As with any other advocacy, disparate opinions about body acceptance still persist. Though the main purpose of these body love gospels is to empower women to embrace their bodies no matter their size, shape, or weight, some people think this message promotes obesity, or to put it more bluntly, an excuse to get lazy and stay fat.
Being pioneers of the first ever body acceptance advocacy and blog in the country, my sister Dana and I have heard it all. We've been called "fat-enablers" and "lethargic fatties" who are merely trying to justify our size. We understand the accusations. After all, we see and understand how fat (and everything related to it) has been represented in mainstream media through the years.
But here's the thing: When we espouse accepting your body, we don't mean you should eat irresponsibly. When we say it's essential for every woman to love her body, we mean for her to love it from the inside out, to nourish it well, and to take good care of it. To us, "body acceptance" means you don't have to wait until you've shrunk your body to a certain size or look a certain way before it can finally deserve genuine TLC from you. Nope. We advocate loving your body NOW. Not after X numbers of pounds lost. Love your body radically, and from this should stem the strong desire to look after it. For ages, women have been too concerned with weight loss as the ultimate goal while dismissing the importance of health. This is why eating disorders are so rampant in teenage girls (I developed anorexia-bulimia at 16). Looks are prioritized way more than health, evident in the unrealistic ideals in every Photoshopped model we see in the media. This is why society refuses to believe a plump body can never be deemed beautiful and healthy, even if the woman who owns it nourishes her body well and lives an active lifestyle.
It's a fact: Health exists at every size. You can be fit and healthy whether you're a size 0 or 14, but this can only be attained with real body love, because hating yourself and your body for the way it looks only results in harmful, short-term methods to get thin.
You can love your body while changing it at the same time too. Change here means to change for the better, in terms of health and fitness, versus to change your body because you despise the way it looks. Loving your body means never comparing it to others, because it is a fact that our diversity as women means sexiness doesn't have to be standardized, the one lie most media pushes us to believe. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and that's how we're meant to be. Loving your body means embracing what you are now, fat or skinny, and making better choices with the food you fuel it with, wearing nice clothes that show off your beautiful figure, and relishing every activity you can do with it.
This is what genuine body love is. Love nourishes, protects, celebrates, and forgives. Now if you translate "accepting your body" as letting yourself go, then your issue isn't body love, but how you even define love in the first place.
This story originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine, July 2014.
* Minor edits have been made by Cosmo.ph editors