Protecting Your Recovery Energy
Many people on the path towards healing their relationship with food and body image experience a bit of a honeymoon period when they discover body positivity (true body positivity that is, which celebrates size diversity, not the commodified version that is conditional on health status or limited to certain bodies). I remember experiencing immense relief when I discovered Health At Every Size and felt, for the first time, true permission to abandon the relentless pursuit of weight loss and just live my damn life already in the body I'm in.
For many there is also an urge to shout from the rooftops and try to get everyone they know on board the body positive train. When you've been a chronic dieter and finally realize that there is another path, one of self-compassion, nurturing, and acceptance, rather than the familiar cycle of restriction, bingeing, punishment and self-hatred, it is nothing short of revolutionary. And why wouldn't you want your family, friends and loved ones to see the light as well?
Building community is an integral part of the healing process. As Connie Sobczak, co-founder of The Body Positive writes in her book, Embody, “Without at least one other person in your life who understands your new beliefs and lifestyle, it is easy to fall prey to the messages that promote inadequacy and insecurity. The likelihood of blaming your body for other problems in your life (especially if you’ve done so in the past) is greater if you are isolated from others who are doing the work to make peace with their bodies.”
That said, it's important to be mindful of the energy expended by trying to bring recovery to others, especially those who might not be ready to abandon the thin ideal and the false promises that weight loss offers. Your recovery energy is a precious resource and you'll want to use and conserve it strategically. Sobczak continues, “Your Body Positive community exists to love and celebrate you just as you are in the moment, even with your struggles and perceived ‘flaws.’” In early recovery, when you are likely still rebuilding trust in your body and trying to internalize the messages of the HAES philosophy, you don’t want to focus your energy on trying to bring your loved ones into the fold.
So how can you let people know what you’re going through without devoting all your resources to facilitating their body positive journeys?
Choose wisely. Share your story with those close to you who are most likely to support the principles of body positivity, or at least to support your journey.
Don’t expend energy trying to convert others. If you find yourself in disagreements about Health At Every Size or fat acceptance, especially when you are still trying to internalize all this new information yourself, you are likely expending precious energy that could be going towards your own recovery.
When you do share, do so from the heart. If you do feel up to engaging with those around you about the damaging effects of weight stigma and diet culture, try to avoid using research and numbers. While there's plenty out there and it can be helpful in building your own self-confidence and assurance around these topics, it’s much more effective to appeal from an emotional place about how fatphobia has affected you personally.
Have resources available, but don’t force them on others. For those around you who notice all the positive effects as you begin healing your relationship to food and body, keep a list handy of your favorite resources (books, blog posts, social media accounts, podcasts) that you can give in order to outsource some of that teaching. But again, don’t bother trying to force this information on others who aren’t open to receiving the it. This ultimately might feel like a rejection to you, which won’t be helpful.
When necessary, create new community. You might not be able to get all the body positive support you need from your current support system. It might feel isolating to not be able to share this part of your life with those closest to you, but it’s so important to guard your recovery. This might mean finding or creating new community for support in this area (social media is a great place for this, including the body positive Instagram community and many Facebook groups devoted to HAES and fat acceptance).
I would love to hear from you if you have any other thoughts or experiences to share around conserving your recovery energy and building body positive community!