Spotlight on Women's Health

Melinda Parrish

Plus-size Model Melinda Parrish: What I Wish I’d Know About Body Positivity

May 25, 2018

How do you feel about your body? Most of us have things we like and don’t like about our bodies. Melinda Parrish, National Women’s Health Week ambassador and plus-size model, talks with us about learning to accept and love our bodies — exactly as they are today. Melinda shares her approach to living her healthiest life and explains what she wishes she’d known about being healthy when she was younger. Read her interview for tips on making time for yourself, eating well, and staying active.

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Why did you want to be a National Women’s Health Week ambassador?

Women’s health is really important to me, and I use my platform to talk about it. I’m honored for the opportunity to participate in National Women’s Health Week and encourage women to take the best possible care of themselves and their bodies.

What does being healthy mean to you?

For me, this definition has changed over the years. But at this point in my life, being healthy means that I’m practicing excellent self-care, following my doctor’s advice, and tuning out the haters.

What do you wish you’d known about being healthy when you were younger?

I would tell my younger self to focus on taking good care of my body instead of trying to change my body in order to please other people. When I was younger, I think I confused being healthy with having a body that was skinny and pleasing to others.

You have a newborn at home. How do you make time for yourself while juggling motherhood?

One of the things I’ve started doing — which I think has been fun for me and the baby — is I get down on the floor with her when she has her tummy time. I stretch or do gentle postpartum ab exercises. Sometimes she’s on my chest for tummy time, and I do little things like pelvic lifts. By making it interactive like this, I establish that we’re both taking time to strengthen and develop our bodies.

Another mommy hack I’ve learned is that my daughter sleeps well in her car seat. So, we’ll pack her into her stroller and take her for a walk. I get a walk in, and she gets a really solid nap.

How do you maintain a healthy relationship with food?

I’ve spent a lot of time working on this. I focus on foods that are vibrant, nourishing, and delicious. I really work hard at not overthinking my food choices. I focus on getting as many greens as I can each day. I try to always reach for fruits and vegetables between meals. And I focus on packing my meals with protein.

What’s your approach to staying active?

Before, during, and after my pregnancy, I’ve been focused on gentle but consistent movement every single day. I’ve been incorporating yoga, too. It helps increase my mobility and improves my mood.

I used to be a compulsive exerciser, and my pregnancy arrived at a time when I was more focused on gentle movement.

For you, what’s the key to being body positive?

I think one of the most important things to being body positive is having autonomy over your body. That means not letting anyone else’s definition or expectation influence how you take care of yourself. But we have to remember to be body positive toward others. Too often, I see women come down on each other for losing weight or starting nutrition and exercise routines. We should try to support women who try to lose weight in a loving way.

Do you have tips to help other women learn to accept and love their bodies?

My number one tip is to clean out your social media feed. Stop following anyone who is overly focused on weight loss and dieting. Instead, look for people who are pushing body positive content, which is what I try to do. I know this sounds small, but I did it, and I’m amazed by the amount of negatively I’ve cut out of my life.

How about for silencing your inner critic?

I’ve tried to shift my focus from my appearance to what my body can do. Yoga has been helpful for me. Instead of looking at the parts of my body I want to perfect, I focus on mastering challenging yoga poses, like backbends and headstands.

Pregnancy was great for this shift, too. I mean, once you grow a human, you’re like “Wow!”

If you could tell women one thing about loving their bodies, what would it be?

Just accept yourself. Accept where you are now. It doesn’t matter where you are on your journey to body positivity or any kind of physical transformation. Once you accept where you are, the next step is to focus on taking the best possible care of the body you have today.

The statements and opinions in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health.