Off the Rack ~ Reconciling Weight Loss & Body Acceptance

My husband and I recently decided we needed to make more of an effort to lead healthier lives. We set goals of eating better food (less pasta and meat, more veggies and fruits) and going to the gym twice a week (it’s located in our apartment building, so there’s really no excuse not to meet that bare minimum). It started about a month ago, so it was perfect timing for Hourglassy’s “Fit & Active October” series. And I was keeping up with that goal…until last week.

Unfortunately, a week ago, out of nowhere, my lower back was suddenly so debilitatingly painful that I could barely walk. Even now, sitting or standing for long periods is excruciating and it’s difficult (and painful again) to do much bending. For a few days, I actually had to have my husband help me dress because there was no way I could get socks on or tie my shoes.

I went to my primary care physician, and he thinks it’s a herniated disk. I have to go to more doctor appointments before anyone can really help me (physiatrist for an x-ray, then orthopedist for an MRI, then finally physical therapy if necessary), it takes several weeks to get each appointment, and I can only make each one if the previous doctor says I should. So it could be two months before I’m even able to start any course of therapy. The American health care system at its finest!

Anyway, the point is, my exercise regimen has been put on a major hold. I’m doing stretches every night and I’m on (non-narcotic) pain meds prescribed by the doctor, but I definitely don’t feel anywhere near ready to go back to the gym. So my contributions to this month’s theme may be a little slim.

However, there was one thing I was thinking about before my exercise plans went awry: How to reconcile positive body image with the desire to lose weight for health reasons.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’m currently the heaviest I’ve ever weighed, but also have the highest self-esteem I’ve ever had. On the other hand, after several months of hot weather and wearing nothing but dresses, I recently pulled on a pair of jeans that I hadn’t worn since the spring and discovered that I could barely close them. It was a bit of a wake-up call that even though I like my body, I could still stand to make better choices, and that includes losing just a few pounds—not enough to visibly change my shape, maybe 3 – 5 so my existing clothes will continue to fit properly.

Still, there’s something about the effort to lose weight that makes me feel like I’m giving in to societal pressure, or turning my back on body acceptance. I have to keep reminding myself that health is the most important thing, and I shouldn’t maintain bad habits just to be stubborn or in some misguided attempt to make a point.

It’s very frustrating. As a woman, I feel like we’re either told that we’re fat and disgusting, or if we try to make improvements then we’re vain and self-hating.

I guess I just need to tune out everything around me and do what’s best for myself no matter what!



  1. Oh man, I feel you!!! I have a few post-baby pounds hanging around and a lot of pre-baby clothes that I would like to wear again. However I’m reluctant to start any sort of weight loss regimen because I feel like I’m giving in to The Man! I had a hard time wearing makeup for a while recently for the same sort of reason. If I was happy with myself with no makeup on, then if I ever put any on I was vain, conceited, and giving in to societal pressure. There is SO much pressure from both the hippie/granola/self love side and the perfection-seeking/stereotypical side. I totally didn’t expect to uncover that on my path to self-acceptance!
    But you’re right. We have to do what is best for ourselves independent of what anyone might think. It’s just hard to figure out what that is, when we’re constantly being bombarded with opinions.

  2. I’m sorry about your back. And what you are telling about doctor appointments is awful (and actually I think that your med. insurance plan is a problem, not the total system, mine allows me just to go directly to a specialist with quite reasonable co-payment).
    And there is a good chance that you wan’t need one when it become available. Most back pains just go away even untreated.

    I don’t know what doctor told you (sometimes they don’t tell much), but herniated disc alone usually doesn’t give that effect, it’s usually inflammation and spasm, so I hope your meds are not just painkillers, but some selective NSAID like Meloxicam, if you were not prescribed that you might ask for spasmolytic, it usually helps a lot.

    As for losing weight and body positivism: it will be really bad idea stop caring about your body (and loosing weight for health reasons is care) if you love it, so people will think that you love about it! I think that true body positivism is about love and care no matter what and no matter what somebody might say.

  3. I tried on a bunch of my winter pants last night and yeah, they’re a little tight. I’m so proud of myself for automatically going straight to “hell, yeah! I have strong thighs again!” and laughing with my boyfriend about some sizes not even zipping instead of going straight to feeling bad about myself. It’s taken so many years to get here. 😀

    What has really worked for me is to focus on ok being strong and healthy and how my clothes fit – if I focus on pounds, it screws with my head. I want to get a Y membership for the next month before I have surgery to get as strong as I possibly can beforehand.

  4. I too feel your pain; I’ve had chronic back pan for about 7 years now caused by a fall downstairs. Any kind of exercise irritates it. Consequently, I’ve put on about 25 lb over that time period. And it’s darn hard to get off, especially as I want to soothe the unfairness of life by eating chocolate. However, I try daily to be grateful that I’m alive and I can walk and that I’m so much more than my weight. Just eat healthily and love yourself. You are beautiful!