What is body positivity?
Body positivity is a social movement that counters the long-standing idea of a single “ideal” body type. Instead, the movement tries to promote inclusivity of all body sizes regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender. The focus being on typically marginalized bodies.
Historically, the fat acceptance movement was established in the 1960s to end the culture of fat-shaming. From this idea emerged the term “body positive” in 1996 by a psychotherapist and a former eating disorder patient. Their goal was to educate and provide resources to people about feeling good about one’s body. The latest wave of this movement started in 2012 fueled via social media platforms such as Tumblr, YouTube, and later Instagram.
As a result, more body inclusivity has been a focus on traditional media. For example, Seventeen Magazine announced it will stop airbrushing models. Women’s Health agreed to remove headlines such as “drop two sizes” and “bikini body”. There are also more portrayals of plus-size characters in film and TV in a more positive light with identities beyond their size.
Clothing brands also started carrying a wider range of sizes such as ASOS, H&M as well as the emergence of plus-size brands such as Soncy, Pink Clove and Universal Standard
Why this movement against body shaming?
So people can form healthy relationships with their bodies, food, exercise, and identity in general. Your body image affects both your physical and mental health.
Body image is developed at a very young age and is influenced by factors such as family, media (both traditional and social media), and peers. According to a study conducted in 2003, more than half of the girls (55 – 59%) and about a third of the boys (33 – 35%) aged between 6 to 8 felt that their ideal bodies are thinner than their current body.
Healthy looks different on different people!
Skinny isn’t always a sign that someone is healthy. Health is more than what meets the eye. “You could have a BMI above the ‘obese’ cutoff and have no metabolic complications, eat a healthy diet, and move your body and I would say you are in very good health,” Dr. Dushay, endocrinologist and clinical director at the Well Powered Weight Management & Wellness Program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center points out.
What factors influence body weight apart from nutrition & exercise?
- Genetics & Family History
So How Can You feel more confident in your body?
- Start with body neutrality — It is normal to not instantaneously love every part of your body. Start with the mindset that your appearance is not equated to your value. A good resource for this is iWeight with Jameela Jamil, a podcast challenging society’s definition of worth
- Take part in healthy self-care — Fuel yourself with healthy food that tastes good to you. Do physical activities that you enjoy. Buy clothes that fit your current body and you feel comfortable in.
- Be selective of your social media feed — Follow accounts that are inclusive of all body types, race, gender, and abilities. Unfollow the accounts that do not promote a healthy message or excessively photoshop.
Is the message getting distorted?
Just like any movement that gains a widespread following, the original message can sometimes get lost. This is seen in the exclusion of women of color or above a certain size, the people that need the movement the most.
Another point of caution is not excusing unhealthy behavior in the name of body positivity. This applies to both extreme dieting and neglecting taking care of your body.
There is still a long way to go in the body positivity movement. Luckily we also have more control of the content being put out. We can choose who to follow and what we choose to post. We can also use our platform to uplift voices that often go unheard!
And remember the more love and care you give to your body, the more likely you are to show love to other bodies too!
Cherry, K. “What is Body Positivity?” Very Well Mind, 2020
“How Health At Every Size Is Trying to Change the Way We Think About Weight and Wellness” Health, 2020
“Factors Affecting Wight & Health” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2018.
What does Body Positivity Actually Mean