“Body-positive” is a hotly-debated term these days! I’m glad that the body-positivity movement is seeing a heyday, but this also means that not everyone using the term it agrees on what it means.

Let’s fix that.

For me, being body-positive means loving my body as it is… and not freaking out that I don’t look like the girls in magazines. Of course I don’t look like the girls in magazines. I will never look like the girls in magazines.

Without photoshop, will you?

Embracing body-positivity means that when I workout, I do so because I fucking love working out, I want to be stronger, I want daily activities to feel easy, and I want my body to feel good and not hurt. (And yeah, I also like to look strong, too. It’s okay to have aesthetic goals for your body, as long as you’re thoughtful and adaptable about them.)

Because I love my body, I never use food or exercise to punish it.

That kind of thinking is backwards.

Abbye "Pudgy" Stockton

Exercise is nourishment for the body. When you come from a place of self-love, workouts can’t be about punishment, atonement, or any other kind of making up for something.

I don’t workout to work off calories, to get “skinny”, or to try and gain the acceptance of others. I don’t workout so that you’ll think I’m “enough”.

I don’t workout so that you’ll think I’m trying hard enough, either. I don’t workout to earn love.

Being body-positive means knowing that everyone deserves love regardless of how their body looks or functions.

Another part of my journey to body-positivity (or body-love, body-acceptance, self-acceptance, self-compassion– whatever you want to call it) has been in letting go of constantly wondering what other people think of me.

I’m not saying I never care what people think, of course I do. But I don’t obsess over what people think of how my thighs look when I wear shorts or what my stomach looks like when I sit down. That shit was exhausting.

As a coach, I’ve seen hundreds of people alter their bodies with the hope that doing so would also improve their confidence. I’ve seen countless clients build muscle, lose weight, reduce pain, and improve their “tests” in many ways. In my experience though, people that can’t love themselves at their “starting weight” don’t posses any increased capacity for self-acceptance when their bodies change.

On top of that, the people who exhibit shame and negativity around their bodies are exponentially more likely to fall off the wagon, more likely to binge-eat, and more likely to miss workouts due to lack of energy or low mood.

Shame, it turns out, is not a very effective motivator.

The irony is that the people who approach their bodies with kindness actually seem to stay the course longer, get better the results, and have a much easier time of it than those who use crash diets and extreme exercise as a punishment for imperfection.

Shame is like a form of self-harm, it offers nothing reparative. But self-compassion gives you something to return to after a bad workout or a bad day. It nurtures that essential core of you-ness that isn’t dependent on your physique, or how hard you work, or any particular accomplishment at all.

And this is why body-positivity is so important: it frees you from obsessing over culturally-imposed notions of what a perfect body is so that you can instead focus on taking care of the body that you actually live in.

So at Bold & Badass Fitness, body-positivity means that all bodies and all goals are equally worthwhile. It means that coaches will let you define your fitness goals and help you get there in the way that works best for you. Our coaches will never tell you what your body should look like.

I recently came across a post by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt, 25 Body-Love Journaling Prompts, and was inspired to answer each of these questions for myself. The above essay is based on my answer to prompt #1.

I’ll be sharing some of my answers here in the hopes that you’ll try them out too. Embracing self-compassion has been life-changing for me over the last few years. I’d love to hear your answers to these too– comment below and share them if you’d like!

Emily is the owner of Bold & Badass Fitness, as well as one of the gym's coaches. She is passionate about social justice, powerlifting, science-fiction, and her chirpy calico cat, Koshka.

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