Deer, Horse or Bull…Health at Every Size by Shanti Gowans
The beauty-obsessed world perpetuates the idea that happiness, health, and the ability to be loved are dependent upon how we look. Body insecurity is rampant, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s time to challenge the poisonous beliefs about food, weight, self-image and self-worth, show every body respect, and get real about inequalities and health.
Weight loss is not the be-all or the end-all keys to health. In the mad dash to shrink our bodies, many of us get so caught up in searching for the perfect diet, exercise program, treatments or surgical techniques that we lose sight of our original goal: improved health and well-being.
Popular methods for weight loss don’t get all of us there, and lead many people to feel like failures when they can’t match unattainable body standards. It’s time for a cease-fire in the war around body image issues, so that we can overcome our culture’s shame and distress. The epidemic is not obesity. Poverty and oppression, including racism, sexism, ageism, transgenderism, homophobia, and classism affect our life’s opportunity, our feelings of self-worth, and even influence our metabolism. The real crisis lies in the toxic stigma attached to certain body types and the impact of living with these inequalities, and not the numbers shown on the bathroom scales.
We’ve been convinced that happiness is something that comes only once we hit our target weight, get those washboard abs, shrink ourselves down and change every part of ourselves. So many people spend their entire lives chasing thinness by dieting, binging, purging themselves either by vomiting or taking laxatives with their weight yo-yoing out of control, spiralling into anorexia, bulimia, anxiety, depression, and even suicidal tendencies before they reach some even more serious illnesses.
The body is not the problem. It’s how we’ve been taught to see our bodies that’s the problem. We need a new way of seeing the truth about ourselves, to shift our perception around food, our bodies and life in general, to live in a world where every body is celebrated.
It is time for all of us to stop believing the lies we’ve been fed, and start demystifying the common, damaging myths and misinformation about what it means to be beautiful that we are bombarded with every day, and that many of us believe without questioning. It isn’t about believing that your body looks good, it is knowing that your body is good, regardless of how it looks. We are all good enough as we are. Take your power back. Hating the way you look, or being at war with your body cannot be your solution. Perhaps the best way to win the war against your body, is to give up the fight.
Ayurvedic health isn’t about promoting weight gain. It’s simply about understanding your body type, accepting all body types, loving yourself by taking care of your physical and mental health, and enjoying life. If you are new to this science, be warned, it is mind altering and challenges even the most self aware person to look deeper into the social conditioning that we are ALL a part of. To build a world that works for everyone, we must first make the radical decision to love every facet of ourselves. Human beings are a varied and divergent group of people, with all manner of beliefs, morals, and bodies. Systems of oppression thrive on our inability to make peace with our differences and injure the relationship we have with our own bodies.
In this connection,
I invite you to question your current belief system around the diet culture and unrealistic perceptions about beauty.
- How do you feel about your body?
- Have you ever stayed home from a social activity, or not taken other opportunities because of concern about how you have looked?
- Have you ever judged someone because of how they looked or dressed?
- Have you ever had difficulty concentrating on a task because you were self-conscious about your appearance?
Dieting doesn’t work. Not long term. In fact, our bodies are hardwired against it. But each time our diets fail, instead of considering that maybe our ridiculously low-carb diet is the problem, we wonder what’s wrong with us. It’s time we called a spade a spade: constantly trying to eat the smallest amount possible is a miserable way to live, and it isn’t even working. So ditch it.
Ayurveda offers a simple path, away from the inherent flaws of dieting and the diet culture, and shares powerful and practical advice about how to heal our physical, emotional, and mental relationship with food. Move away from the empty promises around image sold by the media, advertisers, the fitness, beauty and weight-loss industries, towards one of self-reflection and self-compassion, which offer an alternative vision for redefining beauty.
Losing weight is not your life’s purpose. It is empowering to see the world through the lens of more than just a body. Escape the cult around thinness, the diet trap, the arguments from presumed authorities, disinformation campaigns, half-baked lies, information that is left out, and misdirections, and understand it for what it is; bad health advice masquerading in pseudo-scientific jargon, that has been formulated by a food advertising industry that is intentionally trying to confuse consumers. Every one of us deserves to have a happy, healthy relationship with food and with our bodies. We need to see and accept that the distortions we have around our self-image and our weight-stigma as being the prejudice and hatred that it really is, and promulgate the lies from the diet culture and give ourselves permission to eat all foods.
What is the secret anti-diet? Eat. Whatever you want. Trust that your body knows what it is doing. And don’t forget to rest, breathe, and be kind to yourself.
Ayurveda endorses health and self-esteem for people of every size. The body is not an apology. Tune into your body’s expert guidance. Find the joy in movement. Eat what you want, when you want, choosing pleasurable foods that help you feel good. You can feel great in your body right now
Food is a major determining factor for your health, and is one of the main tools you have at your disposal. Sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent tastes tantalise the taste buds. The qualities and potencies within food help metabolise it, converting it into what ultimately transforms into you. We can’t ignore the post digestive effects and special qualities that food imparts on the body either. To live on rice, beans, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit and so on, doesn’t cost any more than living on pre-packaged garbage. In fact, it costs less. Nobody is saying that eating like this is good, or that this food will cure diseases, but it sure has a good track record of reversing many diet related diseases. Furthermore, if you are concerned about your health and want a healthier body, it is a good way to start to know what your body runs well on, and why.
Most importantly, with this renewed understanding about health and wellbeing for your unique constitution, Ayurveda lays out an action plan that arms you with the skills you need to reconnect with your whole self, and to free yourself from the constraints of self-objectification. It also gives you the permission to embrace all that you are, right now; and that is perfect.
Your body is an instrument, not an ornament.
Ayurveda invites you to reconnect with the radical origins of your mind and body and celebrate our collective, enduring strength. As we awaken to our own universal majesty and shake off the indoctrinated body shame, we feel inspired to awaken others too and to interrupt the systems that perpetuate body shame and oppression against all bodies. When we start acting from this truth on a global scale, we will usher in the transformative opportunity of radical self-love, which is the opportunity for a more just, equitable, and compassionate world – for us all.
As our invaluable guide and teacher, the body is an indispensable resource for us, at any age, to help us connect with ourselves better, value ourselves, love ourselves, and ultimately, be ourselves.