Thursday, 7 November 2013

Day 7: Ten steps to feeling body positive

Image via Autostraddle

I read something the other day that said the average British woman worries about her size and shape every fifteen minutes. Every fifteen fucking minutes! Now, to be fair this was a Grazia magazine survey and, as I will discuss later, women's magazines are a special kind of nutso about weight, leading to their readers probably being a self-selecting group.  But still. 

Despite pretty much always being on the larger side - I'm a size 14/16 now - I've never been particularly negative about my body.  And by making a really concerted effort over the past few years I have got to a place where I can honestly say that I worry about my size and shape pretty much never. 

So what is being body positive?  Simply put, it's about not only not hating your body, but trying to actively like it.  It's about not participating in common discourses around womens bodies, but instead recognising how they are used to oppress us.  It's about using your mental energy for something more useful than worrying about the size of your hips.  Body positivism is linked to radical fat activisim and being fat positive, but you don't have to identify as fat to be body positive. 

1. Surround yourself with the right people
That is, people who won't talk about diets or pinch their thighs while moaning about how fat they are. It's amazing the difference that hanging out with truly body positive people will make. If your friends tend towards self-hate when you're together, then simply choose to not participate. Conversations shut down pretty quickly when one person doesn't take part.

2. Search out images of real women
By which I emphatically don't mean all that bullshit about 'real women have curves'. Rather, I mean make sure you are regularly seeing non-airbrushed images of women who aren't models or actressess: women of all shapes and sizes, from the smallest to the largest. Search out fashion bloggers who have diverse bodies (an enormous step towards me feeling totally body positive was discovering bloggers like
Lilli, Claire and Carla, whose bodies reflected my own). Read websites such as, which show women of all sizes and shapes. Read radfat zines and books, the content of which can be extremely helpful in your journey to become body positive, no matter what your size.

3. Put down that copy of Closer magazine
Seriously, womens magazines - and especially gossip mags - are the devil. Feeling positive about your own body is not going to happen easily if you're reading articles about how to get a 'beach body' (whatever that may be) or about stars 'flaunting' their curves (for 'flaunting' read: leaving the house while over a size 10). There are some great alternatives to mainstream womens media (I wrote about some of them here) which won't make you feel like your body is something flawed that needs to be fixed. And whatever you do, DO NOT look at Mail Online!

4. Ignore the size of clothes when shopping
I discussed in a post here why the size on the label means less than nothing.  When trying on something that doesn't fit, it is tempting to believe that the problem is you, that the issue is your body, and that if only your boobs were smaller, or your legs longer, or your hips narrower, then all would be well. We almost never blame what is obviously at fault: the garment itself. Designed for a narrow range of shapes (almost certainly none of which match your own unique and wonderful one), the clothes on the high street are the problem, not you. 

5. Know what suits you 
To feel positive about your body, you need to feel positive about what you're wearing, and this is one of two approaches to take when shopping (and the one that works for me).  I know exactly what suits me and have what my friends would agree is an almost slavish devotion to tea dresses, which nip me in at the waist and suit my short stature, or skinny jeans and Breton tops.  I know what looks good on me and - more importantly - what I feel comfortable wearing, so to a large extent I ignore what the latest fashions are and just wear what I've been wearing for years.  Or alternatively...

6. Embrace the maxim: Fuck Flattering
Not something I've managed for myself yet, but one I admire greatly.  There are some fabulous fatshion bloggers out there who embrace their bellies and wear what the hell they like, regardless of whether society deems it 'flattering'.  I suppose my love of striped Breton tops could fall into this category too; how many magazine articles must I have read as a teenager, telling me chubby girls can't wear horizontal stripes?!

7. Focus on what your body is rather than what it isn't
The thing that finally got rid of any remaining dislike of my own body was when I started to hike and ride a bike.  It's really hard to vilify thighs that are capable of hauling you up a mountain, or cycling 20 miles.  The human body is an incredible thing and it seems almost insulting to waste time focusing on your flabby arms when those arms sew or bake or draw beautifully.

8. Diet is a dirty word
A smart, savvy, funny woman I work with made a comment the other day that she'd been on a diet for "the best part of thirty years".  Possibly hyperbolic, but the sentiment is one that many women will be familiar with.  However, the truth is that the diet industry - Weight Watchers, Slimming World and their ilk - just doesn't work long-term.  If it did, there wouldn't be much of an industry to speak of.  I really don't see the point of worrying about every mouthful, of counting every calorie, in a doomed attempt to shed pounds.  There is abundant medical evidence to show that you will be healthier if you are 'overweight' and active, than if you are 'underweight'* and active.  Far better to eat what you want, when you're hungry, and not feel miserable about denying yourself.

* in quotation marks because these terms are based on the much-derided BMI system.

9. Throw out the scales
Weight really means very little; muscle weighs more than fat, for example. This is something most of us know theoretically, but in practice find it harder to apply to our own bodies. But I don't think it's a coincidence that I have never really fallen prey to body negativity, and I have also never owned a pair of scales.  Simply put, I don't give a shit how much I weigh.  My body works just fine at the weight it is, so why would I want to change it?

10. Fat is a feminist issue
Susie Orbach's seminal 1970's feminist text is as true today as it was then.  Ultimately, refusing to participate in patriarchal ideals of what constitutes a 'correct' or 'attractive' female body is a feminist response.  Choosing to love yourself and your body is a massive "fuck you" to the oppressive forces that work in society. 


  1. I love this post. So much wisdom x

  2. That magazine image is brilliant! I avoid women's magazines like the plague, not because I feel I have body issues, but because articles with stupid titles like 'lose a stone in a week' or 'how to get a beach body' blah, blah, blah really wind me up. And don't even get me started on the diet industry - my mother is a member of Slimming World and I've had so many debates with her about how there are better ways to be lose weight (she needs to lose weight for health reasons) than following the tripe they spout. Brilliant post - and lots of good advice :)

    1. Thanks! My mum and step-mum are seemingly always on Slimming World and it drives me mad to hear them talk about food and bodies. So much fat shaming, and so much wrong science, but they just don't listen to me when I try and point out the issues.