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How Body Positivity Helped Me with Eating Disorder Recovery

body positivity Apr 17, 2022

At some point in our lives, most of us have been unhappy with our bodies. Maybe we thought we were too skinny or too curvy. Maybe we counted every single calorie we ate or obsessively exercised to maintain an ideal weight.

Whatever it may be the discomfort that we often feel in our own skin can have far-reaching consequences. Research has shown that body dissatisfaction can lead to unhealthy eating behaviors, such as extreme dieting and binge eating. [1] Unfortunately, this is something that I know all too well.

During my time enlisted in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) I secretly struggled with Binge Eating Disorder (BED). BED is an eating disorder (ED) in which people consume a large amount of food in a short period of time because they’re unable to control what or how much food they are eating. [2] Due to the discomfort, I felt in my own skin I was engaging in excessive calorie restriction which was contributing to my BED.

However, with the right treatment and support, EDs can be overcome. Body positivity can play an important role in helping people recover from their EDs. In this article, we explore how body positivity can help facilitate eating disorder recovery and discuss some of the benefits of embracing a positive body image.

 

What is Body Positivity and How Can it Help with Eating Disorder Recovery

According to Verywell Mind:

Body positivity means that regardless of society and popular culture views, all people deserve to have a positive body image. [3]

Although body positivity is not without its problems there are many benefits of promoting a positive body image. A positive body image has been associated with improved body appreciation, body esteem, and functionality satisfaction all of which are key to ED recovery. [4]

Body positivity can also help improve the way that people feel about their appearance. For instance, body positivity was essential for helping me improve my body image so that I could stop defining my worth based on the number on the scale. Further, research has shown that body appreciation can give people a sense of happiness, positivity, and joy. [4]

Additionally, body positivity can serve as a buffer that prevents people from internalizing beliefs from diet culture that equate beauty and success with thinness. [3] Through body positivity, I was able to recognize that I didn't need to focus on losing weight in order to be seen as beautiful and successful. As a result, I've been able to overcome the temptation to engage in extreme dieting or ED behaviors to achieve intentional weight loss.

Lastly, body positivity helped bring awareness to the factors that were contributing to my development of a poor body image. Even though social media tends to idolize thinness, many platforms have introduced me to many body-positive influences. That's why diversifying your social media feeds is one of the most positive steps that you can take toward improving your body image. [5]

Therefore, being positive about your body entails accepting yourself for where you are at today. That is not to say that there won’t be moments when you might feel compelled to change something about yourself. The difference is that you’ll be better able to recognize where that desire to change is coming from. That will support you in overcoming the temptation to engage in ED behavior and provide you with a foundation to start practicing body positivity in your everyday life.

 

How to Start Practicing Body Positivity

1. Start with Body Acceptance

Learning to accept your body is one of the most important steps that you can take toward becoming more body positive. The reason is that acceptance is about appreciating where you are today even if you don't love where you are today. 

I remember when I first made the decision that I wanted to start adopting a more positive attitude towards my body. It wasn't easy, but learning to accept my body helped me start focusing on what my body could do. Instead of how much weight it could lose. 

2. Focus on Wellbeing

Focusing on the ways that you can support your overall wellbeing is another important step in becoming more body positive. By doing this, you're taking into consideration that there are many ways to improve your health that have nothing to do with how much you eat or exercise.

When I made the decision to start focusing on my well-being the first thing I did was to stop exercising for intentional weight loss. What that allowed me to do was find forms of movement that I genuinely enjoyed. Rather than engaging in activities that I hated. 

3. Monitor Your Influences

Being mindful of the things that you are influenced by is vital when it comes to ED recovery. Whether that’s who you choose to follow on social media or the company you choose to keep, it’s important that you have body-positive influences around you.

One of the first things that I did when I decided I wanted to be more body positive was to unfollow accounts that left me feeling negative about myself. I intentionally decided to follow accounts that left me feeling positive about myself. Because at the end of the day it's not just about healing the relationship we have with our bodies. We also need to heal the relationship we have with ourselves. 

 

So, there you have it. I hope that this article has shown you why body positivity is so important for ED recovery. For one, it can help you focus on your well-being and accept your body for what it is. And, as we know, accepting ourselves is the key to recovering from an ED.

If you want to start working on body positivity, I have a few prompts for you in my free journal download. The prompts are designed to get you thinking about your relationship with your body and how you can work towards improving it. So go ahead and download the prompts today!

 

Sources

  1. Logel, C., Stinson, D. A., & Brochu, P. M. (2015). Weight loss is not the answer: A well-being solution to the “obesity problem.” Social & Personality Psychology Compass, 9(12), 678– 695. https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12223
  2. National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2021, May). Definition & facts for Binge Eating Disorder. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/binge-eating-disorder/definition-facts#whatis
  3. Cherry, K. (2020, November 21). What is body positivity? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-body-positivity-4773402l
  4. O'Hara, L., Ahmed, H., and Elashie, S. (2021). Evaluating the impact of a brief Health at Every Size®-informed health promotion activity on body positivity and internalized weight-based oppression. Body Image, 37, 225–237. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2021.02.006
  5. Falk, M. (2021, November 5). The ‘Health at Every Size’ approach to health care is aiming to put an end to weight stigma. Shape. https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/health-at-every-size-haes 

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