 182), so wipe away that guilt. Guard your mind by being sceptical about what you read in the news, in magazines, on the telly, what ‘professionals’ say; it’s not always the truth! And just to dispel one so-called truth, size does not = health. Megan reclaims the F-word (fat) and rightly states there are thin people that are unhealthy and fat people that are healthy. Scientifically, there is no such thing was a body without fat (p. 218). Throughout all of this Megan strives for “unapologetic self-love and happiness for all human beings no matter what their size, shape, shade, age, ability or gender might be” (p. 225). Can you imagine how different the world would be without body shaming and judgement? You and I can start that right now with how we treat our own bodies and view others. How liberating! Now when I’m struggling I just think ‘what would Megan say?’ That thought often ends with ‘Yes girl! You can do this!’
The final chapter is filled with tips and guidelines to start loving your body again. Megan suggests detoxing from all the sources of negative comparison, all the diet books, the unhelpful lifestyle magazines, unfollowing the weight loss models and calorie cutting friends who survive on herbal tea alone. If we stop comparing ourselves to everyone else we might find it a lot easier to love and appreciate ourselves exactly as we are. We are all beautiful! Finally the book ends with a pledge, a pledge to stop the restriction and toxic habits, to stop counting every morsel eaten and every hour in the gym, a pledge to start anew.
My eating disorder will always be a part of my life. I know there will be times of struggle ahead and it may resurface in the future – but it is possible to recover. It is possible to end the disordered relationship with food and exercise, to banish the thoughts of self hatred, to stop the obsession with weight, size and shape and cease counting every bite. It is possible to learn to love yourself and body positivity is a strong firm step in the right direction.
Why not give @bodyposipanda a follow on social media, and if you feel ready for this kind of book in your recovery, treat yourself to a copy of Body Positive Power, and start fuelling up on the positive words of wisdom contained within its bright pink pages.