‘Body love’ is a phrase which echoes throughout social media and is endorsed by most public figures who believe that everyone should be proud of their body, no matter what it looks like. I, too, found myself to be an avid supporter of this movement – I mean, doesn’t it seem logical to believe that you should be comfortable in your own skin? Your shape, size and weight shouldn’t determine your mental state, right? When I started thinking about these questions more deeply, I came across ideas which lead me to think that perhaps ‘body love’ isn’t as beneficial and favourable as it seems at first glance. So, if you know anything about ‘body love’ and what it stands for, maybe you can straighten out my concerns.

I want to start off with explaining what I interpret ‘body love’ to be. I actually have 2 interpretations of the phrase, and throughout this post I’ll be commenting on each definition in turn. Firstly, what comes to mind when thinking about ‘body love’ is accepting your body for what it is – this means that you should not try to change it. The second way I see it is as a mindset where you love your body, so as a result, you take care of it by feeding it the right nutrients, giving it enough exercise etc. – in this definition, change is a part of the process.

The main concern I have with the first definition, and many other people who oppose ‘body love’ have, is the approval of obesity and other weight-related health issues which, from what I’ve seen, is something which ‘body love’ is trying to normalise. Yes, positively thinking about your body when you’re overweight, obese or underweight can have immense mental benefits, but do these benefits really outweigh the costs associated with an unhealthy BMI? I’m tempted to say no, but this is where I find myself in a dilemma.

I mean, we should be trying to encourage people to stay healthy, so should ‘body love’ be promoted to the clinally obese? Or the underweight? Is there a limit to how much we enforce these ‘body love’ beliefs and who this movement is targeted towards? I, personally, can’t really seem to come to a justified conclusion regarding this topic.

The first thing that comes to mind is that I want people to be happy. If being satisfied or joyful about your body, regardless of your physical sitation, is going to make you happy, then that’s great. However, we must consider whether the happiness involved with good health is greater than or less than the happiness associated with ‘body love’.

Therefore, I started to create a list of benefits and costs associated with each of these scenarios (being healthy and body love), but when I got to the benefits of being healthy, I realised that ‘body love’ is one of the main benefits. That means that being healthy is easily going to be more desirable than simply loving your body in whatever state it is in. Consequently, the first explanation of ‘body love’ is not something which I think should be promoted because it entails a life where maybe your mental game is pretty strong, but your physical game is unsatisfactory.

Now let’s move on to definition 2 which is what I hope the ‘body love’ movement is truly trying to encompass and promote. It involves change which is what a lot of people are not willing to accept – it’s one of those things where it’s easier said than done. To fully support this notion of ‘body love’, you need to look at yourself and basically love your body (as selfish as that sounds). Your love for your body should be so strong that it encourages you to stop feeding yourself junk food and lazing about on the sofa all day while watching series upon series on Netflix. You should want a healthy body.

But what does a ‘healthy body’ really mean? It means a body which is fed fresh, organic food. A body which is kept hydrated and clean. A ‘healthy body’ is one which receives enough physical exercise to ensure everything is funtioning perfectly. Most importantly, developing this type of a body should not be an overly strenous, gruelling process. It should be fun, dare I say it, and enjoyable because at the end of the day, there are too many people who have become addicted to the atrocity of fast food and who have forgotten the beauty of organic, fresh nourishment. At the end of the day, no amount of chemicals can beat the taste of food in it’s most natural form.

So, as a small idea, if you have a small piece of land around your apratment/flat/house ot wherever you may be living, grow some fruits and vegetables. Not only do you get some physical exercise, you get to literally enjoy the fruits of your labour. You could even sell any surplus produce, or, if you’re feeling a bit generous, give it out to your friends and family for free. This is just one of the many ways which you can easily incorporate healthy living into your life. In addition, your efforts show that you truly care about your body which is what ‘body love’ should be all about.

After contemplating about my thoughts on ‘body love’ throughout this post, I’ve decided that maybe this phrase which is thrown around in the public realm should be redefined, or reinvented as it can it can cause misunderstandings to be made or confusion to exist. Instead of calling it ‘body love’, which can mean 2 very different things as I’ve discussed in this post, maybe it should be called ‘healthy living’, or ‘eating healthy’, or ‘caring for your body’. Yes, I know that these phrases are not as exciting or intriguing as the phrase ‘body love’, but it is really what we mean when we say ‘body love’.

I’ve personally seen ‘body love’ be used as an excuse for people to eat junk food because they ‘love their body the way it is’, but this is what I believe to a misinterpretation of the phrase. Inputs lead to outputs, so the food you eat is just as important as the body you put it into. Anyway, these are just my initial views on the subject, I’d love to know yours in the comments below. What do you think about ‘body love’? Is the phrase being misused? How should it be promoted? What does it really mean to you?

BodyLove

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36 thoughts on “Thoughts on ‘Body Love’

  1. Understanding what level of healthy you are at…BP, glucose, cholesterol, etc then accepting that as YOUR normal? Enhancing is fine as long as it comes from nutrition and exercise…not surgery 😎

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      1. Oh, so cosmetic surgery isn’t something you’d approve of? Some people feel as though altering parts of their body through the use of cosmetic surgery immensely benefits their mental state e.g. a nose job whose outcome cannot be achieved by natural means. I’m curious to know your thoughts on this topic.

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  2. I go for your first interpretation of the phrase, but without the hyphen and what comes after it. We need to love who we are (body and soul) before we can make genuine change. Change without that first step leads to (body) eating disorders or (soul) idolatry.

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    1. From what I understand, you endorse the second definition of ‘body love’ which I, too, am in favour of. This is where an individual loves their body and therefore changes their behaviour in order to show this love, i.e. eating fresh, nutritious food or exercising which is highly beneficial to the body. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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      1. I’m not so sure that the love needs to be contingent on a next step. First, the unconditional love. Then perhaps a second step. So I don’t agree with the second definition as stated.

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      2. Ok, I know what you mean now – thanks for the clarification. Do you have any ideas regarding how this unconditional love of the body could be realistically achieved by the majority of the population? I just read a comment by Matt where he wrote about the social pressures and mental illnesses suffered by many people due to their issues with their body, but I have no idea how one could go about trying to practically combat this… I’d love to see if anything comes to mind for you?

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      3. I practice a type of Buddhism that begins with self-acceptance, so for me it is achieved by meditation along with some chanting and prayer (with a broad definition of prayer) and for me a bit of yoga thrown in. When I quiet the mind and see myself and the world more clearly, I begin to accept myself as I am and I get closer to a sort of inner perfection that I’d call the Buddha within. Practitioners of other religions might use other terms, but those are the ones that express it best for me. You might find this blog post an answer to the question:

        https://meltingpotdharma.com/2017/07/24/the-great-perfection/

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  3. Very well done post! The teachers you’ve had in your life must’ve actually taught you a lot and givin you the ability to research correctly by using real people in your life.

    Around November 2016 I was thinking “hey, I perform all the time, and I’m not really happy about everybody seeing an overweight body on stage. They’ll focus on my weight and not what I’m playing.” So I started being more active and eating a lot healthier, and since I did, I’ve spent the last couple months loving my body. My weight has dropped from at risk for obesity and other problems to petite. I also have stronger, curlier hair on my hair and longer, stronger fingernails. Most importantly, I feel better because I can love my body. The second meaning of body love should definitely be marketed. The fort adds to a problem we already can’t deal with at times.

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  4. You circle around some terrific insights in this piece, and I applaud you for broaching this fraught subject. However, I think you create a false dichotomy. The choice is not as simple as “love my body unconditionally” (which feels a bit like self-indulgence) or “love my body and thus fully take care of it” (which can lead to obsessive behaviors). There are many people who desperately WANT to love their bodies but social pressures (what advertising and our peers insist we must look like) and/or mental illness (anorexia, bulimia, and other clinical eating or obsessive/compulsive disorders) interfere. Optimally, and speaking as a (former?) public health professional, we would all eat a balanced healthful diet (fast food restaurants ARE a scourge, as is advertising–but that is a treatise unto itself), get all necessary exercise (does not have to be at a gym, just take regular walks, get those 10,000 steps), sleep 7-8 hours a night, hydrate and get regular annual checkups. And then the chips would fall where they may, given our genetics and inherent body shapes. But too often self-loathing, shame, guilt, despair, resignation, obsession and/or illness stymie this process; according to women I trust, most, if not all, women (and more men than you might think) suffer from some sort of eating disorder brought on by simply being an adolescent in modern society. I know too many of them, and I worry about what will happen to my own young daughters in this regard. Ultimately, the goal should be sustained healthy habits and a mature acceptance of what we can and cannot change. But there is a long way to go to get there. Thank you for advancing this process by continuing the conversation.

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    1. Thank you for another insightful comment Matt! I’d say that my views are not so radical as to promote obsessive behaviour in order to love and care for your body. Maybe ‘loving your body’ gives off the wrong message, but what I mean is respecting your body and understanding that it requires certain inputs so that the desirable outputs can be achieved.

      The social pressures and mental illnesses you mention are certainly an issue which I want to bring to light in a future post, but I don’t really know how to respond to that in this moment. I, myself, am a 17-year-old girl so I’m vulnerable to taking the burden of these pressures, but I just try to see past it and understand that health is much more important than physical appearance. That does not mean I am an obsessive health freak at all, I’m just conscious of the fact that eating healthy food and exercising is fundamental for developing a strong body and mind. However, I know that there are many more teenager who are perhaps more sensitive to this issue and I don’t know how to address it… Wow, I really need to think about this one!

      I want to write more posts concerning the topic of healthy eating and leading a healthy lifestyle in order to contribute to the process which you describe. This is a tricky terrain to enter, especially as I’m not a health expert at all, but what I want to bring to people’s attention is their ignorance about the food they eat and how they can be more informed about what’s on their plates. There’s no shortcut to achieving good health, just self-discipline and control which requires a tremendous amount of hard work.

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      1. My thoughts encapsulated: we should all strive to love our bodies in a healthy way. But there are many people who confuse what they LOOK like with being healthy or unhealthy. They see a distorted version of themselves when they look in the mirror, and they act on THAT body not their “objective” body. But, please, keep writing about this, so we can begin to alter the vicious cycle of body image distortion/body shaming! OK, one other thought: I always though I was taking care of myself. And I then I turned 40, got married, started having kids. And I went to the doctor for the first time in….well, never mind…and I learned things I should have known years earlier. But now my blood pressure is good, my cholesterol is low, my weight (which was always good) is excellent, and I know I will be around a long time for my family. But I needed that PUSH…all’s well that somewhere in the middle of the story is well.

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  5. Holy cow! This is a dangerous topic for me to talk about. However, speaking the truth in love can’t be wrong, can it?

    First, we (especially Americans) spend too much time and money worrying about our image. It causes undo stress and anxiety. Why do we stress so? Because we want to be winners, but we don’t always want to put in the work it takes. Body love is our participation trophy for not winning.

    Second, biological systems are complex, and we do not fully understand how all of our systems work together, and what effects they have on one another. The best science on the topic is often misleading or dead wrong. I think the best we can do, is try changes in our diets and see the results. Try to make changes in our activity levels and note what happens. Then be consistent in continuing with the changes in diet and exercise. Losing weight is great, but it will just come back with a vengeance if we don’t keep doing what worked. In other words, it’s a lifestyle change, not a diet.

    Last, life isn’t fair. It just isn’t. It may be harder for me to lose weight, gain muscle, become more flexible than another person. That isn’t an excuse for not doing it. I’m in the process of moving from 270 pounds to 170 pounds. I am currently at 199 pounds. I now work out twice a day, and am trying to limit myself to 1500 calories a day. I don’t eat any sweeteners, grains, potatoes or other starches. At this point I am losing about a pound a day, adding muscle and building stamina. I feel great doing it. In the future, I will be able to add those banned foods back into the foods I can consume, but I have to be smart about how much and often I allow myself those luxuries.

    To close I would like to add that part of why “body love” may have become a thing is because people can be very cruel. Body shaming is a thing that should not be. If you’re happy the way you are, fine. On the other hand, I will not celebrate someone’s choice to live an unhealthy lifestyle. I don’t give out participation trophies.

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    1. Thank you for this contribution! I think I agree with you when you say ‘body love is our participation trophy for not winning’ because a lot of people use the phrase in order to justify their bad lifestyle choices by saying that they ‘love their body no matter what they eat’ or they ‘don’t need to exercise because their body is perfect the way it is’. But, I think that this is simply one interpretation of the term, perhaps the easiest interpretation to adopt and make use of. As I’ve mentioned in this blog post, the second interpretation of ‘body love’, in my view, is basically what is commonly known as having a healthy lifestyle where you look after your body. But, to be honest, you don’t need a fancy, trendy phrase such as ‘body love’ to describe this, all you need is determination, will and perseverance to make a change.

      In addition, the ‘facts’ being thrown around regarding health just makes people more confused about what to believe. I guess it depends upon what you choose to believe as you can probably find a ‘fact’ for any ridiculous claim which may be to your liking. But you’re absolutely right, people should try to change their lifestyles for themselves and stop blaming these confusing ‘facts’ because, ultimately, no amount of ‘facts’ can stop you from trying something new and seeing if it works.

      I commend you for your self discipline in being able to lose weight and lead a more healthy life! This is certainly a feat which many people aspire to, but are unable to achieve due to a lack of control or motivation. Can I ask why you chose to eliminate starches from your diet? I’m curious to know your reasoning as this is one of those topics with a bunch of contradictory ‘facts’ associated with it.

      Thanks again for the comment – you raise some amazing points which I’m happy are up for discussion!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is simple starches that are eliminated. What I am doing now is clearly a diet, not a lifestyle change. I am eliminating foods to drop weight. Exercise helps this goal, but I also am enjoying it. I will have to adopt some true changes in my food intake in order to maintain my weight loss. Portion size, limiting certain foods will be part of it. Sugar is the, and perhaps, more importantly, I am beginning to see high fructose corn syrup as a problem. It can change gut flora, which can cause many health issues.

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  6. This is my third attempt to post a reply.

    The first one was just an epic rant and the second not particularly coherent : add to that a very physical day during which i got a bit over tired doing a hard job and i gave up trying to comment.

    This morning though and after a disturbed nights sleep its the same thoughts that come to the forefront of my thinking so today i will at least try to put them across in a more calm and cohesive manner. The first thing i need to say is that i see this partially through the lens of somebody who works in healthcare and secondly that i am dealing with an overweight/obesity problem myself.

    Let me deal with the personal aspect first. If you met me today you might just see me as a ‘big bloke, in that i am 6 foot 2 and weigh-in at 96kg and i apologise for mixing my units !. I look pretty normal by modern standards and even for my age am a long way above averagely fit. However by objective standards i am technically oveweight and by some scales into the obese category. Those that follow my blog will know that i am working hard on the problem. The personal aspect is that i could continue as i am with no negative comment from anyone else but here is my view : for the last couple of years i have avoided looking at myself naked and in the mirror because i hate what i see. Objectively i am about 40lbs overweight which isn’t a lot by obesity standards but once again rather than ‘loving’ myself for this what i feel is disgust.

    Maybe i just have a degree of self-honesty i’m not sure. Right now what i experience is a degree of self respect and accomplishment when i eat well, i finish a workout and/or i see the scales change and my body taking on a more masculine shape again albeit slowly.

    I have a strong intuition that those people who maybe are both obese and latching onto this idea of self-love are being both dishonest and delusional and that view comes partly from what i know about obesity in clinical work : i studied this in depth a few years ago. I know that there is a radical practice in obesity management which is to get the obese person to strip down to naked or just to underwear and stand in front of a mirror and just look, really look, at themselves carefully and with attention. The result i am told is often a total tearful meltdown with the person often being truly shocked by their appearance in their eyes. Its almost the case of the emperors new clothes but when they see themselves just as they are. If you could ask that person if they truly love ‘that body’ do you think they would say yes ? well the answer in that approach is that they do not and when faced with real honest self-appraisal what they feel is disgust. That’s a tough call and a hard outcome which needs careful handling.

    On the clinical side i have had to work with the obese right through to the morbidly obese. If the health problems were merely a bit of type 2 diabetes and some joint/mobility problems that would merely be part of the problem that is worsening the health budget year on year. Sadly it is only part of the clinical picture : add to the diabetes picture, heart disease, liver disease and in the extreme even respiratory failure and its a grim picture.

    I do not think that it is at all useful to passively accept this idea of ‘self-love’ rather that this needs clear sighted honesty that the human body and mind isn’t ‘designed’ to be that shape and that unhealthy. For sure there is a range of body shapes that are healthy long term and let me just add here that both size zero models and grotesque bodybuilders are just on either end of something equally abnormal. I do know just a little about both and that anorexia and body dysmorphia are genuine psychological problems that need expert help.

    My last thought today without writing an entire essay this morning, although the subject would make a great month’s topic, is about ‘easy’ and ‘fun’ in the context of exercise. None of my workouts are particularly easy or in any way ‘fun’. To be effective they should be hard, challenging and require discipline on my part. Life is easy, obesity is easy, stuffing high carbohydrate and high fat junk into our bodies is easy….maybe what we need is some tough love, some hard work and some self discipline in our lives.

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  7. I agree with the second interpretation of body love. Somehow, when I feel that I am eating junk food and gaining weight, I simply can’t love my body. How can you love a person who is destroying her own health. That’s a kind of self-hate when you feed yourself all sorts of unhealthy stuff. Being healthy is always the most important thing for me, and I believe a lot of other people.

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  8. Great post and points! I believe the movement should actually be “self love” rather than “body love.” Because loving an unhealthy overweight/underweight body does keep us in a state of acceptance and would most likely prevent us from making necessary changes to live better and longer. We should be striving to love OURSELVES, the people that we really are inside and then make the necessary changes we need to make for our health and bodies. Now as it realates to small imperfections such as scars, stretch marks, and so on; I think the “body love” thing can rightfully be applied with no harm…..Thanks for this great post!

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    1. After having written the post, I’ve come across comments which point out that ‘body love’ perhaps isn’t the best way of thinking about it; it turns out that I actually agree with this. Regardless of the fact that in the post I mention the need to love your body and therefore care for it, I think I really meant that it’s important to love yourself as a living being and respect the fact that you have the opportunity to live this life. The explanation in your comment really captures the essence of my beliefs which may not have been so clear in my post, so thanks for the contribution!

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  9. I think the word “love” is not well defined. Love should be unconditional. If there are conditions attached, it seems that it would be selfishness, not love. I unconditionally love my child. Whatever the circumstances, no matter their behavior, I love them. I feed, clothe, educate, heal, encourage, befriend, correct, etc. If my child became fat, would I stop loving them? No! The same is true of my view of myself. My image is a tiny portion of who I am. I was a decent, loving, supportive dad and husband at 270 pounds as I am now at 199. Maybe body tolerance is a better term? Ok. You got me. I’m just getting goofy now!

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  10. This entry and the tone of the comments underneath it concern me. From what I can make out, there is only lip-service being paid to the fact that obesity isn’t just a physical health problem, but a mental health problem. In fact, I would argue that obesity as a term fails to encapsulate the fact that it is usually accompanied by a whole host of medical issues of the mind.

    As someone who has gotten large due to an amalgamation of side effects from medications and eating as a form of self-punishment, I believe we need to remember to address the root causes of obesity. These are often mental. When a person is just overweight, they simply have a problem with calories in versus calories out. When you get to be obese, the majority of the time its because someone has a problem with their self-image or can be clinically diagnosed with things like Depression, Anxiety, and other diseases of the mind. Genetics sometimes play a role in this as well, and they’re are a whole host of other issues we could go on at length debating about.

    I suppose all I’m really saying is that fat people are judged and looked at as disgusting by society. Every day is made harder by their appearance. I’m not really going to weigh in on the “body love” movement, as I’ve already done that to some extent on my blog. What I do want to leave you with is, maybe don’t be so clinical and removed in your assessments of the “obesity epidemic”. Heavy people are human beings just like you and me, with their own struggles and dreams. It’s not as if they enjoy being heavy, I certainly don’t. Just remember to have empathy, and it will go a long way toward making an impact on people.

    Sorry if my comment came off as confrontational, I certainly didn’t mean it to. Just wanted to add some healthy food for thought. Heh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kyle – I admit that the mental issues associated with obesity are often ignored and kept on the sidelines which is not ideal at all so I’m glad that you’ve expressed your views about this. To be honest with you, I don’t have any close friends or family members who are obese so the issue of mental health isn’t something I’m too familiar with and therefore, I don’t feel as though I’m apt to discuss this subject in much depth; but your comment shed some light for me. I wish appearance wasn’t such an important factor in determining mental health, but unfortunately it is. I’d love to know your thoughts about how this situation could be improved, in any way possible as I’m completely stumped for practical, enforceable ideas – and you seem like the perfect person to ask.

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  11. Thanks for being honest about your lack of experience BlueFishh, as it can be hard to admit where we have holes in our depth of expertise sometimes.

    Given society at large’s (and at this I mean both Western and Eastern, it encompasses the whole world) attitude toward obesity, I’m pretty stumped as to how we could address the issue at large as well, and I’ve given it a fair amount of thought. I do think addressing the root causes of mental health and self-image should come first though, as their is a world-wide stigma associated with mental health problems as well as obesity. I believe that when we all treat mental diseases as having the same weight as physical ones we will be able to address the issue more effectively, but that won’t be for a long time unfortunately. In fact, it may be centuries, or longer. Until then, all we can do is be our best selves and have empathy for the struggles of others.

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  12. I think that body love means to try to accept the things you can’t change (for example my hips….they are what they are!) however I can change the amount ON my hips! So body love and accept they are bigger than I’d like! (Id love a straight up and down shape!) but eat well, exercise regularly to keep what I have in a shape I can learn to love. If that makes sense?!!
    This year for various reasons and excuses I haven’t worked out as much as I had previously, in turn my diet began to slowly morph into bad habits and not as clean choices which then had an impact on my self love and mental health. So I agree with the look after your body through nourishment and exercise and it will take care of your mind too (in my experience)

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    1. Thanks for the comments! I think I understand what you mean: ‘body love’ is about accepting the unchangeable parts of your body. If you don’t mind, I have a quick question for you – how do you think obese or overweight people should feel about their bodies and what their mindset should be in order to obtain their desirable health goals?

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      1. I’ll be honest. I know obese people who say they are happy as they are and love themselves which I think is great! However, I don’t deep down find that to be true when you get into the life conversations. I think for various reasons people become overweight whether it be health, habit, pregnancy, unawareness etc. However I also know people who are a lot bigger than me who are lot fitter than me in the exercise stakes! Way stronger too! Way healthier (less colds/flus) so if you are healthy, have a good level of fitness but are overweight but happy why not?!! I don’t think anyone should feel ashamed of how they look but I think we live in a society where people are. I also worry more for underweight people than I do overweight because I’ve seen so many spiral completely out of control to be skinny which is as dangerous if not more sometimes than being obese

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      1. So, I should first say that I am fat, possibly obese, but hiking and other stuff I started doing lately to improve my health are chipping away the old fat.
        To answer your question. I don’t think so. Maybe for people who are driven by hate, I’m sure they exist, but hating your body means hating yourself. Assuming a person didn’t get fat because they already had issues, hating their body will certainly cause issues. Depression, anxiety, etc. can all stem from self hate. If you hate yourself it’s gonna be much harder to go out and walk (people will see you! you will be fat and gross outside!), it’s harder to go dancing, swimming etc with your friends for those same reasons. Whether because you hate yourself, can’t do fun stuff or because you’re tired of people telling you you’re fat, you might alienate a lot of your friends. Also finding a partner is harder. You know what fills that gaping hole in your soul yearning for love, at least for a few minutes? Chocolate and pizza. – Though, I would argue people get fat for a reason. Whether that reason is poverty, ignorance or emotional problems, they won’t disappear once you get fat. (Alternatively, if someone is outside, dancing and being happy and fat and living a good life, who says their fatness is unhealthy?) Some fat people are healthy (going up and down in weight is much more dangerous than just being consistently fat).

        For me, stable life away from people telling me I’m fat and therefore not deserving of love has done wonders.
        I think it’s impossible for people to worship every part of their body, but who knows, maybe some people do, but once you accept that your fatness doesn’t define you, that you are worthy of love, that no one has the right to criticize you for living your life, it’s much easier to actually go out and do things and fill your time and heart with things other than food. Which may lead to weight loss – or may not. But it will lead to a healthier headspace, healthier existence.

        Look at swimming as a good example. How many fat people do you think feel comfortable enough, hating themselves, to put on a bathing suit and go swimming? Not many. But if you love your fat bod and you love swimming, you’re gonna go out and do it. (I’m just gonna put aside for a moment the fact that it’s almost impossible for fat people to find exercise clothes for themselves that aren’t ridiculously expensive.)

        – lol sorry this is why I wanted to be short 😀

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