Friday 28 April 2017

About Body Positivity

Do you know what Bopo stands for?

I didn't either. Until I came across the absolutely amazing, inspiring Megan, aka. Bodyposipanda. Megan has successfully conquered anorexia, has a hugely popular account on Instagram, and will soon release a book about her story of beating anorexia and falling in love with her body. 

Bopo stands for 'Body Positivity'. In short, it simply means to be happy with the body you have right now
Not 5 pounds from now. 
Not after you completed that 30-day workout challenge. 
Not after you cut out sugar and carbs. 

Sounds simple?

It isn't. For most women, it's the hardest thing in the world

We have been conditioned from early childhood on that our bodies are not good enough. It's the raised eyebrows when we ask for a second piece of cake, the implied "you really shouldn't eat any cake, let alone two pieces". It's the magazines urging us to get "bikini-ready", because apparently our bodies are not presentable the way they are. It's the diet culture we live in, where we think it's normal to regularly starve ourselves, slowly destroying our body's metabolism and its ability to function properly.
We talk about "being bad" when we order dessert, about "having to make up for it" when we ate a large meal, like it's something to be ashamed of.  

I used to be self-conscious about my body for as long as I can remember.
Growing up, we had a set of petite, identical twins in our neighbourhood, and we played with them every day. They were dainty and delicate, whereas my sister and I were sturdy and ordinary. We had thighs and bellies, where the twins had tiny limbs and concave stomachs. 
We were convinced that our bodies were less attractive, and always felt self-conscious in bathing suits or shorts.

My mom was on a diet all throughout my childhood. She would diet when she was bored, proclaiming airily that she 'needed a new goal to focus on'. Half a slice of toast was her normal breakfast during her diets, making me feel like a pig for eating two whole slices with peanut butter and jam.  
Still, I was lucky; I was of average size. My sister, unfortunately, didn't get away that easy. She loved to eat, and was sturdy since she was a baby. 
As early as 8 years old, my mom tried to put her on a diet. Both were miserable: My sister for constantly being pestered about her weight; my mom for not being more successful. 

My sister and I differ in our body types: I have a big bum, strong thighs, and a small(ish) waist. 
My sister has long, slim legs, and tends to keep all her weight in her midsection.
We didn't choose this; that's just how we were made.
I was fiercely jealous of her thin legs; she envied my slightly slimmer physique. 

While my body was average as a child, I accidentally acquired coltish long limbs and a taut stomach after a growth spurt during adolescence. Boys began to notice, an older girl made me a compliment about my figure, and my mom couldn't have been prouder. It felt so good, that I was determined to do everything in my power to keep this body. 

Thus began a 15-year obsession with being less. I always tried to lose a few pounds. However, unlike other girls who could drop weight seemingly effortlessly, I wasn't very good at it. Being hungry made me feel lightheaded and nauseous, and I always ended up eating more than I would have if I'd listened to my body.
Due to this starvation/overeating-cycle, I started putting on the pounds. By age 19, I was a good 20 pounds heavier than I had been only a few months before, and I started to hate my body.

I will never forget how horrified and ashamed I was when an old acquaintance of my parents' came for a visit, seeing me for the first time in three years. Tact wasn't her strength, and as soon as she laid eyes on me, she exclaimed: "Oh my god, what happened to you? You gained so much weight!" I blushed furiously, feeling humiliated and worthless.  

I obsessively read books about anorexia and bulimia, secretly wishing I could get just a touch of bulimia. I knew that I was way too undisciplined for anorexia, but bulimia? Just a little? It seemed like the only way to stop me from gaining more weight, something I was terrified of.
But as it turned out, I couldn't make myself throw up. Sitting in front of the toilet, sweaty and teary-eyed, trying to stick my finger down my throat and failing, was one of the lowest points of my life.

I'm not telling you this to shock you or make you feel sorry for me.
I'm telling you because I'm convinced that most women have similar stories. On the website of the Canadian Women's Foundation are some startling statistics:

Over 50% of Canadian girls wish they were someone else.
50% of girls in grade 6 are on a diet; it increases to 60% by grade 10.
Only 14% of girls in grade 10 say that they are self-confident.
9 out of 10 girls say they feel pressure from the media to be thin.

With numbers like these, the Body Positivity movement is more important than ever. It seems that we are in dire need of realizing that we don't have to look a certain way to love ourselves. It should be the most natural thing in the world to be thankful for the body we have, yet it seems almost radical. As if by saying that we like our bodies, we may appear vain or full of ourselves. What BS!

Worrying about weight and being skinny is the biggest waste of time. It kills our joy for life and our confidence. Diets take up so much head space, there is little left for creativity and individuality. Diets make us boring - it's not much fun to hang out with someone who doesn't want to eat, who keeps obsessing about the size of their thighs, and who has nothing else going on in life than counting calories.

I wasted 15 years of my life being stuck in a vicious cycle of overeating, starving myself, over-exercising and hating my body. A body that is healthy, strong, and beautiful.
Learning to love my body the way it is is one of the most radical acts of self love I have ever done.

I'm hairy, I have cellulite, I have an ever-expanding collection of small scars, my chin is slowly turning into two, and the laugh lines and frown lines in my face are getting deeper every day.

And I love myself. I really like the way I look. That doesn't mean that I don't try to eat healthy most of the time, or don't exercise. I enjoy going for walks and I love yoga, but I don't do these activities to lose weight. I do them because I love how they feel, and because I want to honour my healthy body by letting it do what it does best: Move.

For more inspiration, here are some of the Bopo warriors whom I admire:
Dana Falsetti
Kenzie Brenna
Charli Howard
And of course, the mega-babe and bopo queen, Megan Jayne Crabbe.

If you want to feel better about yourself, check these kickass ladies out! They are truly amazing, and they are doing wonderful, important work.

Love yourself first, ok? You are worth it.

xoxo Miriam



  1. "Love yourself first, ok?" You are worth it! And I am worth it! And my daughter is worth it! I've been making a conscious effort to not talk about negatively about my body or anyone else's since I had Ava. I want her to grow up knowing the human body is strong and strong is beautiful and strong comes in all different shapes and sizes. Picture perfect is NOT perfect. Real is perfect.

    1. Beautifully said!
      I remember talking to my girlfriends about diets and how to lose weight, exchanging tips like eating packets of sugarfree gum, because the sorbitol allegedly acts as a laxative. What a waste of time and creativity! We could have talked about a million more interesting things, like books and movies and dreams and ambitions. But the size of our bodies and the number on the scale seemed the most important topic in the world. I'm so glad that you're teaching Ava about the beauty of diversity! It will help her so much to grow into a confident and happy woman.

  2. I love this post Miriam. We all need to cut ourselves some slack. I just did the math and my rock bottom downward spiral was Christmas 2011. January 2012 started 3 years of daily calorie counting, running and obsessing over the scale. It took until 2015 to start to get a grip on what really mattered and find my joy. Shocking but skipping that slice of pie or cake on a holiday was not part of that plan! I am inspired to continue to speaking about this on my IG. I got some positive feedback from my post on FB on Saturday too.

  3. BoPo is and always has been hard for me. I have such an awareness that I need to get better at it and have made great strides, but I fear that it will be on ongoing battle that I will continue to struggle with. I am always working on it though. Glad you are in a much better place. It's amazing how easily our perception of self can be influenced by others.

    1. That's so true.
      The big breakthrough for me came when I started practicing yoga 2 years ago. It taught me an appreciation for my body that I never knew before.
      Experiencing how much it is capable of made me love it on a whole new level!
      I've also learnt a lot from my husband about being happy with oneself. He is so comfortable in his own skin, and that attitude fortunately rubbed off on me.
      I hope you will get there! It's such a waste of time to worry about the size and shape of our bodies. You are gorgeous just the way you are!


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