Disclaimer: This post is going to be less about facts and research and more about my personal opinion. Feel free to disagree and/or engage me in a (respectful) discussion about this!
Body Positivity is a constant struggle for virtually every individual in the modern world, of every age, gender, and background. If you are reading this post right now, chances are you are exposed to several other social media platforms every day. Luckily, plenty of headway is being made on the body positivity front. Tons of amazing body positive plus sized role models have come forward to post their un-retouched and “unflattering” photos for the entire world to see to help normalize a range of body types. Essentially, we all need a little bit of reverse brainwashing so that we stop comparing every body type we see against the image that we are conditioned to think of as “conventionally attractive” or inherently more appealing.
I love this movement. I love body positivity. I am all for this change.
I believe that beautiful, healthy people come in all shapes and sizes and I do not support promoting any body type over another, but sometimes the lines blur between promoting a positive body image and promoting self-sabotaging health habits. You should accept yourself as a valuable human being no matter where you are at on the fitness range. Whether you are a marathon runner or someone who struggles to walk from one end of the house to another, you are equally as important and worthy of self-love. This does not necessarily mean that you should accept all of your eating and fitness habits as they are. There are plenty of people who eat well, exercise often, and still have body types that do not fit the typical visual metric of “healthy” or “preferable”. This is absolutely fine and I believe as long as they are taking care of themselves physically and emotionally they should go on living their lives without change.
There are also people whose diet and activity levels are doing nothing for health or wellness. It is not about size, shape, how well they fit into their clothing, how attractive they are seen by other people, or how high or low the numbers on their scale jump when they step onto it. It is simply about the quality of life they are establishing for themselves, and the fact that they deserve to feel and function better than they are. Many individuals who eat very few nutritious foods and do not exercise anywhere near the recommended amount still have outward appearances that would suggest otherwise. They stand to benefit just as much from a change in lifestyle as their peers who show outward evidence of poor dietary choices.
The body positivity trend is an amazing and crucial one. Too long have little girls and boys looked at images on screens and billboards and magazine articles and felt shame and disappointment that their own outward appearances did not reflect the unattainable image advertised to them. But, it would be a shame to promote low standards for self care in the name of body positivity. Body positivity should be about celebrating the ability to love your body exactly how it is, and then valuing it enough to constantly be taking steps to keep it healthy. Everyone deserves to treat themselves every now and then, but in order to love and look after your body’s functional well-being you should aim to eat nutritious foods the majority of the time. When I encourage a client or patient to change their body habits that will likely result in a reduction in body weight, it is not a product of Body Negativity – it is actually just a different form of Body Positivity, in which we value function over visual aesthetic.
To anyone who is struggling with their body image or health/fitness level –
BODY POSITIVITY DOES NOT = SETTLING FOR POOR HEALTH, EVEN IF YOU ARE HAPPY WITH HOW YOU LOOK
BODY POSITIVITY = LOVING AND VALUING YOURSELF ENOUGH TO WANT TO MAKE HEALTHY LIFESTYLE CHOICES AND ADORING WHATEVER APPEARANCE THAT SELF CARE PRODUCES
Another essential point to be made is that this determination of health is not to be policed by anyone other than the individual who the body belongs to. While it is my own personal opinion that people should eat well and exercise often solely for the purpose of taking care of the functional health of their body and mind, it is their prerogative if they choose not to. I will encourage health eating until the day I die, but if it is their choice not to prioritize their health, it is not my place to correct them.
It’s what’s on the inside that counts! This means accepting the outside of your body while taking care of the inside. To me, that’s what body positivity is all about.
If you’re looking for body positive health and fitness positive role models:
Anna Victoria @annavictoria on Instagram
Loey Lane @loeybug on Instagram
Kevin Davis @notoriouslydapper on Instagram
Bruce Sturgell @chubstr on Instagram