I love these “I Stand” PSAs for HAES. You can search Google images or Pinterest for more examples but for now I want to talk about this one and why it resonates with me.
I wasted a lot of time waiting to start my life. I always thought that when I lost a certain amount of weight then I’d be happier and more comfortable in my skin. I’d have more energy and be more flexible so I could have more fun. On some level, though not a conscious one at the time, I thought I deserved less in the mean time. It was my own fault (so my thinking went) that I couldn’t have fun, my own fault that I was too fat to do the things I wanted to do.
And then I found the HAES movement and I began to realize that I don’t have to wait. I can live life to the fullest RIGHT NOW!
I started reading blogs written by people who were fit, active, healthy and also fat. All of my favorite bloggers had pictures and stories of themselves breaking down stereotypes and doing fantastic things like ballet, advanced yoga, running marathons. These were all people doing these amazing physical things not because they should or because they were punishing themselves but because they love it. But, as I previously shared, I don’t love it. And that’s okay.
But does that mean it’s okay to just not do it?
Well, yes and no. If you are comfortable with forgoing exercise all together I say go for it. Plenty of people, of all body types, don’t exercise. They are happy with that choice, happy with how they feel and I think that’s great. But I am not one of those people. I have Type 2 Diabetes. When my blood sugar is under control I feel better. I have more energy, my muscles and joints are less stiff, I have fewer headaches, my menstrual cycle is less painful. Exercise is an important component of maintaining healthy blood sugar. So, it is certainly okay not to eat right and exercise; these things do not define our worth as human beings. But what I’m slowly realizing is that it’s also okay to do even if I don’t love it.
It always comes back to balance. We can run ourselves into the ground chasing a body that may or may not feel good. We can also decide that it’s all too much and that we are going to do whatever feels good in the moment. Both of those are choices that I’ve made in the past. I was still myself. Still a good friend, wife, mom, daughter. Still creative, loving, inquisitive and introspective. I was still me. Those choices didn’t affect who I am but they did affect how I feel.
Reading stories and having discussion with other people within the HAES community had left me feeling as if exercising when I didn’t want to was a bad thing; it’s all wrapped up in self-punishment and thin obsession. I have been continuously trading in one prescription for healthy behavior for another for most of my adult life. First I was convinced I needed to lose weight at any cost. Then I was convinced I needed to just do what felt good in the moment. Then I was convinced I needed to find movement that I love and break down stereotypes. I’m done with it all. I’m no longer listening to what works for others. I’m listening to my body and to the science I trust. I’m defining health for myself.
I know which foods give me energy and which leave me lethargic and/or achy. I know which yoga poses and cardio I can like, though never love, that also help me maintain blood sugar control. I know what sleep patterns help me be at my best. I know that when I push myself too hard or chastise myself for perceived failings that it impacts my mental and emotional health which are just as important as my physical health.
At the end of the day it all comes back to fun. I want to have fun in this body. I don’t want to waste any more time, energy or money trying to change it. I want my time, energy and money to be used for pleasure, not punishment. I want to wake up in the morning feeling energized and ready to face the world. I don’t have the perfect prescription for that yet but I know I’m only going to find it within myself.