Why being body positive isn’t promoting obesity
I was recently asked to respond to the accusation that the body positive movement promotes obesity and unhealthy lifestyles. To my mind, this view of body positivity assumes that if you do love your body, you abdicate any responsibility for caring for it. This definition implies that Body love is an excuse to be complacent about your body.
This is not my view of being body positive. I believe that each of us is responsible for caring and nurturing our bodies if we want to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Part of this care is to eat nutritious food, move the body and to respond to its need for rest. The positive body image movement is about promoting acceptance. Loving your body doesn’t mean complacency about your health. It doesn’t mean that you never make changes to live a healthier life.
I’m a firm believer that whatever change you want to make, whether that’s to eat more healthily, exercise, or think differently, you have to begin with acceptance. Until you understand and accept where you are now, you can’t make a change.
If you want to make healthier lifestyle choices, you’re more likely to make these changes by accepting your body as it is NOW, rather than by hating it. From love and acceptance comes greater respect for your body. It’s this respect which creates the desire to make better choices.
Sadly, body shaming as a means to encourage lifestyle change is all too common. This does not help people to make healthy choices. If you hate your body, you’re likely to continue punishing it through unhealthy practices such as binge eating, unhealthy diets or abusing alcohol or drugs.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of judgement surrounding what a healthy body is or isn’t. Assumptions are made about someone’s health based purely on their physical appearance. What is healthy for one person isn’t always healthy for another. We can’t assume that slim=healthy and large=unhealthy. There are a lot of factors (not just BMI, but overall health indicators such as blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, stress levels, lung capacity, etc.) that need to be considered before deciding if someone is healthy or not.
A far as I’m concerned, the body positive movement is a force for good. It encourages us to accept our bodies and to treat them with respect, which includes healthy lifestyle choices.