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Body image and disability

Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
(wasn't sure if this was a P&D thing or a H&W thing, but please move it if it needs it)

I just read this blog, and it made me think a lot. I've been working on my own body image and style as part of my research of a book that I'm hoping to write. I've been trying very hard to "love" my body. But when you have a body which (like mine) hurts, has no energy, has limited mobility and generally makes life difficult its really hard, its bloody difficult to accept that and to love it. But why is it that its seen that everyone MUST love their bodies. That this is the attainable norm, and that theres something inherently wrong with you if you feel you can't (especially if this is because of some kind of disability). What is the alternative? Does the idea - that we all must love every inch of ourselves - need to change, or should we just be accepting our bodies the way they are and love them anyway...

Comments

  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Accepting your body and loving it are very different.

    For example, there are parts of my body that I know could be much better. There are some days when I look in the mirror and want to vomit at the sight of them. But for the most part, nowadays (which I couldn't have said even six months ago), I have come to accept them as part of me. I like pizza and chips and so I have a bit of a belly. I don't exercise except for walking to and from (...sometimes) work, so I'm not the ideal weight for my height. I wear a 16/18 rather than the 12/14 I used to wear but y'know what? I like pizza. I like chips. I am lazy. Those are things that I enjoy and don't really want to cut out of my life. So I'll accept the extra belly, which nobody else seems to mind anyway, and I'll enjoy the added benefits (hello FFs, how you doin'?) and let myself enjoy my life without worrying about if I'm perfect.

    Like I said, six months ago that would not have been the case. I do not LOVE my body by any means. If I could have pizza and chips and laziness and be a size 10 I would snap that right up. But I do like pizza and chips and laziness and so I'm cool with having a bit of belly to prove it.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    The key to happiness is wanting what you have not having what you want. Sounds a bit glib but there's a lot of truth in it.

    There are things you'd want to improve, there are things you wish worked better. That's human nature. But the important thing to remember is that love is not about perfection, it's about appreciating and adoring what you have, imperfections and all.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Example: I have scars all over my arms and chest from self harming. I would rather that my life had taken different turns, but they are part of who I am. In a weird way I do love having the scars there, they remind me in dark times of how far I have come.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I guess it depends what angle you take on the loving front. If you compare it to the live a parent may have for a child for example, that parent may love their child - but still seem room for changes or improvement in them.

    I've got scars, aesthetically I'd rather they weren't there, but they're a little bit of me. I've got a numb patch, again, fa from perfect but it's a part of me. I think I'd be very offended is someone suggested that because there are "defects" in my body it's somehow less loveable.

    To me, it's possible to love your body without necessarily liking it, or being pleased with it 100%. I guess I'm making a similar point to arctic really. Don't love your body, and you're setting yourself up fir. Pretty miserable life as there's no escaping it. Love it, nurture it, care for it and develop it and you're likely to be heading down the right track.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I think that the issue of disability being left out of 'body positivity' in feminist communities, reflects the outside world, where disabled people are also treated as individual. I think that it shows a need for people to start listening and being more inclusive and those few feminists who do get a voice in the mainstream press, should give a platform for people who are usually ignored by the mass media (working class, disabled, black feminists ect).

    Miss_Riot, you should totally check Go Feminist next year. They have work shops on disability and talk about intersectionality. It's a really interesting and inclusive event.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I'm not sure I'm on board with all this 'learn to love' business. It sounds a bit happy-clappy and somewhat like it's designed to avoid people taking stock and responsibility.

    Pertaining to weight issues: if you're fat and unhealthy or underweight and unhealthy, and the weight and health are linked, then it seems irresponsible to tell someone that what they need to be doing is not adjusting their diet and exercising, but working on loving being fat/thin and unhealthy. There are myriad problems associated with weight issues and if someone's asking for advice on being obese, for example, then suggesting 'learning to love' being obese is both dangerous and laughable.

    Pertaining to disability or disfigurement: I'd imagine getting right with it is what you want to do. 'Loving' your mastectomy scar or club foot strikes me as a bit perverse. Accept it and understand that it doesn't define you and live your life.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    It might be worth looking at Health at any size. I know that asides the fibromyalgia (or whatever it is), physically I'm in good health - low blood pressure, good blood sugar levels, low cholesterol levels etc. But according to BMI I am overweight. Yet I'm very flexible (even though it hurts). If I was told to do a little more exercise to help my joints rather than be barked at to lose weight everytime I see the GP that might help my body image a lot!
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Pertaining to disability or disfigurement: I'd imagine getting right with it is what you want to do. 'Loving' your mastectomy scar or club foot strikes me as a bit perverse. Accept it and understand that it doesn't define you and live your life.

    I can understand the attachment to some acquired disfigurements. My c-section scar could objectively be seen as pretty ugly (it definitely looks like my lower belly is grimacing!) but I will always like it because I know it's the cut that saved my daughter's life. I can see that people could have the same feelings towards a mastectomy scar or something similar.

    With other things, I think you're right that acceptance is the key. It's like an able-bodied person learning to accept and love their bodies, but on a grander scale. Not one of us is perfect, and there isn't a great deal you can do about it other than weigh up your positives and play the best hand you can with the cards you've been dealt.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I'm not sure I'm on board with all this 'learn to love' business. It sounds a bit happy-clappy and somewhat like it's designed to avoid people taking stock and responsibility.

    We're not talking about obesity though, are we? We're talking about disability.

    If life's dealt you a hand that leaves you with a physical disability then you can either wallow in your own self-pity or you can knuckle down and work with what you've got. Maybe it is "happy clappy" but, really, it's about taking responsibility. Happiness is, by and large, a choice.

    With regards to weight problems, leaving aside the whole raft of ifs and buts you mention, really the question is the "problem". Caitlin Moran talks about it very well: some people are fat and luxurious with it, greedy and happy to be so. Some are miserable about it and pig out on KitKats to combat the sadness. They can be the same weight but who's going to have a better life? My BMI's at the upper end of overweight but I bet I'm fitter than a lot of people with lower BMIs (well, I know how am given how many of them I beat in a 10k road race last week). Such is life.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Miss_Riot wrote: »
    It might be worth looking at Health at any size. I know that asides the fibromyalgia (or whatever it is), physically I'm in good health - low blood pressure, good blood sugar levels, low cholesterol levels etc. But according to BMI I am overweight. Yet I'm very flexible (even though it hurts). If I was told to do a little more exercise to help my joints rather than be barked at to lose weight everytime I see the GP that might help my body image a lot!

    I chose my words carefully to acknowledge that overweight and underweight don't necessarily mean unhealthy. But let's not kid ourselves here, if you were to randomly pick an overweight person from the UK population (let alone the US) it'd be safe money to bet they aren't a paragon of health, and that they are, in fact, in relatively poor health.

    But in today's world of easy fixes and shirking accountability - of which the TheSite seems to a perfect microcosm - personal responsibility and accountability have fallen out of fashion. Why acknowledge that one does eat too much and exercise too little and could do with taking some effort to rectify diet and attitude, when it's far easier to to do mental gymnastics in order to convince oneself of the much more appealing notion that it's the world that needs to pull its weight and shape up.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    We're not talking about obesity though, are we? We're talking about disability.

    The thread has talked about both so I addressed both.
    If life's dealt you a hand that leaves you with a physical disability then you can either wallow in your own self-pity or you can knuckle down and work with what you've got. Maybe it is "happy clappy" but, really, it's about taking responsibility. Happiness is, by and large, a choice.

    I don't think we disagree here.
    With regards to weight problems, leaving aside the whole raft of ifs and buts you mention, really the question is the "problem". Caitlin Moran talks about it very well: some people are fat and luxurious with it, greedy and happy to be so. Some are miserable about it and pig out on KitKats to combat the sadness. They can be the same weight but who's going to have a better life? My BMI's at the upper end of overweight but I bet I'm fitter than a lot of people with lower BMIs (well, I know how am given how many of them I beat in a 10k road race last week). Such is life.

    Again to a large extent I think we agree.

    ETA: But if you're morbidly obese and trying to convince me that you're healthy then I call 'bullshine'. And if you're unhappy with your weight and you're trying to convince me that what you need to do is put the effort into loving being a fatty instead of rectifying it, then you're gonna get the sceptical face.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I suppose with disability and chronic illness (as well as general life) the body can change so quickly and dramatically that finding acceptance is very hard, especially when those changes may or may not be temporary. For example, for the past few days I have been in so my pain I've been thinking some slightly silly thoughts about my life. Trying to accept that level of chronic pain is incredibly difficult - especially when it has been known to last for weeks at a time, yet today I'm feeling around a 4-5 on my pain threshold. You can also accept something but still have bitter feelings towards it.

    Yes obviously someone who is morbidly obese isn't going to be healthy, but theres no one size fits all in terms of healthy size for everyone - I know I could do with losing a stone, but not 3 like my dr used to tell me. I think medical professionals are far too focused on BMI and not quality of life and overall well being.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Again to a large extent I think we agree.

    ETA: But if you're morbidly obese and trying to convince me that you're healthy then I call 'bullshine'. And if you're unhappy with your weight and you're trying to convince me that what you need to do is put the effort into loving being a fatty instead of rectifying it, then you're gonna get the sceptical face.

    I don't know who's said that. But it is a two-part thing, if you're not happy with yourself then you won't be happy with yourself even after losing weight and doing more exercise. You see it so often with people who have plastic surgery because of body dismorphia and then just start hating something else instead.

    It depends what you mean by "morbidly obese" and "healthy", doesn't it. On BMI an international prop forward is morbidly obese ;)
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I don't know who's said that. But it is a two-part thing, if you're not happy with yourself then you won't be happy with yourself even after losing weight and doing more exercise. You see it so often with people who have plastic surgery because of body dismorphia and then just start hating something else instead.

    It depends what you mean by "morbidly obese" and "healthy", doesn't it. On BMI an international prop forward is morbidly obese ;)

    I think you're in danger of being disingenuous here. I've not advanced the argument that people who purport to be unhappy with their appearance will necessarily be happier after altering it. But it seems you're getting rather close to saying it's not possible for weight issues to be the source of unhappiness and for that source to dissipate when addressed. I've two close friends who after being overweight - and unhappy because of it - through their teens, put in the effort, changed their lifestyle and are now completely different, happier people for it.

    I appreciate responsibility displacement happens and that a rugby player will be obese and chart not designed to take that into account, but it feels like highlighting the fringe, exceptions and peculiarities in order the obfuscate and divert from a rather plain issue: 60% of adults in the UK - last time I heard statistics - are obese. And we don't have that many rugby players.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    It's worth remembering that people get fat for different reasons. I was always a healthy weight and very slim until I was 24, then I got anorexia and got skinny. Then I went on anti-psychotics due to mental health problems and since then have put on six stone, taking me from underweight to borderline obese. This has been really hard for me to go through but I know I need the medication to be better mentally so I continue to take it and continue to put on weight. My doctor is really sympathetic and never has a go at me for my weight though which I really appreciate.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Randomgirl wrote: »
    It's worth remembering that people get fat for different reasons. I was always a healthy weight and very slim until I was 24, then I got anorexia and got skinny. Then I went on anti-psychotics due to mental health problems and since then have put on six stone, taking me from underweight to borderline obese. This has been really hard for me to go through but I know I need the medication to be better mentally so I continue to take it and continue to put on weight. My doctor is really sympathetic and never has a go at me for my weight though which I really appreciate.

    I appreciate that people are under/overweight for different reasons. That being said, it seems more and more people are reticent to call a spade a spade: the majority of people are fat because they eat too much and don't exercise enough. I feel trite just writing it.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I think we're talking about two separate things here.

    Obese people should, usually, eat less and do more. Underweight people, the opposite. That much is a given, barring a few examples around the extremes. I feel happier now I've lost 4-5 stone. I feel happier even though I've put a stone on in the last year, though, because I'm much fitter than I was. I have about two stone to lose, really.

    But that's not the same as learning to accept your own body. That is entirely separate to weight, it's about accepting yourself as a human, mistakes and all. You can accept yourself even if you know that really you need to lose two stone and cut out the cider.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    But it's very easy to say that people who are over weight should do more and eat less. But if you have a disability then you can't always do more and you need to eat to have energy and get the right amount of nutrients. I feel like there is so much pressure to be this desirable size which for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses is incredibly hard to achieve that - even to the point that's within "healthy" BMI limits. Maybe I'm repeating myself but I feel really strongly about this - its a bit of a personal battle of mine.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I appreciate responsibility displacement happens and that a rugby player will be obese and chart not designed to take that into account, but it feels like highlighting the fringe, exceptions and peculiarities in order the obfuscate and divert from a rather plain issue: 60% of adults in the UK - last time I heard statistics - are obese. And we don't have that many rugby players.

    Overweight, you mean. There's no way 60% are obese.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Overweight, you mean. There's no way 60% are obese.

    Yeah, sorry, overweight. About 25% are obese, IIRC.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Weight problems and disabilities are a bit different though. With a disability there's nothing you can do about it, so the healthiest option is to learn to accept it. If you're overweight, then in most cases, you could do something about it, so that can be a healthy way to focus your energy if you're bothered enough about it.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    There seems to be an assumption being made in this thread that if you 'love your body' then you must also be happy with it exactly as it is and have no desire to change it.

    Now, I am currently in some ways the happiest I've been for a long time. I need to lose some weight for my long term health, I also need to do some more exercise, eat some more fruit & veg and stop yoyo'ing in and out of anaemia.

    I know I can make slow and steady progress on the weight loss front when I'm content, and when I have a routine in my life. I've started to take pride in my appearance, buy clothes that look good on my size and shape, and I feel a lot better for it. I'm 'happy in my skin' to use a french idiom, and that puts me in a much better place to say I am happy as I am, but I know I've got room for improvement.

    Going back to the child analogy, a parent can love their child, but still want to improve it, nuture it and develop it. Love your body and you're much more likely to look after it.
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