A while back I got this comment on one of my instagram photos:
It’s not the first time that my stance on ‘body confidence’ has been questioned due to my looks, my lifestyle, my penchant for corsets and shape wear and my fitness and healthy eating choices. And it got me thinking about body confidence and what it means.
To be ‘body positive’ when you’re plus size you don’t need to look or act a certain way. You simply need to appreciate that all bodies are good bodies, and short of getting arrested, believe that people can dress how they like. Being ‘body positive’ and wanting to lose some of your own body weight, or wanting to alter it temporarily or long term with corsets doesn’t take any value away from the body love message. Having an hourglass figure doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate women with apple or pear shapes – hourglass figures are not superior. Showing off your figure on social media (in, dare I say, overtly flattering poses) doesn’t mean that you are lying to yourself or somehow not embracing what it is to be plus size.
There are some women who describe themselves as ‘militant fatties’. Large women who are not afraid of the f word. They say no to shape wear, they wear bikinis with pride, they talk about health at every size (HAES) and they believe that you shouldn’t lose weight just to please ‘society’. These women are fearless – and to me extremely, brave. I could never be like these women. I adore my shape wear and rarely leave the house without a piece on. This does not mean that I loathe my body, I just feel less self conscious with my Maidenform pieces on – I love my body more when it is smoothed out and strapped down. I do love bikinis, but I would rather cover my tummy on the beach because, again, I am self conscious about it, and whilst I am happy to show it off online where I can vet the photos and poses, letting it all hang out at the beach is something completely different! I talk about weight loss and I am open about the fact that I would LOVE to lose weight – although my love of food often overrides that… Talking about weight loss is not a sign of defeat or a sign of not loving one’s body if it is done right. Whenever I talk about weight loss and exercise I always talk about my choices as something that I do, not something that everyone should do. I advocate that weight loss and exercise can be great if you are deeply unhappy with your weight and want to make slow and steady changes, but it is not up to me or anyone else to police the body of someone unknown or someone who has not expressed a wish to try to go about changing how they look because they feel it is better for them.
Being plus size and body positive can sometimes be hard because society typically tells us to be slimmer. Lose weight. Go on diets. ‘Ew cellulite!’ Get slim legs. Being fat will kill you. You will never find love if you are overweight. And so when body positive women come along and defy these ‘rules’ it is exciting to see, and those women are labelled as ‘confident’ because they (pardon my French) shit all over the notion that happiness and body confidence is a size and shape. In truth, these women are no more confident than any other woman going about her day and doing her thing. But because we are, ironically, force fed a Hollywood idea of ‘perfection’, these women seem odd to us. How can a woman with a big stomach allow herself to wear a tight dress? How can a woman with bingo wings let other people SEE them? How can that girl with cellulite parade around in her underwear online? How do these women do these things? Because their bodies need not be hidden just because they are a little larger. Because looks are not the sum of a person and because they looked in the mirror, said ‘Damn, I look awesome’ and decided to share that with the world.
Being plus size and body confident does not mean you need to bare all, you just need to be happy. It does not mean you need to dress in stereotypically ‘flattering’ clothes, you just need to dress for you. It does not mean you need to be happy with your body right this second, but you need to accept how you look now and if you want to and can make changes then good for you. It does not mean that shape wear and corsets and bodycon and belts are no nos because being body confident means adorning your body with clothes and accessories that make you happy to be in that body. And lastly – being body confident does not mean you need to insult women who look different to you in order to validate your own looks. If you want to be accepted for your appearance then you need to accept others, because if you can’t, how you can expect people to accept you?
Body confidence is not something that only slim women have. It cannot be taught or learnt, it comes from within. Accept how you look in the mirror, in photos. Look at those features that people compliment you on and realise how fabulous they are. And know that you as a person are so much more than what people see, and every person will see you differently. Everyone has the potential to be perfect in the eyes of someone else.
Love your body.