Over the last number of years, the body positive movement has grown in popularity. Across social media, more people are sharing their journeys in learning to accept their bodies and feel more comfortable in their own skin.
Body positivity is something everyone can work towards, but what does it mean, and how can someone become more body positive?
What is body positivity?
Body positivity is a movement encouraging people to accept that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that everyone should feel valued and accepted regardless of their size. Body positivity is also about recognising that a person’s size is not an indicator of their health, and it is wrong to make assumptions about someone’s lifestyle based on their body or weight.
It is about having a positive body image, but it is also about accepting other people and fighting discrimination based on the way someone looks.
Accepting your body
Body positivity is about more than just your size – it is about accepting and embracing all of your features, your skin colour, and anything about your body that might make you feel different. It doesn’t mean you necessarily have to feel happy about these things all the time – it simply means you accept them as they are.
Caring for your body
The body positivity movement also encourages people to think about what their body needs rather than what they think it should look like. A lot of the time, people go on diets or start an exercise regime because they are trying to achieve their ‘ideal’ body type. Instead, the movement suggests it’s better to eat food that nourishes you and makes you feel good, and to exercise because it gives you energy and makes you feel better.
Problems within the body positivity movement
Although the body positivity movement has done a good job at highlighting our culture around dieting, fat shaming, and discrimination based on body and appearance, in recent years some people have become critical of the movement.
This is because they feel the movement is becoming less inclusive, with larger people, people of colour, trans people, disabled people, and others who fit less with what is considered ‘normal’ in society being pushed to the sidelines. Instead, slimmer, whiter people whose body size and shape fits more closely with what is considered acceptable in society are at the forefront.
Body positivity is also something that is being picked up by brands to sell products, which tends to miss the point of the movement in the first place – that everyone should feel comfortable with who they are, and they don’t have to change anything about themselves.
How to be body positive
Although there are some negative sides to the movement, taking the key messages – that we should accept and embrace ourselves and our bodies, and accept the way others look too – can be beneficial for many people.
In learning to be more body positive, try to remember to be accepting of other people who look different to you too.
Acknowledge that everyone is different
Although the images we see in the media or online show us people who generally look the same (and who seemingly have no ‘flaws’), in reality, everyone is different. People come in all shapes and sizes, with different backgrounds, different experiences, and a different way of seeing the world.
Acknowledging this is the first step towards accepting those who are not the same as you, or who are less likely to be represented in the media or in discussions around what is a healthy body.
Accept yourself for who you are
This is not always easy to do. Issues around body image can be difficult to tackle, because we are often given messages around how we should look, what our ideal weight should be, and what we should do to achieve it. It can create a lot of pressure to look a certain way, and a lot of the time, what we are trying to achieve is actually impossible.
There are many things you can do to improve your body image, such as unfollowing social media accounts that make you feel bad, focusing on the things you like about yourself, and being more critical of the images we see in the media.
Focus on what makes you feel good instead of how you look
Being body positive doesn’t mean choosing to live an unhealthy lifestyle – in fact, by truly accepting your body and deciding to care for it, you can introduce many healthy habits. When deciding what to eat, focus on food that is good for your body, gives you energy, and supplies you with all of the nutrients you need. Likewise, with exercise, find something that makes you feel good that you enjoy – if going to the gym isn’t for you, find a different form of exercise to do instead.
Let the motivation be about how you feel, not how you’ll look at the end.
Stand up for people who look different
Fat people, trans people, disabled people, and others who feel like they are judged based on their bodies can face a lot of discrimination in their day to day lives. This could include comments from people in the street, bullying in school or work, or missing out on opportunities because they are being discriminated against for their bodies. If you are someone who has never experienced this type of discrimination, it’s important to support those who do. Stand up for them, give them an opportunity to share their experiences, and challenge people around you when you hear comments or insults.
When you live in a culture that constantly sends messages about the ideal body type, it can take time to change your thinking. If you find you are treating someone differently based on their body size or type, stop and ask yourself why. Is it because they don’t fit with what you believe is acceptable? Is it because they look different to you? No one should be judged based on how they look, so work on challenging yourself every time these thoughts come up.
The same is true for you – when you find yourself making negative comments about your own body, ask yourself where those ideas are coming from, and work on accepting yourself for who you are.
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