Can Body Positivity & Weight Loss Work Together?

When you think about weight loss, body love isn't usually the first thing that comes to mind.

four women with different body types wearing workout clothes and smiling

So much of the conversation around losing weight is rooted in shame, diet culture, and unrealistic "before and after" photos. But, what if we reframed the way we think about weight loss?

Instead of body hatred, what if we approached weight loss from a place of body positivity? Instead of thinking of our bodies as something to be "fixed," what if we saw them as something to be nurtured and cared for?

It's possible to want to lose weight and love your body, but it takes a different mindset. Let's explore some body positive weight loss strategies that can help you feel better in your skin while working towards your health goals.

What Is Body Positivity?

The body positive movement is all about loving your body just the way it is. It's about recognizing that everybody is beautiful and unique and rejecting the construct of the "perfect" body type. 

The movement has gained a lot of traction in recent years, as more and more people are becoming comfortable with their own bodies and aware of the dangers of diet culture.

Can You Lose Weight and Still Be Body Positive?

There are many different views when answering this question, but the simple answer is yes—you can lose weight and be body positive at the same time. The trick is to focus on your health over numbers. Think about how you want to feel in your body rather than what you want your body to look like.

Some believe that any desire to lose weight is inherently body-negative. These people and activists are experts in their field, and they make valid points that weight loss is often rooted in diet culture and body shaming. And they're right—many weight loss journeys are based on deprivation and punishment to achieve an unrealistic ideal.

Diet culture tells us that we should constantly strive to lose weight and that thinner bodies are better than heavier ones. This is clearly harmful and untrue. The size of someone's body does not give you any information about their health or who they are as an individual.

But just because diet culture is harmful doesn't mean that all desire to lose weight is body-negative. Weight loss with a body positive foundation can be an act of self-love instead of punishment. It's about making choices that will make you feel good in your body, not about adhering to some unrealistic standard of beauty. Freedom from a diet mentality is a huge part of body positivity.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Read more about </strong> <a href="/blog/diet-culture-weight-bias">how diet culture feeds weight bias</a>.</p>

two female hikers looking out over a scenic view in the woods
A positive body image can help improve self-esteem and overall health.

9 Body Positive Weight Loss Tips

The following tips can help you lose weight in a body positive way. Just find the ones that speak to you.

1. Focus on Your Why

Since body positivity is about losing weight for reasons deeper than appearance, it's essential to focus on your why. 

Why do you want to lose weight? What are your goals? Are you hoping to improve your health? Reduce pain or have more energy? All of these reasons are valid, and they can help keep you motivated for long-term changes.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong> <a href="/blog/sustainable-weight-loss">the top benefits of sustainable weight loss</a>.</p>

2. Find Markers Other than the Scale

Here's the truth, weight is only one way to measure success on your body positive weight loss journey. The number on the scale doesn't always reflect your overall health, fitness level, or how you feel in your body.

Instead of fixating on a number, find other markers of success. You can look at inches lost or how you fit in your clothes. Maybe you feel stronger or can do more push-ups than before. You can also track lab changes like blood sugar over time (since weight loss is linked to improved metabolic health).1

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn more about </strong> <a href="/blog/metabolic-health">metabolic health and how to improve it</a>.</p>

3. Think About What You Can Add Instead of Remove

When you're trying to lose weight and remain body positive, it can be helpful to focus on what you can add to your lifestyle instead of what you need to take away.

Think about all the gorgeous fresh fruits and vegetables you can add to your diet. Maybe you want to start cooking more meals at home or add a daily walking routine. Put these front and center instead of worrying about what you need to cut out. 

Focusing on what you can add will help you to create sustainable changes that you can stick with long-term rather than restrictive diets or habits that are harder to maintain.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong> <a href="/blog/fruits-vegetables-colors">eating colorful produce for optimal health</a>.</p>

4. Choose Joyful Movement

Too often, people think of exercise as a punishment—something they have to do to "earn" their food or lose weight. But this kind of thinking is body negative and will only lead to burnout.

Instead, focus on finding types of movement that you enjoy and make you feel good. This could be anything from hiking to dancing to yoga. The important thing is that you're doing something that makes you happy rather than something that feels like a chore.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn what science says about </strong> <a href="/blog/lose-weight-no-exercise#toc-key-takeaways">the relationship between exercise and weight loss</a>.</p>

5. Make Peace with Food

Food should be enjoyable, not stressful. If you're constantly worrying about what you're eating and feeling guilty after meals, something's got to give. This tip is not easy for everyone, especially if your relationship with food is wrapped up in restriction and yo-yo dieting.

Be kind to yourself and try working on letting go of the idea that some foods are "good" and others are "bad." Nearly all types of food can fit into a healthy diet, and you shouldn't feel guilty for enjoying your favorite foods. You can make the choices that work for your life.

overhead view of wood table with a large variety of food
Instead of judging foods as good or bad, make nourishment and quality of life your primary goals.

6. Understand Weight Loss Is Not About Discipline (or Lack of)

Diet culture and weight bias equate weighing more means to a lack of willpower or laziness. But this couldn't be further from the truth.

Many factors contribute to someone's weight, including genetics, metabolism, body composition, and more. And many people who struggle with weight have tried time and time again to lose weight, only to find that it's not as simple as eating less and moving more.

If weight loss hasn't been easy for you, know that it has nothing to do with willpower—other factors are at play. And don't be afraid to seek help from a registered dietitian or another health professional who can help guide you.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong> <a href="/blog/bmi">why BMI isn't a good measure of health</a>.</p>

7. Shift from Short to Long-Term Thinking

One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight is to focus on short-term results. Crash diets might help you lose weight in the short term, but they're not sustainable—and they can actually lead to long-term weight gain.2

Instead of thinking about what you need to do for the next few weeks, focus on making changes you can stick with for the long haul. These changes will lead to sustainable weight loss and a healthier, happier you.

Yes, this may mean losing weight more slowly, but it also means you're more likely to keep the weight off for good.3

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong> <a href="/blog/average-weight-loss-per-week">healthy weight loss per week</a>.</p>

8. Practice Gratitude for Your Body

It's not always easy to love your body – but it's important to practice gratitude for what your body can do rather than focus on its appearance.

Think about all the amazing things your body does for you every day. It helps you move, breathe, think, and feel. It's strong, resilient, and capable. Be grateful for your body and all it does for you – even if it doesn't look how you want it to.

9. Find a Support Group, Online Community, or App for Support

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to find a body positive support group or online community. These people will understand what you're going through and can offer encouragement and advice.

Your peers or coaches can be a great source of motivation—seeing others succeed can help you to see that it's possible for you, too. And knowing that you're not alone in this journey can make it feel a bit less daunting.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Read about the </strong> <a href="/blog/foods-for-mental-health">foods that support mental health</a>.</p>

How Can a CGM Help With Body-Positive Weight Loss Efforts?

If you're working on body positive weight loss, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) can be a helpful tool. A CGM is a small device you wear on your body that continuously measures your blood sugar levels. 

For people with diabetes, a CGM can help to keep blood sugar levels in check and avoid dangerous highs and lows. But even if you don't have diabetes, a CGM can be a helpful tool for body positive weight loss. 

A CGM tells you exactly how your blood sugar responds to the food you eat, so you can make informed choices. It's another way to track progress away from the scale. Making changes based on blood sugar response could lead to healthier eating habits.

A CGM can also help keep you motivated. Seeing your blood sugar levels improve can be a great source of encouragement and help you stick with your healthy eating and exercise plan. 

Final Thoughts on Body Positivity and Weight Loss

Losing weight and remaining body positive is possible—but it can take time to switch the way you think about weight loss, especially if you've been on a dieting merry-go-round for many years. 

Be kind to yourself and focus on making sustainable changes that you can stick with for the long haul.  Remember that you are more than your body, and your worth is not determined by your pant size. And finally, don't hesitate to reach out for support when you need it.

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References

  1. Kong, D. X., Xiao, Y. X., Zhang, Z. X., & Liu, Y. B. (2020). Study on the Correlation between Metabolism, Insulin Sensitivity and progressive weight loss change in Type-2 Diabetes. Pakistan journal of medical sciences, 36(7), 1523–1528. https://doi.org/10.12669/pjms.36.7.3027
  2. Maclean, P. S., Bergouignan, A., Cornier, M. A., & Jackman, M. R. (2011). Biology's response to dieting: the impetus for weight regain. American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology, 301(3), R581–R600. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.00755.2010
  3. Feig EH, Lowe MR. Variability in Weight Change Early in Behavioral Weight Loss Treatment: Theoretical and Clinical Implications. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017;25(9):1509-1515. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.21925

About the Author

Caitlin Beale Headshot
Caitlin Beale is a registered dietitian and nutrition writer with a master’s degree in nutrition. She has a background in acute care, integrative wellness, and clinical nutrition.
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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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