[Never Say Diet] Why Loving Your Body Won’t Kill You

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Loving Your Body Won't Kill You

No matter what Glamour magazine tells you.

And full disclosure: I heart Glamour (and ladymags in general) and I write for them, so this isn’t an “ohh those damn women’s magazines…” kind of rant.

But I think Jess Weiner took a swing and a miss in “Loving My Body Almost Killed Me,” which everyone is talking about, including the Today Show. Check it out, then read my take over on Never Say Diet, and let’s chat about it. Because it kind of brings us back to that question Lauren asked a few weeks ago:

Can you really love your body if you also want to change it?

And it also kind of brings on a whole new set of questions…like, what if you have to change your body for your health? And then what if you’re pretty healthy, but you think you could be even healthier if you just change it a little more? Where do we draw that line between health and all the other reasons we want to lose weight?

So we’ll make that whole thing this week’s Check Your Pretty Price question.  Read more over here.

UPDATE: I’m even more squeamish about Jess Weiner’s “losing weight because I love myself” theory now that I’ve read Ragen’s new post over on Dances With Fat and know that she’s also trying to peddle a weight loss program. Oy.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “[Never Say Diet] Why Loving Your Body Won’t Kill You

  1. If you aren’t willing to at least make an effort to change for the sake of your health, then you can’t truly love your body. Loving your body goes beyond acceptance, it goes beyond image. Loving your body also means nurturing it and caring for it.

    That’s really what the “healthy at any size” movement is centred on. Being healthy. You can definitely still love your body and want to change it if the underlying reason for the change is to improve your life and longevity.

    I don’t think the question is ‘can you love your body and simultaneously want to change it?’ I think the question is “if you are unhealthy, can you actually love your body if you don’t want to change it?”

    • Hmmm… Samantha, that is an interesting question. I do subscribe to the idea that health is — to at least some extent — a matter of personal choice. As in, you can decide to risk your health by drinking, sky diving, not looking both ways before you cross, eating McDonalds nine times a day, whatever, and that is your business, not mine.

      And I don’t think everyone who sky dives, eats McDonalds, smokes cigarettes, etc hates their bodies. They may have an entirely unrelated set of reasons for making those choices and maybe they just aren’t really considering their bodies all that much, or they prioritize health and safety differently than you or me. (I’m really scared of heights and fire, so sky diving and cigarette smoking have always been off the table for me anyway.)

      So I’m uncomfortable accusing people of hating their bodies just because they aren’t living a perfectly healthy life every minute of every day — that ties into my argument about why it’s unrealistic to expect to sustain the same weight forever. Life happens and we can’t always make our weight or our health a top priority. I think we need to be careful of turning “love your body” into the same kind of morally-loaded, unsustainable beauty standard message as “you have to be thin to be healthy” or even just “thin is better.”

      But at the same time — I do applaud anyone who decides to adopt healthy lifestyle habits because they love their body and want to keep it around for a good long time. So I realize my unwillingness to embrace the flip side of that position is perhaps hypocritical… I’m just going to have to think about it more to see where I really land on that.

      • I definitely don’t mean that people are hating their bodies if they’re not living a perfectly healthy life all the time. No one is perfectly healthy all the time. That’s an unrealistic expectation.

        I mean that detrimentally unhealthy people who are unwilling to make any lifestyle changes necessary to improve their health and quality of life can’t truly love their bodies because they are harming themselves by not making those changes. And those changes don’t have to come all at once (in fact lifestyle changes are more successful if they are gradual) but the mentality of “I need to take care of myself” has to be there

  2. Hey, just wanted to say I think you make a really smart distinction between loving your body and simply accepting/settling for it. This chick does not seem to have considered these issues thoughtfully at all. You, on the other hand, are (as always) admirably measured and sane.

    • Thank you! In Jess Weiner’s defense, I think she got badly over-edited and over-simplified. Her Q&A on Jezebel is a lot more nuanced, as is other stuff I’ve read by her… but overall, yeah, that piece just rammed a whole bunch of ideas together without much consideration of the issues. Sigh.

      • Over-editing may certainly be a factor. I just think it’s a shame that she didn’t end up publishing a more nuanced piece about trying to avoid either extreme — self-destructive overeating and inactivity on one hand, vs. self-destructive dieting and misery-inducing exercise on the other. IMHO, loving your body should be like loving your signficant other: you should believe it’s capable of great things, but give it a break every once in awhile too. Because we all need cookies and hugs.

  3. DeeDee || decoding dress

    I think there’s an important distinction missing in the whole discussion: what kind of love are we talking about here? Are we talking about loving our bodies as objects or loving our bodies as bodies? Because if it’s the former, then it’s perfectly logical to want to change your body so you can love it more. It’s like the example the commenter offered on your original piece, Virginia, with the car and loving it more if it had a better stereo. But if we’re talking about the latter — in other words, if we’re talking about loving our selves (bodies) the way we (ought to) love other people — then adding conditions to the mix taints the whole thing. My goal is to love myself unconditionally, without caveat, full stop. Conditional self-love is nothing but objectification served up with a few romantic trappings. Conditional self-love is the guy who shows up at the door with flowers and chocolates whose actual goal is to get into your pants.

    Also: when “healthy” becomes the new “skinny,” we still have the same old problem. It’s nothing but a little cute rhetorical gymnastics offered up in an attempt to mask the same old challenge to a woman’s body sovereignty.

  4. JessC

    I think the real hero in her story is that doctor. When was the last time you heard one say, “You’re looking at the wrong number.” I very nearly teared up to hear someone being so supportive like that. Yes, healthiness may lead to weight loss, and yes, you may actually need to lose some weight for the healthiness, but I before I read Jess’ disappointment, I was elated. 25 pounds in 18 months? Someone is actually losing weight at a healthy speed!! I truly believe you can be beautiful/healthy at any size, if you’re treating your body right (loving it, not just accepting it as you so eloquently put it). Because if you treat it right, you will BE A healthy size, naturally, because it is built to do the best it can with what it is given. Still bigger than a model? Still beautiful.
    There’s also this weird equation that size=health. I happen to be on the thin side of a size 9, most people who look at me think I’m smaller than a 6 (because we have no sense of height-based proportions in those blanket sizes, but thats a rant for another day) and I KNOW I am not the healthiest person I know. I don’t eat as well as I could and I don’t exercise enough, though living in NYC hardly makes for stagnation. This is in nobody’s hands but mine. My weight is perfectly healthy. But is the rest of me?

  5. Pingback: I don’t want to change my body. « Anytime Yoga

  6. Pingback: Body By Glamour Spoils You For Choice | Beauty Schooled

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