What did you do to get your weight off,” my younger sister asked. I smiled as I looked up from the computer and at my sister. I’m always excited to share whatever information have on proper diet and exercise. I was anticipating a conversation about awesome flavors, cool exercises, and why developing good habits early on is such a good idea.

“Well, I don’t have a set menu to give you but,” I paused trying to figure the best way to talk to a 16 year old with a short attention span. Before I could continue she went into a list of all of the foods she needed to give up, pointing out all of the things on her body that were too big.

My smile immediately changed.

“If you want to talk about health we can,” I said. “But if you’re going to pick on yourself and compare yourself to other people, we can stop the conversation right here.”

Her facial expression said she didn’t like my tone. My tone said I wasn’t rocking with her reasoning.

I instantly flashed back to a conversation with my mother from years ago where, despite what my doctor had just told me, my mother sat trying to convince me that I didn’t need to lose weight.

My mom was trying to keep me away from the yo-yo diets and the accompanying self-esteem crashes. She wanted to keep me away from the disappointment of working out really hard just to look like someone who had been Photoshopped beyond recognition. I wanted my sister to be in love with herself enough to workout and eat healthy, instead of working out and eating healthy to get someone else’s body…one she could love.

A few minutes later I realized that I might have been doing too much projecting. I offered to talk to my sister about some great food choices. But I tried to avoid any reference to beauty and size. It seemed damn near impossible.

How do you encourage someone to live a healthier lifestyle without telling them that there is something physically wrong with the way they look? Is it possible to encourage positive body image while encouraging them to lose weight, especially when they are not at the point of sickness?

How do we break this connection between health and beauty? And if we did, how could our community benefit?

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  • grateful

    i think people would care less about health if it wasn’t connected to beauty. they wouldn’t really care until they were debilitated. i mean heck, just look at the bc, women are scared of losing weight because they are afraid of losing their #sses.

    • Vee

      Grateful, you made some great points. I have heard many women saying the refuse to loose weight or any extra weight for health reason for fear off losing their butt.
      You can always tone and tighten your butt with squats, lunges and various exercises. That’s a bunch of bull to me. I have heard of some women not wanting to work out not to sweat out their hair but they have diabetes taking insulin and or high blood pressure medicine it’s crazy that a messed up way of thinking.

      A former big girl myself I used to weigh 250lbs 9 yrs ago I lost the weight with the tried and true diet and exercise. It has not been easy my weight would fluctuate over the years to 150-176 now I am at 141lbs and trying to lose more weight. And I did not ‘lose’ my butt because doing the proper exercise and diet kept my rear tone and nice LOL but seriously we need to put our health first and foremost if we don’t who will?

    • Dreaming

      Vee That is another thing that needs to be changed – In the BC, the femininity/sexuality of a girl/woman is correlated with how well kept her hair is, as well as lenght. But another thing is that, with Black hair, it takes time to do and I guess some women don’t want to have to spend time redoing their hair every time they work out.

  • Dreaming

    Yes, I think in order for the connection to break between health and beauty, would be for our society to stop promoting it that way. You know, I tell people all of the time that just because someone is thin, it doesn’t mean they are healthy or in shape.

    As far as the community…I think one place [we] can start is buy teaching young boys that they are to not offer their unsolicited opinion on a girl’s body.

    • Anon

      I run. I swim. I take dance classes. I bike ride, and on occasion, go wall rock climbing.

      I NEVER see all of these big healthy women that you and purple key chain have been nattering on about for the past few days in those places. 9/10 that thin person you see IS healthier than the obese person you see. There’s a reason you don’t have very many obese 80 year olds. They don’t make it that far. Are you very young? Because I’m late 20’s and I don’t know many women who can keep up that lie to themselves after age 25. They may be lying to others, but not themselves.

    • Vee

      I have heard of countless woman saying they won’t sweat out their hair do…excuses excuses they are ways around that. I wear a relaxer and my hair mid-length (I’m getting it cut shorter) and I wrap my hair and put a scarf over my heard and a baseball cap when I work out it works:)

      Like another poster mentioned it is all about eating healthy and being active.

    • @Anon- that’s cuz there is no such thing as big ad healthy and it legitimately irritates the hell out of me when people try and say otherwise. Grab 100 thin/ skinny people and another 100 fat/ overweight people and ask them to climb three flights of stairs. Guess which group the majority would be able to do it in the shortest amount of time and not be out of breath when/ if they finish.

    • Dreaming

      Anon Hold up! What are you talking about? I have NEVER nattered on about big, healthy women. For one thing, I am not even obese or overweight. Nor have I been talking about weight issues the last few days. You have me mistaken with someone else who comments on this website. I suggest you find out who made the comments that have you so upset and addressing the wrong person.

      Yes, overall a thin person will be healthier than one who is overweight/obese, but it’s not ALWAYS the case as some people believe, which is what I was trying to point out.

      And if it is any consolation to you – I don’t own a vehicle, so nearly all of my transportation is done by foot. Heck, I’ll walk a few miles to get somewhere instead of waiting for a bus. I rollerblade, too.

      Vee – Yes, I hear you. I am sure there are ways for a woman to work out without sweating out her hair. I don’t have that problem because my hair is natural, but I mostly wear it braided. I know it’s all about eating healthy and being active. You’re preaching to the choir on that one.

  • Casey B

    I think it’s important to focus on how we feel and look. This is not to say that we should encourage people to fit one particular mold, but that we should appreciate the way people’s bodies of all shapes and sizes look and encourage them to see that beauty too. People who are close to you telling you you are beautiful and seeing your beauty makes a world of difference when you are young.

    I don’t think it’s possible to encourage someone to lose weight if their weight is not hurting their health, and still support them in having a positive body image. Moving, eating well, listening to our bodies, and relaxing are important regardless of our sizes.

    I am really glad that you wrote this article and that people are exploring this.

    • grateful

      “I don’t think it’s possible to encourage someone to lose weight if their weight is not hurting their health…”

      ^^i think you just highlighted one of the biggest problems we have to deal with in regards to health. i would change that phrase to ;

      ‘i don’t think it’s possible to encourage someone to lose weight if their weight is not VISIBLY hurting their health…’

      so basically, people won’t deal with it until they have a heart attack or a stroke or are hit by Diabetes. people don’t want to be proactive about their health, they want to react when something big happens, and unfortunately for some, it will be too late.

      “I don’t think it’s possible to encourage someone to lose weight if their weight is not hurting their health, and still support them in having a positive body image.”

      i’m sure you know this is not being about a size 0,or being as skinny as possible, or being as “loaded” with as much junk as possible in certain areas, just about being healthy. and yes while i might agree that the media pushes one type of aesthetic as “healthy” , pushing the extreme opposite as “can also be healthy” when we know that’s more of an exception is not healthy either.

  • Mimi

    (sits in a lawn chair and drinks from a bottle of water. Checks watch.)
    5…4…3…2…

  • minna k.

    This is a good conversation.

    I think many women get into fitness based on trying to look a certain way. I am not much different. I can say from my experience much of my current motivation comes from wanting to get better for a fun experience or event. Someone has to be in shape to run a marathon, obstacle corse, climb rocks, learn to surf, dance in a serious competition. These can be great non beauty focuses to work towards.

    What kinds of adventure can my body take me through? Regardless of how I look in the mirror, am I stronger, faster, and better?

    • minna k.

      I think its important for everyday women to even recognize the value in being strong, coordinated, fast, and full of stamina. Those goals are more important than dress size.