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What Does Body Acceptance Mean To You?

We live in a time when people are paying more attention to health and physical fitness. Childhood and adult obesity is at an all-time high, which can lead to Type-II Diabetes and other health concerns. Studies show that a sedentary lifestyle at home or at the office is unhealthy even if we exercise.

Nudism and naturism grew from the roots of a health-conscious and environmentally friendly lifestyle.  The ancient Greeks performed feats of strength and skill while nude during the first Olympics, the earliest documented form of nude recreation.  As the colonial era gave way to an independent United States of America, free thinkers such as Benjamin Franklin publicly lauded the benefits of daily naked walks, or as they were called, “air baths.” Other nudists of note included President John Quincy Adams, who regularly bathed nude in the Potomac, and Henry David Thoreau.  The health benefits of nudity, both physical and mental, were woven so deeply into the American fabric that the much beloved fictional characters of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn skinny-dipped with joy and abandon in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, arguably the quintessential great American novel of that time period. AANR has promoted both the physical and mental health benefits of nudity since its beginnings through policy and events such as the World Record Skinny-Dip. And one of the main tenets of nudism is “body acceptance.”

At the same time, we are inundated by unattainable images of beauty in the media and advertising. Although men are affected too, women and girls in particular are sent the message that unless you look like Kate Upton or Jennifer Lopez, you are not beautiful. Sometimes we read an article or blog post that describes nudists’ appearance in unflattering language, clearly based in ignorance and miles away from body acceptance.

So, what exactly is body acceptance? We read about it and we talk about it. But what does it really mean in the context of non-sexual nudity, and how do we achieve it? As nudists, we do not judge others by appearance but do we extend that way of thinking to ourselves?

It seems, at least to me, that body acceptance has an emotional as well as a physical component. Are we able to look in the mirror and accept ourselves without seeing the skinny or overweight adolescent we once were? Does body acceptance mean being content with our bodies the way they are without trying to attain at least a modest level of fitness or does it mean honoring our bodies enough that we see the importance of a healthy lifestyle? Does accepting our bodies mean shutting out the images of the supermodel du jour and being content with who we are? Or is the definition of body acceptance different for each of us?

Share your thoughts. What does body acceptance mean to you?


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19 Responses to What Does Body Acceptance Mean To You?

  1. Wesley Hazelton says:

    One person’s junk may be another person’s booty.

  2. Jeff says:

    This is a subject I brought up in group on Nudistclubhouse. It sparked a lot of conversation for several weeks.
    I understand what acceptance in Nudism means. However we are living in a world where obesity is exploding. For me personally I do not want to see obese nudists. Nudism is also about healthy choices and a healthy lifestyle. An obiese person with a 32 oz soda resting on their belly tells me that that person does not really buy into a healthyl lifestyle.
    After listening to the discussion on Nudistclubhouse I can say that most nudists also do not enjoy seeing obiese nudists.

    • Nic says:

      With all due respect to your aesthetic preferences, some things are better left unsaid. “Fat” or “obese” is not always within ones control. There are many other factors besides food and exercise involved in a person’s weight. Consider the person who appears large because they have excess fluid retention from congenital heart or kidney disease. I knew a child, who when she died, was so large, yet it was all from excess fluid retention due to a genetic abnormality which affected her ability to grow skin. So sad. BMI charts might have said she was obese, yet she had almost no fat on her.
      As for your soda remark, I do not believe it is for me to deny someone bodily autonomy by telling them what they ought to eat or not. I will add that I am vegetarian, and not overweight, in case you were wondering what I might look like. It is none of our business what other people choose to put in their bodies, or how they look.
      I cannot force my skin to tan or my body to gain weight proportionally. Some matters are beyond our control. Society would prefer we look a certain way, but aesthetic desires are a cultural construct and not always related to health. Please don’t judge others.

  3. Derrel says:

    I agree that there is both an emotional and a physical component to body expectance.

    I am a little over weight. Emotionally I accept this and don’t worry how I may look to others. With a history of diabetics I do not physically accept my body because I know that the diabetics would be easier to control if I lost some weight.

  4. Bill Bowser says:

    Regardless ot what reasons lie behind the origins of nudism (or “naturism”, as many prefer) there are now many reasons now why people participate. Undoubtedly body acceptance is important to some, for others, not so much. Those who find difficulty “accepting” their body and do nothing about it are incomprehensible to me, but it seems there are numerous people who have difficulty accepting various aspects of reality. My personal opinion, which I realize has little value to anyone, is that “body acceptance” is just so much nonsense.

  5. Robert Cameron says:

    The archilles heal for humans seems to be our need to feel affirmed, to be okay. Since so much of what we believe about ourselves is really a reflection of what others have said or how they have responded to us, we tend to invest a lot of value into the opinions of others. But, in the end, it is our own responsbility to affirm ourselves regardless of what others may think or do. One of the great gifts I hear many nudist say they receive as a nudist is a sense of self acceptance. Nature doesn’t make junk. Living life does gives wear and tear. Never, never ask me to believe that a woman missing a breast because of life saving surgery is somehow now broken. Yes, nature does experiment and sometimes we could be shocked into a new awareness by all the ways that nature does experiment. Most of us never see or imagine all of what that may be. Yet, as a community we pride ourselves on our ability to transcend and to accept and therefore affirm. In the giving, we receive and that process gives us a sense of self that speaks very highly of who we are. No shame, no guilt – a community that should proudly state that we are where our ancesters were and where our collected future should be going back towards.

  6. DrCJND says:

    The body acceptance I try to encourage in myself and others is to expose myself body, mind and spirit to who I am right now, in order to reach the next level in all areas. Without this examination, goal setting is unrealistic And ineffective

  7. Our advice to those who don’t wish to see ‘obiece’ (obese, right?) nudists is the same advice we give to those objecting to nudity at a nude beach; don’t look. It’s none of your business.

    For those still lacking any understanding of what body acceptance means in practice, please do us all a favor and pretend that you DO if you insist on hanging around with the rest of us who do. You know, nudists/naturists. 😉
    Good article.

  8. Michael Leon says:

    We can’t all look the same that is not how nature was intended to be. We need to accept that we are all different both mentally and physically. To accept your body and others is to understand that we live in a world of differences. No two people are exactly the same. Nature intended humanity to have differences.

  9. Sue says:

    Thanks Jeff, that didn’t take long. So much for body acceptance. Think I’ll just stay home. Have a nice day.

    • Nic says:

      Perhaps it is he who should remain indoors, so as not to offend his (culturally constructed) sensibilities 😉

  10. Louis says:

    Let me preface my comments by saying I am not a physician, nor do I have any formal training in human nutrition. As such, I state only my personal (but carefully considered) opinions. These ideas all originate from the authors noted at the end of this piece, and I am indebted to them for improving my own personal health, and that of numerous family members and friends.

    I have been reading, with some amusement, and also some disappointment, the recent series of articles in The Bulletin by Mr. Warne dealing with obesity. While Mr. Warne undoubtedly intends to be helpful in offering suggestions for weight control, I would suggest many of his assertions would be considered by many better-informed people as wrong or just plain silly. For example, in the June 2012 issue, he quotes “experts” from the Sugar Association (hardly an impartial source) as saying about sugar, “it is not really the villain here as there is nothing inherently unhealthy about it.” There are numerous folks in the nutrition world who would disagree with that statement, based on an established understanding of the effect of sugar consumption on insulin response. He later quotes a dietician who repeats the conventional wisdom idea that excess weight results for too much caloric intake. This is known as the “energy balance” theory; the only problem is there are numerous studies over the last 100-to-150 years that contradict this theory. In the August Bulletin, we got really silly, with the suggestion that we have to “trick” or “fool” our fat cells, as if they were thinking, scheming organisms.

    That said, discussion on this topic is certainly appropriate since the current state of the AANR membership mirrors that of American society as a whole, meaning far too many of us are seriously overweight. It is particularly ironic for the AANR membership to have this problem, given that the modern nudist movement was founded on principles of wellness and hygiene. Additionally, I believe our emphasis on “body acceptance” helps mask the problem and almost encourages a failure to recognize and deal with this serious health issue and all the myriad serious medical conditions that accompany it. You and I may “accept” your body in a spirit of community, good cheer, non-judgmentalism, and tolerance, but obesity remains a serious (perhaps mortal) threat to your health. “Body acceptance” won’t save you from Metabolic Syndrome.

    Each month in The Bulletin, and in our activities in camp, we see lots of smiling people with serious weight issues. Do these people choose to be obese? I believe in most cases, they do not, and would prefer to be of normal weight. The problem is not desire; I suspect many of these people have tried, perhaps repeatedly, the conventional wisdom “calories in, calories out” approach of extreme diets and draconian exercise regimens, and have found these methods unsustainable over the long term, and thus largely ineffective or even counter-productive, as exercise stimulates more of an appetite. I would suggest these folks are obese because they don’t understand why they are obese, and thus have no idea for how to get lean. What is needed is a new (actually, old) approach, one that recognizes the problem as one of hormonal and metabolic disturbance caused by one’s mode of eating. There is plenty of evidence that the bulk of the answer, for most people at least, is a proper diet, avoiding grains (especially wheat in all its forms), sugar, unhealthy heavily processed vegetable oils, fried foods, and easily digestible carbohydrates. In other words, avoiding what composes the bulk of the modern American diet. In place of these, we should eat meats, fish, leafy vegetables, some tubers, nuts, good quality cheese, etc.

    By being courageous enough to challenge the conventional wisdom on obesity, and to stop obsessing about dietary fat, and instead to start worrying (a lot) about carbohydrate, you may be amazed at your weight loss and banishment of “that stubborn belly fat”, particularly if your diet changes are combined with a sensible, moderate, and sustainable level of increased physical activity. All the authors listed below make a simple suggestion – faithfully try the dietary/activity changes suggested for a month or two or three, and if you don’t feel better and haven’t lost some weight (maybe quite a bit of weight), you can always go back to what you were doing before.

    I would challenge AANR to promote a return to our roots in the area of hygiene; let’s make 2013 the year to emphasize fitness and weight loss – – a return to health. For much more detailed information, I would suggest reference to the following:

    1. “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, M.D.
    2. “The Paleo Blueprint” by Mark Sisson
    3. “Why We Get Fat, and What To Do About It” by Gary Taubes
    4. “The Paleo Solution – The Original Human Diet” by Robb Wolf
    5. “Good Calories, Bad Calories – Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease” by Gary Taubes

  11. Pingback: What Does Body Acceptance Mean To You? -AANR | Nature Freedom

  12. angie says:

    for me it means accepting me the way I am not wanting to be thin and perfect it is hard to do but, I am getting there. Also not being intimidated by other women that are thin and tall

  13. Alexander Kennedy says:

    “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to accept the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” No matter how unhealthy I think they are, I cannot change anyone else’s life-style or physical condition; they are none of my business, and I will be happier if I accept them as they are. But if I know that my own life-style and my physical condition are unhealthy, I don’t need to accept them; I can change them if I am granted the courage to do it. It may be hard, and I may need to pray for the courage.

  14. To me, body acceptance is about knowing that when others see you, they acknowledge your imperfections as a normal part of life. Yes, nudism promotes body acceptance is something that everyone can understand.

  15. Nic says:

    To me, body acceptance is a two fold issue. First, it means to me that it is not my place to judge others’ bodies, precisely because those are *their* bodies. If I had no eyes with which to see, or hands with which to feel, would I judge their bodies? Probably not. Their health, their size, their genetic makeup, what they eat or don’t eat- these are none of my business. I believe that people ought to have dominion over their own bodies. I also acknowledge that some people live in ‘food deserts,’ and so have varying degrees of access to healthcare, food choices, etc. Shaming people into looking a certain way is harmful.

    Second, body acceptance- of my own body- means that I must accept my body today as it is, regardless of its imperfections, however real or perceived. It means that I will not abuse my body to force it to conform to some ideal. I will not equate size or shape with health. It means that I prioritize emotional and psychological health, and recognize that while physical health is important, and affect psychology, it is not to be based on looks. Blood-work, bones scans, and such are between my doctor and me, and I should follow physician recommendations, based on my medical needs.
    This is the only body I have, it belongs only to me. Your body is your own. Judgement based on looks is unnecessary.

  16. Daniel says:

    While I’ve never been proud of my body, it’s what I have and I’m not ashamed of it!

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