What Is Body Positivity?
Body positivity is the concept that everyone deserves to have a positive body image. It represents an appreciation, respect and acceptance for bodies as they are.
Some call this body acceptance, accepting changes in your size, shape and abilities due to age, nature and personal choices.
People who are body positive appreciate the unique aspects of each human body. They are grateful for what their body has done and can do. Body positive people have comfort and confidence in their bodies, focusing on the positive instead of perceived flaws.
Body positivity is also a journey that requires self-compassion, self-love and acceptance. While this can be difficult, it can improve your mental health and well-being.
What Is Body Positivity Not?
People against body positivity believe it has created an environment for people to ignore their health. But body positivity isn’t an excuse to ignore medical advice and not take care of yourself.
Doctors agree there are healthy body weights and unsafe body weights on both ends of the spectrum. Just because someone is skinny, doesn’t mean they are healthy. If someone appears to you, over-weight, it doesn’t mean they are unhealthy.
Being body positive doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat nutritious foods and exercise.
Others feel that body positivity causes people to obsess over their body and conditioning. It is important to remember that physical appearance is only one facet of your life. It doesn’t define who you are as a person.
What Is The Body Positivity Movement?
The body positivity movement is a call for equality and acceptance for all body types and sizes. It seeks to end body shaming and bullying by normalizing the human body’s variations.
The movement realizes it isn’t just about body shape and size. Judgments are often made based on race, gender, sexuality, and disability. We must make changes to these views too.
The body positivity movement has taken on major brands and advertisers who helped create society’s image of a perfect body. Many companies are now taking steps to portray people as they really are.
“Each individual woman’s body demands to be accepted on its own terms.”
~ Gloria Steinem
Why Do We Need Body Positivity?
Many forms of media portray the human body in an unrealistic way. This has affected how people feel about the skin they are in. Believing in society’s view of the perfect body, has led to depression, dissatisfaction, eating disorders, alcholism and drug use in both men and women.
Some people undergo plastic surgery, injections, diets and rigorous workout regimens in an attempt to get the “perfect body.” This “health culture” industry has led to low self-esteem for those who can’t keep up.
Because of society’s portrayal, some people associate their self-worth with their physical body. This isn’t true and has caused many of the problems listed above.
The History Of Body Positivity
Body positivity has been around in one form or another for a long time. It just went by other names. It could be argued when women protested having to wear a corset to shape their form in the mid 1800’s, that was body positivity.
In the 1960’s the fat acceptance movement was born. The movement wanted to stop the bullying, shaming and discrimination of people based on their size.
In the mid 1990’s, Connie Sobczak was suffering from an eating disorder. She and her psychologist, Elizabeth Scott, ended up founding the website: thebodypositive.org. Their site offers resources and educational materials designed to help people feel good about their bodies. I recommend checking it out.
In 2012, the body positivity movement began to focus on challenging the media & advertisers unrealistic view of beauty standards. At that time, the “acceptance of weight” morphed into the message that all bodies are beautiful.
It was also around this time that the term body neutrality was introduced. An alternate approach, instead of loving your body no matter what, neutrality is a focus on what your body does for you.
In the following years, the body positivity movement has grown. It now includes activists, doctors and health care professionals and researchers. It has made an impact on the fashion industry, the media and the advertising industry.
“My weight? It is what it is. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow. It’s about being content. And sometimes other priorities win.”
~ Melissa McCarthy
Reasons For Body Positivity
A person’s body image begins to form early in life. The term body image refers to someone’s perception of their own body. That perception can be different from how it actually appears.
Your feelings, thoughts and behaviors are affected by your view of your body image. It creates a major impact on your mental health and well-being. Even young children can suffer from a dissatisfaction with their body.
Research shows that a negative body image can lead to an increased risk of depression, low self-esteem and eating disorders.
By educating people on the influences that contribute to a poor body image, the hope is people can adjust their expectations. Acceptance can lead to a positive feelings which helps fight the influence a poor body image plays on their mental and physical health.
Criticisms Of Body Positivity
Although body positivity is about helping people feel better about themselves, it has critics.
Some feel it implies you should do whatever you need to so that you will feel better about yourself. This concept has been commercialized by weight-loss companies selling diet plans. Gyms are another advocate of the smaller body contingent.
Critics feel this can lead to unhealthy habits like excessive exercise and extreme dieting.
Thin people can feel pressured as if the movement looks down on them for being thin. (Something many can’t help!) Some feel people of color and diversity are excluded from the movement.
To me, this is a communication problem. Anyone can have a negative body image. The heading of body positivity should include everyone regardless of weight, size, shape, sex, lifestyle or ethnicity.
“Knowing that I feel good because I am being diligent about taking care of myself mentally, physically, and emotionally creates self-esteem.”
~ Chrissy Metz
Before You Adopt A Body Positive Mindset
It can be difficult to love your body all the time. One day you may look in the mirror and your clothes don’t fit like you want them to. You may feel bloated, or tired, or depressed. These feelings can translate into not feeling good about your body.
Understand that there will be days where you don’t feel good about your body image. Don’t beat yourself up over that. Don’t criticize yourself for changes that have happened due to aging, pregnancy or lifestyle choices. Show yourself some compassion. We all have good days and bad days, it is part of being human.
Society tells people they are flawed, then tells them to have a positive attitude about it. That isn’t realistic. Years of negative body image thoughts people have placed on themselves make this close to impossible. This leads to guilt and shame for not having the positive mindset.
Using positive affirmations may have a negative effect too. Researchers found if people don’t truly believe in them, they will end up feeling worse about themselves.
I’m not saying your shouldn’t say nice things or think positive thoughts. Just that trying to cover up negative thinking with positive messages doesn’t work. You should work to replace negative body image thoughts with realistic ones.
Start With Body Neutrality
It is okay to admit you don’t love certain things about your body. Feeling neutral or indifferent about your body is fine too. Realize your worth isn’t in your shape, size or appearance, but in you.
Take your thoughts off your body. Try to base your self-perceptions on other parts of yourself. This isn’t, it takes continual effort. If you feel yourself starting to backslide, try to find new ways to avoid the negative thoughts coming into your head.
Body neutrality isn’t about how your body looks, but sees it as an important vessel that carries you through life. It encourages mindfulness with an emphasis on what your body can do.
“Don’t waste so much time thinking about how much you weigh. There is no more mind-numbing, boring, idiotic, self-destructive diversion from the fun of living.”
~ Meryl Streep
Body Positivity Tips
- Even if you are unhappy with your appearance at times, you can still appreciate the fact your body will get you through the day.
- Take some time to reflect inwardly each day. Listen to what your body is telling you in regards to hunger, thirst, rest and relaxation.
- You can show your body respect by giving it nutritious foods. They will fuel both mind and body.
- Exercise your body help you feel good, strong and energized, not to change your shape or lose weight.
- Give your body a chance to rest and rejuvenate. Try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each day.
- Buy clothes that fit your body, not for a planned future you. Search for outfits that make you feel comfortable and good about how you currently look.
- Donate or pack away clothes that no longer fit. Your body may change over time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel good about it right now.
- Re-think your social media. If there are accounts or people you compare yourself to, or make you feel bad about yourself, get rid of them. Instead, try following some body positivity accounts that include all body types, ethnicities and genders.
- When it becomes difficult to take care of your body the way you’d like, do the best you can at the time.
Thomas Crowl is a Westminster, Maryland boudoir photographer. His boudoir studio is a no-judgement zone that promotes body positivity for all body types, ages and ethnicities. His sessions help clients to overcome their fears, step out of their comfort zone and see themselves through the eyes of others. It can be a life changing experience that increases self-confidence and allows women to fall in love with themselves all over again.
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