Body Positivity: Is It Really Positive?
By: Chloe Cho, Contributing Writer
*The following article portrays an opinion of the author and does not always reflect the values of Teen Health 101.*
The body positivity movement: A public effort made over the past decade to love and accept all body types as beautiful. At first glance, it seems like a progressive step forward for society. Words like “fat” transform from negative connotations to simple descriptions. Body positivity is a morale-booster for those struggling with body image or eating disorders, and it can increase societal awareness of toxic beauty standards. At least, that’s the surface of it. Many people will disagree, but I believe that body positivity can be unhealthy because it places emphasis solely on a person’s size, instead of in combination with their lifestyle.
Let’s start with physical health. According to Ketrell McWhorter of Asbury University, body positivity perpetuates the illusion that it may be alright to live an unhealthy lifestyle (not exercising, unhealthy diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, etc.) because the only notable consequence is body shape or appearance. Body positivity can lead to disregard for the other destructive consequences of living in this way, especially obesity. Obesity is an excessive percentage of body fat that can lead to health problems like hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. By trying to resolve the stigma around being “fat,” body positivity tends to overlook obesity and its detrimental health consequences. It is not worth putting an individual’s life at risk. Tell them that it’s alright to have the body type that they have, but it’s within their power to change themselves for the better, then body positivity may be the wrong solution. A physically healthy lifestyle is also proven to increase happiness and improve mental health as well.
In terms of how body positivity hurts mental health, it highlights the assumption that how a person’s looks dictates society’s view of them. This can inadvertently lead to a newfound hyper-fixation on body image. This may lead to obsession over attaining a different body, which is the opposite of what body positivity is trying to achieve. Additionally, this push for body acceptance is exactly what it is: a push. According to scientist Fadoua Soussi, someone who struggles with body image can feel pressured because they see that others are happy with their bodies when they are not. This can lead to shame, guilt, or self-doubt.
Furthermore, the body positivity movement’s slogan is “all bodies are beautiful.” It is meant to praise all individuals’ bodies, whether they have the “perfect” body or not. However, some body positivity activists may feel animosity towards those who do have that “ideal” body type, thinking that they are against the movement because of their figure. Due to this, body positivity can increase bullying towards individuals with that “ideal” body type, especially on the internet. Cyberbullying yields the same negative mental results for most--like self-doubt or depression--regardless of their body type.
So then what’s the solution?
It depends on the individual. A study on the impact of weight bias found that although body positivity may lead to an increase in obesity rates, it is beneficial when treating those already struggling with obesity or those with eating disorders. Additionally, some individuals may find that body positivity increases, rather than decreases, self-esteem. Regardless of whether or not body positivity works for you or not, self-confidence is always a good thing. It just needs to be adapted in different ways for different individuals. Some people may even find it better to back off from the body positivity movement and forge their own paths. Whatever your personal solution is, as long as it is more health-aware and respectful for yourself and others, it is the perfect one for you.
Link to cover image: https://www.ssesgauntlet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/image0-1-900x600.png