What Is Wrong With Body Positivity?
Often, the term body positivity becomes skewed. Inevitably, it is an immensely personal concept and so people adapt and change it along the way. But when this personalisation takes place, the original message of body positivity often becomes lost. The Body Positive movement actually originates from the Fat Acceptance movement which aims to eradicate the stigma surrounding fatness. Since then, the movement aiming to inspire body acceptance has taken many forms. Today, it is a movement that celebrates all kinds of women and all kinds of bodies.
All bodies should be celebrated and accepted, and this movement should take the world by storm. However, what's not ok is disguising a 'healthy lifestyle' under body positivity because what is supposed to be activism, simply reiterates an existing damaging narrative. Body positivity rejects diet culture in every way. It is not an excuse to promote behaviours that lead to unhealthy dieting and activity, like those horrid weight loss remedies and shakes advertised under body positivity. The movement rejects changing your body and rejects beauty standards therefore exercising and 'clean eating' do not fall under it. You can eat nourishing foods and you can exercise - but what body positivity is trying to communicate to you - is that you don't have to partake in these activities, and you shouldn't try to change your body for appearance-based benefits. Yes, eating nourishing foods naturally are better for you and do make you feel good, and exercising releases endorphins but you don't have to use these to lose weight.
It does not make you a bad person for being unable to distinguish body positivity and a 'healthy lifestyle' because often the message is blurred. People tend to believe body positivity is eating well and looking after your body by toning it and making it stronger but it's not that, body positivity is accepting your natural body for how it is. The message often relayed is that you can only love your body if you are the beauty ideal, but body positivity is for all kinds of women to show that there is no ideal. Health has nothing to do with the appearance of your body. My brother has never eaten a vegetable in his life, he eats nothing but sugar - yet he looks the picture of health because he's toned and has a six pack, but his insides are obviously not glowing and nourished. If he was fat, you'd be disgusted but because he looks healthy, that's all that matters. Body positivity is not about being healthy, so saying that the movement encourages obesity is false. You can choose nourishing foods and exercise, but the purpose will be to care for your body rather than wanting to enhance its beauty.
As a slim woman, the movement wasn't really initiated for me. Body positivity began to give representation to bigger women and challenge the stigma around fatness. Although I am thankful for the movement and how it helped me recover - I have to acknowledge that the movement was not made for me, and it's unfair to the women it was made for as it has barely come to represent them. We should all be body positive, we should all accept our flaws and appreciate our body and soul, but we have to support and give representation to all bodies, not just those like our own. I had anorexia and endured many emotions that some of you haven't, and bigger women than me or you have endured different emotions to us, and thinner women than me or you have endured different emotions to them and us. So, understand and appreciate the different journeys we have been through and please don't hijack the movement for your body type.
However, the main problem with the movement is that it’s usually based on the body’s appearance which would make sense because it is about accepting our body – but I believe it should focus on our identity as more than beauty. Body positivity tends to extend the idea that beauty is the goal, and that everyone is beautiful, but beauty is more than what we look like. We should be focusing more on who we are as humans. Although ideals may change, I feel like the emphasis on the ‘thin ideal’ has transformed into a curvy ideal, specifically a big bum, small waist and boobs: the ideal hasn’t been eradicated, it has simply shifted a little. Although you’ll notice that thinness is still celebrated in certain areas, like the waist. Our bodies are not trends, they do not go in and out of fashion. Again, there is too much emphasis on our appearance. We don’t need to change the ideal to make room for slimmer or fatter women, we just need to rid it altogether.
Furthermore, a lot of content is insincere. A lot of it is the same old bullshit repackaged in the form of a body positive trend. Our bodies are not made to profit from. We don’t have to change any part of us. We don’t need fixing. We were already born with everything we need. A lot of influencers and people promote body positivity as saying positive affirmations to yourself and feigning confidence. It’s actually about making behavioural, attitude and mindset alterations. Just like you learned to hate your body and base your worth on it, you can un-learn it too.
I want us, and our children, to think of food as something to be enjoyed, not feared. I want you to eat something and not think about it in terms of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or how much of it there is. I want us to be so fulfilled in our life with love, friendships, intelligence, dreams and activities that there is no space to worry about our appearance. Rather than ditch the diet talk and loving ourselves – let’s take beauty off the table altogether and change direction. Let’s celebrate ourselves for something other than our appearance.
"Another woman's beauty is not the absence of your own"