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“I don’t care what you look like as long as you’re healthy”
We’ve all heard it. Many of us have nodded along in agreement, quietly disengaging from the well-intentioned person saying it. I wonder how many of you stay quiet, like myself. I feel the words bubbling up in my chest every time, but they never escape. “I’m not healthy, can I still love my body?”. I know the answer. I know it deep down inside of me, but I still question it.
Many of you reading this may also understand the concept that health is subjective and can’t be decided or determined by your body size, your BMI, or even how much you work out. Many of us know that health is different for everyone. The battle lies in not looking at health as an end goal, or as a goal at all, and ending the belief that someone’s health determines their goodness, their wholeness as a human being.
I am not healthy. I have not been healthy for a long time. I love the hell out of my unhealthy body.
I stopped striving for health about a year ago. I started questioning what I thought about people who were in outwardly presenting “unhealthy” bodies. I thought about my grandfather before he died, I thought about friends in wheelchairs, I thought about people with chronic illnesses. I realized, I have not been a patient person, and perhaps I have not been kind. I can vividly think of many times that I have judged someone for “not doing enough to better themselves”. There were several times that I chose to not love someone because they were not working hard enough to be their “best”. I’m not telling you this as some admission of guilt, I’m telling you this because it’s real. Because it’s where I chose to start healing.
Often times when we work toward self love we see things we do to ourselves reflected in how we treat others. A long time ago I quit commenting on how people dressed, because I knew that it was manifesting itself as judgement against my own personal style (I mean I also did it so I would be less of a dick, but the self love part was pretty important). When I realized the pattern I had developed toward other people and their perceived “best” selves, I knew something had to change. Just as I did when I wanted to stop being so harsh about my own style, I started by practicing a new attitude toward others. While it may be easy for some of you to see where I was failing, it was difficult for me. I began by challenging my idea of what someone’s “best” is. I started by realizing that someone’s “best” can change every day, and then I recognized that it doesn’t matter if I deem what someone else is doing as their “best”. Why have we decided that someone must want to be be “better” to be worthy of our love? What within ourselves can’t accept and love people as they are?
A person is not obligated to me or anyone else to be healthy. I am not obligated to be healthy. In fact, I may never be “healthy”. I may never overcome my disordered eating. I may never be “better”. And maybe you never will either. And that’s ok. We’re ok. In fact, we’re perfect. Right now.
My abilities, our abilities, do not determine our worth, and never have. They have been placed before us by others as a scapegoat for judgement. Recognizing this has created a new level of self acceptance and body positivity for me.
I am unhealthy. I am whole.
EDIT: I have received a lot of feedback on this article and I would like to challenge you to consider what I am and am NOT saying in this piece. I do not believe in black and white dichotomous thinking. I do not believe that being healthy is better than being unhealthy, just as I don’t believe that being unhealthy is better than being healthy. I believe that ALL WAYS OF BEING are valid, and worthy of praise, and self love, and acceptance, and respect. I believe that many of us fight hard for a level of health that may not be attainable for ourselves and then mentally beat ourselves up because we can’t reach it. I believe that no matter what my past, present, or future may look like I want to love myself NOW. As I am. And my unhealthy body is part of that.