Jonathan Van Ness Has a Message for Fans: "Your Worth is Not Dependent on Your Weight"
From blowouts to books to back handsprings, there's little Jonathan Van Ness can't conquer. Well, besides getting the haters to shush, it seems. So the resident hair expert and co-host of the Netflix series Queer Eye took to social media to address recent gossip about their shifting body shape (Van Ness uses the pronouns they/he/she).
"I got a nutritionist back in April. I lost 35 pounds," Van Ness says in a recent "morning thot" TikTok post. "I wanted to change my body size because of my gymnastics and my career. My body was hurting, my back was hurting, I was hot."
And by hot, Van Ness meant running hot temperature-wise, which was an uncomfortable sensation while trying to level-up their skills as a (ridiculously talented) hobby gymnast and ice skater.
"It took three weeks before I saw any change. Literally three weeks of working out and eating differently, before I saw any change," they add.
But it wasn't about seeing any change at all, Van Ness admits. It was about feeling it—and knowing their worth each step of the way. To help this land for their 735,000 followers, Van Ness followed up the next day with another heartfelt TikTok share, complete with images of their body pre-program and today.
"There were so many people saying so many nasty things about my body … about weight. Your worth is not dependent on your weight. I am beautiful in both of these pictures. My husband was just as obsessed with me in both of these pictures," they say. "We are all beautiful. Be nicer, I think that's the point. When it comes to bodies, be nicer."
Van Ness joins a growing chorus of body-positive celebrities (see also: Lizzo, Ashley Graham, Jenna Bush Hager) who are opening up about their self-love journeys. Van Ness' experience is particularly relatable, however, for their fans and followers who are trying to accept that body positivity and interest in a body change can live in harmony.
What Is Body Positivity—and Why Is It Important?
"An appreciation for our bodies as they are today, and a drive to take care of our bodies in a kind, fiercely compassionate way that leaves us feeling good," explains Allison Grupski, Ph.D., vice president for behavior change strategies and coaching at WW (WeightWatchers). That said, she says, "You can ask five different people how to define body positivity, and you'll probably get five different answers. Traditionally, I think many people tend to think about it as feeling positively about or liking how your body looks."
This is important for at least two reasons, Grupski continues:
- Research shows that people who are happier with how they look tend to have a better overall sense of well-being.
- There's a long history in our culture of idealizing certain body types (ahem, BMI B.S. and omnipresent photo editing), which has resulted in it being more common to be dissatisfied with how you look than it is to be satisfied. The movement to improve how we feel about our appearance, to eliminate judgment about what a body "should" look like and to celebrate all body types is probably how most people think about "body positivity."
"That's a huge step in the right direction," Grupski says. "But there are so many different ways to think about and relate to our bodies. How they look is only one sliver of that. For example, we can think about our bodies in terms of our energy, our strength, how we feel or what we can do or accomplish."
Body positivity means that you are treating and viewing your body with kindness and respect. There are so many different ways you can do this, including by honoring your body's cues when it tells you it's hungry or thirsty, or by honoring your body when it tells you it's fatigued and you need to go to sleep earlier than you would on other days, adds Roxana Ehsani, RD, CSSD, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Miami and a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Can You Be Body Positive but Still Want to Change Your Body?
As long as you don't resort to an unhealthy approach to lose weight, such as following a fad diet or a restrictive program, Ehsani says, "I definitely believe that weight loss and body positivity can coexist."
She offers a few examples of how this might play out. You love and respect your body, and you …
- Find yourself losing your breath every time you run after your kids and wish you could keep up with them more. You believe that losing a few pounds, in a slow and steady way, might allow you to breathe easier, so you decide to set out to lose weight in a healthy manner.
- Want to keep your bones healthy and strong. Since we do lose bone mass and muscle mass as we age, you choose to do more strength training in an effort to build up more muscle, with the goal of wanting to gain muscle mass to support your skeleton.
- Have a certain medical condition, such as type 2 diabetes. You adjust your diet to balance blood sugar, and as a result, notice your body start to change too.
Or perhaps, like Van Ness, you have a specific activity you want to embrace or improve upon, and notice that your body might feel less achy or more comfortable in a slightly different way.
No matter the reason, it's best to take your time and call in the pros for guidance if you're starting something new.
"I love that Jonathan said it took three weeks before he [they] saw results. I think that's important for people to hear, as long-lasting and healthy weight loss doesn't happen overnight," Ehsani says. "Jonathan also mentioned he [they] worked with a nutrition professional on his [their] journey to lose weight. He [They] didn't follow a crash diet or unrealistic diet to lose weight; he [they] followed advice from a professional."
Van Ness also approached this adjustment from a positive headspace. Appreciating and valuing your body as it is now can be a boon when you're making changes to improve your health or how you feel, because this mindset can help quiet any judgmental notions that may pop up along the way. (P.S. Here are 3 easy ways to practice body positivity right now.)
"No matter what you want to change about your body—how you feel, your weight, your strength, your blood sugar levels—it's not only possible, but it's also helpful to appreciate your body as it is today. At the same time, you can compassionately challenge, or at least notice and be gentle with, any judgmental thoughts that creep up about it," Grupski says.
And that can be über-important if any haters start to whisper (or shout).
"It's sad to hear that so many people were commenting negatively about Jonathan's weight for years," Ehsani adds. "No one should be commenting on another person's weight, and especially should not shame them for looking a certain way. [Jonathan] also stated that he [they] did it for a positive reason; he [they] felt his [their] body hurt, and he [they] wanted to do gymnastics and be more comfortable in his [their] own body. Finally, I love that he [they] reminded everyone that your worth is not dependent on your weight. Jonathan is a wonderful role model for people struggling to feel good in their own bodies."
The Bottom Line
When you want to lose weight—no matter the reason—your mindset is a critical piece of the equation. Grupski reminds her clients that these three steps are key to keeping things positive.
- Practice self-compassion, which has been shown to help people take care of themselves and engage in healthier behaviors.
- Focus on what your body does, not just what it looks like. Ask yourself How do I want to feel? What do I want to be able to do?
- Celebrate your successes, especially the "non-scale victories" along the way. No matter what the scale or that outspoken relative says, more energy, more confidence, less joint pain and better sleep are huge wins.