While I love the body positive movement as much as the next guy, I will admit that at times the body pos movement has left me feeling confused and slightly bewildered. To be clear: I am all in favor of the body positive movement. I love that inspiring women and men are supporting healthy body image and living lives brimming with self-love. I’m empowered by individuals who are speaking out and educating others about “health at every size” (because yes, you can be healthy at any weight). We can thank the body positive movement for creating a self-loving, self-confident vibe among young women and men today.
So, while I really do hope the body pos movement is helping people to feel more comfortable and confident in their own natural, beautiful bodies, I still do have a few reservations. To be perfectly honest with you, I am a little uneasy about some aspects of how “body positivity” is portrayed in social media. BUT: It’s not all pessimistic. We are all part of the body positive movement if we want to be, and thus we all have the power to make this movement meaningful and true.
Social media sends out very mixed messages about what body positivity is and who body positivity actually applies to. In an ideal world, we would see diversity in the body positive movement. People of all weights, sizes, genders, ethnicities, and builds would be talking the body positive talk. On social media, however, the images paired with #bodypositive are not really bodies from all over the spectrum.
We see #bodypositive paired mainly with either pictures of large bodied individuals or thin bodied individuals, with less presentation of those who reside somewhere in between.
It’s so easy to become uneasy when you scroll through body positive hashtagged photos on Instagram, and primarily see thin bodied girls drinking green juice and smoothies. And this is another concern: so many of these body positive hashtags tend to be paired with instagram accounts glorifying “clean eating.”
Of course these are not the only pictures you stumble across, but too often body positivity does seem to accompany a traditionally “health” oriented lifestyle. In some more extreme cases, the body positive movement could be seen as encouraging orthorexia, or at least representing orthorexia. This could mislead you into thinking that you have to eat a certain way in order to be or to feel body positive. It could also cause you to feel as though you can only be confident in your body if (and only if) you are a “clean eater.” While it’s completely okay to eat plant based food and to drink green juice and smoothies, we have to remember that eating this way is not a prerequisite to being body positive.
You can eat whatever you want and be body positive. To be body positive is not a privilege only acquired by some, and the food you do or do not consume has no power over whether you identify as body positive.
On top of this, so many body positive posts also tend to portray pictures of people who have the body size and shape that society currently does deem as ideal. It is no secret that thin bodies are still idolized…thin privilege still exists. And when we only see thin bodies when we search for body positive, we can still feel ostracized or insecure in our own bodies, especially if our bodies do not match what society deems as beautiful. We might begin to believe that body positivity is only for thin people, and not for people of larger bodies. Or, that body positivity is only for individuals in larger bodies, because these are the individuals who are changing beauty standards. Essentially, at times it feels like we have to have a certain type of body, or obtain a certain type of body, in order to feel worthy, which, as you may have guessed, goes completely against the whole point of body positivity. So please remember: the vision of the body positive movement is to shed light on authenticity, and to give power to authenticity rather than perfection.
Likewise, have you noticed the trending #bodypos photos of girls in their bikinis or sports bras with captions emphasizing embracing the rolls or embracing the pudge? This is confusing as well because firstly, there is nothing inherently wrong with this…in fact this is beautiful. It’s beautiful that people feel empowered to post pictures of their stomachs…of their rolls, of their curves, of their flat abs, or of their softness. It’s beautiful to see this reflection of confidence in these unedited images. But for those who are struggling with body positivity, it’s easy to believe that body positivity has to be associated with an extreme, or that body positivity requires you to pinch your stomach rolls and post a picture for others to see. These images can make you believe that to be body positive, your stomach has to fall somewhere outside of the stereotypical beauty standards of an “ideal” stomach (a flat stomach), or that your stomach has to look a certain way for you to be allowed to post a photo of it.
Newsflash: your stomach is already perfect just as it is. It’s uniquely yours, and because of this, it’s beautiful. There are no qualifications for feeling comfortable in your body. Come as you are, and start by opening up the doors to body acceptance.
Unfortunately, the body pos movement sometimes leads us to believe that to be body positive, we have to love our bodies 100% of the time (a feat that most of us will never conquer). THIS IS NOT TRUE. Body positivity doesn’t mean loving, or even liking, your body every single day. It doesn’t mean that you will consistently wake up, day after day, feeling completely confident in how you look. It doesn’t mean that you are always going to feel like you look hot in your jeans, or that all of your dresses hug your curves exactly right. You may still have bad body image days. And realistically, you probably will have bad body image days. You may not feel comfortable in your jeans every day. You may worry that your new sweater makes your stomach look bloated and preggers, or that your new dress makes you look wide. Here’s the thing: It’s okay to not always be 100% in love with your body. It’s okay to even feel uncomfortable in your body. Everyone feels this way sometimes. But the important part about body positivity is accepting that you feel uncomfortable, and being gentle with this realization.
Body positivity entails retraining your brain to believe that all bodies are worthy of acceptance and praise, and that all bodies are of equal value. Being body positive is not just about your weight. It’s about accepting all aspects of your body (your body hair, your acne, your cellulite, your freckles) no matter what society deems as acceptable and/or beautiful.
Body positivity embraces the understanding that we all deserve to live in our bodies without having to fear rejection or prejudice from other people. We all deserve to live our lives in the ways that help us to feel the happiest and the healthiest. Remember that health nor beauty equate to thinness. It’s time for us all to start breaking down these preconceived beliefs and barriers.
Remember: beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes. Body positivity is inclusive of everyone, and there is absolutely no wrong way to have a body.