In this week’s episode of Voices of Your Village, I was excited to chat with Anna Sweeney and Meg Steffey Schrier about body positivity and the body positivity movement. Anna is a registered dietitian, eating disorder dietitian, and intuitive eating counselor. She also happens to live in a disabled body, giving her a unique perspective on body positivity. Meg is a registered dietitian, mom of two young kids, sports dietitian, and is especially passionate about the way we talk to our children about our bodies. We dove into the reality of our relationships with our bodies, what body positivity really means, and how the body positivity movement fits into a healthy body image.
Meg and Anna invited us to question what “healthy eating” really means and how it makes us feel to categorize foods as either healthy or unhealthy. The idea of “healthy eating” has been co-opted by diet culture and there tends to be a lot of judgment and shame behind those words. They shared that shifting the focus to what nourishes our bodies can help us move away from the good/bad labels. They also shared that what nourishes your body looks different for each person. Different people thrive on different foods. Focusing on what fuels our bodies and what makes us feels good is a better way to approach eating than good vs. bad or healthy vs. unhealthy.
We dove into the origins of the body positivity movement and the importance of making space for bodies of all shapes and sizes. Anna shared that health, in general, is not affected by body shape and size. You can be healthy, in any body. Self-care practices are not exclusively for people who live in thin bodies. She also does not focus exclusively on the idea of body positivity but rather on body acceptance. You don’t have to love every part of your body all the time. But being aware of your body and accepting the way that it fits into the rest of who you are is a healthy practice.
We chatted about the logistics of rewriting your body image narrative. Being aware of diet culture and separating ourselves from it is hugely powerful. Recognizing that our bodies are meant to change, like during pregnancy for example, and that is normal and okay. The idea that we are supposed to look exactly the same after pregnancy is harmful and unrealistic. There are also just times in life when our bodies change and maybe we don’t fit into our old jeans anymore. That is also okay. Moving away from shame and judgment in those moments and towards acceptance is important. Avoiding food restriction and relying on intuitive eating is also helpful.
Anna shared some insight into living in a disabled body and how that has shaped her idea about body acceptance instead of body positivity. She emphasizes the importance of moving away from idealized pictures about what our bodies or our lives should look like and accepting things for what they are. She also shares that this is an ongoing process and it takes time. It’s okay for it to be an ongoing journey. She recommends taking a deep breath and focusing on one step at a time.
Meg dove into applying these ideas to our kiddos and how to cultivate an environment with our kids that encourages them to self-regulate and reduces stress related to food. She believes that providing nourishing and varied options is more important than obsessing over how many vegetables your kid is eating. Placing restrictions on food or having a lot of discussion about the value of food can create an environment of stress.
We ended our chat with the reminder that the journey to body acceptance is ongoing. There will be ups and downs and being positive all the time is not realistic. We talked about the practice of being actively kind to ourselves and of owning who we are.
Book recommendation: Born to Eat