The “Healthy” Myth: Learning to Love Yourself Now (with Luxury Lingerie)
What springs to mind when you hear the word “healthy”? Is it a thin but strong woman in her twenties lifting a kettlebell while smiling, effortlessly? Just me? Here’s the truth: Health comes in a multitude of shapes and sizes.
We already know that women have different body shapes, and all are beautiful. Have you noticed that when discussing body shapes there’s never any mention of one “healthy” shape? That’s because if every woman on the planet ate the same diet and did the same exercise, we’d still have differently shaped bodies. Our body shape has little to no bearing on how healthy we are.
Looking healthy is usually associated with visible, toned muscles and an absence of fat. Conversely, we as women naturally have a little more body fat, especially around our tummies due to our production of oestrogen. This makes the coveted flat stomach not only incredibly difficult, but actively unhealthy for so many of us. This great article from Insider breaks it down brilliantly.
Body Image, Self-Esteem and Health
In the age of social media, women are constantly bombarded with “ideal” proportions. January is quite possibly the worst month for our self-esteem as the weight loss industry tries their very hardest to make us see the error of our ways for daring to indulge over Christmas, and convinces us to view certain (often contradictory) food types as mortal sins. Add to that the comfort eating through multiple nationwide lockdowns, and the expected "lose that lockdown weight" message we'll likely see when it's all over; we're inundated with guilt!
Unsurprisingly, this near-constant rhetoric and diet culture wreaks havoc on mental health and self-esteem. Here’s the kicker - your health does not only depend on your outer body. We are more than our appearance, are we not? Our true strength and beauty lies in our character, not in how much you can exercise. To make sure you’re as healthy as you can be, you need to focus on each aspect of yourself. And I believe your mental health is among the most important. If you look after your mental health, you’re more likely to engage in healthier activities like exercise and eating a nutritious, varied diet.
Molly Forbes is a fantastic champion of being body happy. She regularly runs events for teachers to advocate body positivity in their students, knowing it’s so important to start these conversations early. Most of us can probably remember being body shamed by someone in our early lives (mine was my brother!), and it’s easy to cling to those comments for years. When the media's depictions of women seem to mimic these hurtful words, it’s even harder to brush them off. It does make me wonder whether it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s hard to see where it begins.
Weight Bias in Healthcare
This celebration of only the visible is, to use a cliche, just the tip of the iceberg when determining someone’s actual health. And why are we so obsessed with what other people are doing with their lives? These backhanded compliments can actually make people feel uncomfortable in themselves, feeling like they have to defend their appearance or lifestyle. I myself have to have a very restricted diet due to HFI (Hereditary Fructose Intolerance). This means that I cannot metabolise fructose properly, and consuming it in any way can make me severely ill. That being said, I am very active around my home and garden, so swings and roundabouts!
I was never a particularly sporty child, though I did enjoy some forms of exercise. I particularly loved Country and Ballroom dancing, which I was lucky enough to take part in at school. As an adult, one of the times I was at my fittest was when I was nursing on hospital wards. I was still classed as “overweight” but I was strong, and I had stamina. I remember being able to walk up a steep path on Lundy Island (one of my favourite places) while chatting with my friend, without giving it a second thought! I think it would be a different story if I were to repeat it now!
I’ve always been fascinated by my ancestry, and did both ancestry and DNA health checks. I wanted to know my likelihood of inheriting some familial disorders. Some prefer not to know, but I like to be prepared! To me, knowledge is power. It was through this that I found out I have a gene that denotes I’m likely to be overweight.
I’ve tried many diets over the years; low calorie, Weight Watchers, Slimming World etc. Each time I’ve been able to lose a bit of weight but as soon as I resume “normal” eating, it goes straight back on. My weight has always stabilised at a level that would be considered overweight or obese, perhaps due to this gene.
During my PST (psychosexual therapy) career I encountered many women who felt they didn't “measure up” to their own ideals of what constituted healthy. So often it gets mixed up with an “ideal weight”. I’ve read horror stories of women going to a doctor about specific health worries and are simply told to lose weight. As if it’s a magic cure-all. In fact, this piece by BMC Medical suggests that weight bias in medicine is inherently more harmful than being overweight: “...despite the fact that higher-weight patients are at elevated risk for endometrial and ovarian cancer, some physicians report a reluctance to perform pelvic exams…” In fact, I’ve heard of the incidence of untreated ovarian cancer being higher in “overweight” women purely because they are not listened to when first presenting symptoms. This is simply not acceptable. Weight bias is stigmatising and downright dangerous.
It’s not all bad news, though, as many health professionals are beginning to see their mistake and actively try to shift their perspective. One such example is Dr Joshua Wolrich, who describes his previous bias and how he works to overcome it.
Challenge Your Perception
Boosting your self-esteem is one of the best ways you can look after your mental and physical health. As soon as you realise that you are far more than your outer appearance, you’ll want to look after yourself, realise you deserve care, and make the effort to give your body what she needs.
This is why focusing on mental health is so important. One of the first indicators of depression can be not washing or showering, and it is so hard to pull yourself out of that. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or another mental health issue, be sure to contact your GP for appropriate treatment. You can also self-refer to Talkworks in Devon, who offer CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which is a form of talking therapy. You can also contact Samaritans for confidential support, or check out the NHS page for mental health charities. Particularly now, with the restrictions and uncertainties we face due to the pandemic, it’s important to get help at the first sign of trouble.
I’ve talked about reframing thoughts before, turning a negative to a positive, which can be easier said than done. My challenge to you is to think of the first negative thought you have about yourself and actively contradict it. Instead of focusing on the negative, argue against it and find something you love about yourself. Then, tell yourself, out loud, in front of a mirror, that you believe it. And repeat. The more you practice, the easier it’ll become. So why not start now?
Some other great ideas for shifting your perspective are here:
- Accept your body as it is now. Diet culture and harmful beauty standards will lead you to believe you constantly have to change yourself, and that the act of loving yourself completely as you are can feel incredibly alien. Even an act of rebellion! Food is a pleasure in life, not a “sin”.
- Choose clothes that fit your body; don’t change your body to fit into clothes! Yes, the “goal jeans” may work as motivation for some people, but for many it’s just a constant reminder that you want to change your body. Choosing clothes that fit your body comfortably is paramount to accepting yourself. Our luxury anti-chafe shorts run in sizes 12-30 and are made with such beautiful satin and lace, you’ll feel supported, comfortable, and ready to take on the world before you’ve even chosen your outerwear! Even just wearing them around the house will give you a boost!
- Curate your social media. Unfollow those accounts that promote damaging diet “fixes” or “detoxes”. Start to follow those who actively work against diet culture and body-shaming. A few of my favourites are iWeigh, Molly Forbes and bodyposipanda. Seeing people talk about and celebrate their bodies can shift long-ingrained ideas of what constitutes health and beauty.
- Exercise as a form of self-care. Move your body because you love your body and want her to feel the best she can, not because you want to change. Having an at-home dance party can really boost your mood - just look at bodyposipanda’s dancing videos! Remember to listen to your body, especially if you have a condition that could limit your stamina or ability. If you find an exercise hurts, as opposed to you “feeling the burn”, take a break or adapt the movement.
“You Look Healthy” as a Compliment
There is also the issue of using “healthy” as a compliment. It sounds innocuous enough, but carries with it ableist overtones, implying that being healthy is the absolute best thing you can be despite many people living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
I’m aware that many people will not be using it in this way purposely, but it’s something that struck my friend Kaz, who lives with ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis): “I used to love the compliment ‘you look so healthy’ from friends if I’d lost weight, but my diagnosis of ME really got me thinking. I’m not ‘healthy’ at any size any more. It doesn’t matter if I’m a size 8 or 14, I’ll still be ‘unhealthy’ due to this illness. I’d then overthink everything and remember how many compliments I got when I was the unhealthiest I’d ever been at around 8.5 stone (following what I now realise to be disordered eating), yet how few I got when I was almost at my most active weighing 12 stone. In fact, I was far more comfortable with myself at a higher weight.” Thankfully, Kaz has gone on to develop a better relationship with food, though she is unable to exercise due to her symptoms.
This is a subject very close to my heart as my son also lives with ME. It brings to light the distinct ableism in comments like this. It can insinuate that “unhealthy” people are less worthy of time, patience and respect. Many people develop a higher weight not because they refuse to “put the work in” but because they are made that way. Think allergy-related diets and visible and invisible disabilities, as well as our genes.
People tend to assume that people of a higher weight are “lazy”. This is simply not true. Just take Tess Holliday and Ashley Graham for examples. Both models regularly post their exercise routines (though Holliday has recently decided against this), as well as being candid around their pregnancies and life as a whole, yet are still shamed because they have the audacity to love their bodies. I say we should all give up trying to change our bodies and instead learn to love ourselves as we are.
You Deserve to Feel Beautiful
If you take one thing from this post, I hope it’s this: You absolutely deserve to feel beautiful at any size, shape or “health” status. We at Bloomin’ Sexy know that women come in all different shapes and sizes, and all of us deserve luxury and comfort. That’s why we’re here!
I’ve used my experience in nursing and PST to create truly wonderful anti-chafe lingerie shorts, helping you to reawaken your inner goddess and celebrate yourself every day. To inspire and guide women to becoming their best selves is incredibly fulfilling work.
Our inclusive size range of 12-30(UK) and stunning designs are made to celebrate your natural shape, while keeping you supported and feeling absolutely sexy. Our unique satin thigh panels combat the dreaded thigh chafe while keeping you cool and comfortable. Each item is expertly wrapped, and includes a small gift (usually a small hand-crafted soap or bath bomb) to add to the experience of a truly luxurious treat.
Finding your love for yourself can be a long road. I hope you start today, if you haven’t already. It’s time to rebel, and look Bloomin’ Sexy in the process.
Have you experienced weight bias? How have you overcome it? Leave a comment or contact me through our contact form and start paving your way to glorious self-love.