Can Body Acceptance Make You Sick?

We talk about one body image expert's tale.

After preaching "love your body" messages to women everywhere, body image activist Jess Weiner learned that she weighed 250 pounds and her blood sugar and cholesterol levels were all dangerously high. "The cold, hard truth was that accepting myself as I was, was putting my life in danger," she writes in a Glamour story headlined: "Jess Weiner's Weight Struggles: 'Loving My Body Almost Killed Me.'" 

I had to read both of those sentences several times before I realized: Loving your body and accepting your body are two very different things. If you love your body, you think it's darn wonderful -- adorable, smart, you name it. If you accept your body, you're saying "eh, it's not perfect, but I guess I can live with that." We take care of the people and things that we love, because we want them to be happy and healthy. We can co-exist with the people and things that we accept -- but we don't necessarily love them. We're settling because it seems like the best we can expect.

By merely accepting her body, Weiner very well may have been putting her life in danger. "Oh, there you are again, body," she'd probably say to herself. "I accept you. But I'm not gonna go out of my way for you." Ergo, not eating well and not exercising (plus perhaps some environmental or genetic factors we can't know about) adding up to pre-diabetes.

And Weiner realizes how this was letting her body down: "To truly love my body, I had to treat it better." She starts eating fresh veggies and whole grain wraps, taking dance and water aerobics classes, and seeing a therapist to sort through her emotional eating. And after 18 months, her cholesterol, triglycerides and other numbers had come back down into their healthy ranges. Loving your body for the win, right? 

Except for Weiner's response: “I’ve only lost 25 pounds?” Her doctor tells her she's focusing on the wrong number and Weiner herself cites a recent University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey study, which found that nearly 30 percent of obese patients had healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and other numbers. And yet she decides to lose another 30 pounds, just to be safe.

It brings me back to an almost-existential dilemma that I've run into before: Do you really love your body if you also want to change it -- by losing weight? As I concluded in that post, loving your body means taking care of yourself and that's a really great path to better health -- which is why loving your body will never, ever be fatal, despite what hysterical headline writers may claim. Taking better care of yourself might change your body and lead to weight loss, too, which is all well and good. Then again, it might not (for a case in point, see Ragen Chastein's response to Weiner's essay). If you love yourself, you'll be cool either way. 

But deciding to lose weight in order to love your body more? That's not real love -- or even acceptance. And I would have thought a true body image warrior like Jess Weiner would see the holes in that cheese.

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