Why Body Positivity Matters
The term ‘body positivity’ seems to be getting a lot of air time lately. But what does it mean, and why does body positivity matter?
Body positivity is a movement that says that all bodies are good bodies. It breaks down to the belief that you should be comfortable in your healthy skin. Contrary to some beliefs, body positivity is not encouraging or embracing obesity; however, body positivity does say that as long as you’re healthy, your weight should not cause you to be seen as less of a person.
Trigger Warning – I do touch on suicide in this post.
Health at Every Size
I was first introduced to body positivity as the concept of Health at Every Size by my friend Marianne Kirby. If you don’t know her, she used to write a blog called The Rotund. She wrote a book called Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body, which I bought and read in 2010. It was life changing for me because it really helped me to start working on loving myself. It also helped me to stop hating how my body looked. I used to look at myself in the mirror and think, I don’t look so bad, then I would step on the scale and berate myself. Marianne’s book helped me to break that cycle. I was no longer tied to the thought that if I weighed X amount, I would be loveable.
Keep in mind, I do think it’s ok to want to lose weight, especially if YOU want to for your health. You can be body positive and want to lose weight. I’m body positive and trying to improve my health right now. My friend Angela from Hairspray and High Heels has a great post talking about Body Positivity and Weight Loss that is a must read!
My friend Carly from Lipgloss and Crayons has also written about body positivity. Her article on Why I Don’t Photoshop My Photos touches on why I don’t use blurring filters on my videos or photos. I want you to see the real me. You need to see that I have a double chin from some angles or that I’ve got fine lines by my eyes when I smile huge. Carly even started a Just Wear the Suit movement this summer to get women to wear the swimsuit they want to wear and not feel like they need to hide their bodies because they’re not perfect.
We hear about body positivity a lot with regards to teen girls. It’s logical. Teen girls are under constant pressure from their peers, from social media, and from society to fit a certain body shape ideal; one that many young women just aren’t able to maintain naturally. Teen girls attempt suicide three times more often than teen boys do (source), and it’s obvious that this is an area that needs attention. However, body positivity is an issue for adults as well.
Body positivity is increasingly important to adults. Television and media portray an unrealistic image of human bodies. It’s great that Brad Pitt looks the way he does at 54, but I can’t name a single 54-year-old man that I know who looks anything remotely like the way Mr. Pitt does. Casting in Hollywood shows us that women over 40 are less valued than their younger counterparts; mainly because their bodies don’t look the same as they did when they were in their twenties.
And it’s not just Hollywood. In the blog-o-sphere, some brands only want to work with you if you’re under 25. When you’re my age (I’m 40), you often get passed off as too old, too. Some brands just don’t want you associated with them if you don’t have their signature look or if you’re not in their target demographic age wise.
If you’re ever curious about just how much body positivity matters, do a Google search for ‘Plastic Surgery.’ It takes less than a second to get 645 million results. The number of plastic surgery procedures has risen one-hundred and fifteen percent between 2000 and 2015 (source). In August, 2018, a paper was published in JAMA detailing “Snapchat dysmorphia,” a condition where people ask for plastic surgery to look like filters on the popular social media photo sharing site (source). We’ve become increasingly uncomfortable in our own skin, and the body positivity movement is dedicated to helping us all feel better about ourselves.
That may seem a bit disingenuous. After all, our society now gives trophies for participation. Does everyone deserve to be happy in their own skin?
The fact that I had to ask that question shows us the need for the body positivity movement.
Realistically, the majority of the people you know will never look like movie stars. That Kardashian butt may be something many women strive for, but it’s something few women actually achieve. And that’s okay. If everyone could have a rear end like Kim’s, then her butt wouldn’t be so striking.
Nature built our bodies a certain way. Evolution plays a large part in the way we look. The genetic soup that results from our parents’ DNA makes up the rest. Nature doesn’t equally distribute the kind of stunning beauty that we see on television. And it’s time that we were okay with that fact.
Body positivity matters because we see more and more unrealistic portrayals in the media. If you’re feeling nostalgic, think about some of the television shows that were popular in the 70s; All in the Family and MASH gave us characters who weren’t stunningly beautiful. Those shows had characters that much more closely resembled the audiences who were watching. 2018’s most popular shows include The Walking Dead, where ex-main character Lori Grimes maintained her blown-out hairstyle in the post-apocalypse, and Grey’s Anatomy, about a hospital filled with gorgeous doctors.
Body positivity matters because among adults, suicide has increased among men and women ages 35-64, in the years from 1999 to 2010 (source). While it’s fair to say that illness, financial and marital stress, and mental illness certainly play a role in adult suicide, when one looks at the concurrent increase in the rates of plastic surgery, it’s easy to extrapolate that body image probably plays a role, too. This isn’t to say that plastic surgery is bad. I am all for ‘you do you’ in that regard. But I do think it’s a factor to consider.
Finally, body positivity matters because if we can’t accept ourselves as we are, it becomes increasingly difficult to accept the differences in others. Body positivity helps us to reframe the voice in our head that shames us for our weight, our hair color, or our height.
Body positivity isn’t just a movement for our daughters and sons. It should remain an important cause for those of us who can see the damage that a negative outlook can do in our adult lives. I can tell you firsthand that dealing with those negative thoughts can hold you back, so the sooner you start fighting the negative thoughts and loving yourself, the better.
If you haven’t read it yet, you will enjoy I Don’t Talk to My Toxic Mother & Here’s Why. You might also enjoy Anxiety – There’s No Shame in Needing Medication to be Healthy.