Body Positivity is a buzzword these days. In mainstream media and within the diet and wellness industries folks are jumping onboard to try and help women feel better about their bodies.
I’m thankful that these conversations are taking place, because it can be an entry point for people who have struggled with their relationship with their body for years
But, to be completely honest, these well intended pro’s and media prof’s are falling more than a bit short. Many messages are based on loving and accepting your body so that you can “finally release the weight,” or, that the goal is to reach an end game of forever loving your body.
The hard truth is that for most people, loving your body all day er’y day just isn’t super realistic. What about sickness? What about when you feel like your body has failed you? What about when you just freaking hate your thighs?
Right, telling yourself that you love your body in those moments doesn’t seem super authentic.
And, telling people to love their bodies so that it can be free of fat, is the same as telling people to love themselves enough to diet. It communicates an unspoken message that there is still something wrong with their body in the here and now that needs to be released.
Quite the opposite of body positivity if you ask me!
We know that dieting is a setup. It simply doesn’t work. And, even the expectation of body change for someone struggling with chronic dieting and disordered eating, is enough to spark the binge-restrict cycle.
When you hear the phrase, “body positivity” what do you think?
Maybe you think that it’s viewing your body in a positive way. Calling to mind what it is about your body that you love and appreciate. Or, putting an end to negative thoughts that pop up as you pass by a mirror or a reflective window.
That’s a great place to start. I love hearing that people are working to feel better about their bod!
Today, I want to challenge you to dig deeper. Because body positivity and body image work extend much further.
Consider these words: Inclusivity. Worthiness. Respect. Healing.
You might be scratching your head wondering what in the world I’m talking about here.
We can’t fully grasp body positivity and dig into body image work without considering these other factors.
Inclusivity- The body positivity movement is rooted in the fat acceptance movement, a movement that was started to celebrate body diversity and to create a safe space for people living in bodies that are considered outside of the typical beauty standard. Fat bodies, differently-abled bodies, bodies of color. Equality needs to be a part of the BoPo conversation. We fall short of challenging the societal beauty standard if we don’t celebrate, uplift and create space for people living in all bodies.
Worthiness- Consider how you feel about bodies outside of the beauty standard. As women we’ve been spoon fed the idea that we must be a certain way. A certain size. To be worthy we have to appear a certain way. Going back to inclusivity, get curious about how far your body positivity extends. Do you believe that all bodies are good bodies? Do you believe that all bodies are worthy of kindness, love, respect (this includes your body!)?
Respect- On days when feeling positive about bodies is impossible (ie most days for many people) can you shift to respect? Or does that not seem good-enough? Can you notice that you’re being unkind to yourself with enough curiosity to consider who’s voice that is? It is your own? It is diet culture’s voice? Is it the first person who encouraged you/shamed you to go on a diet?
Healing- Body positivity rooted in inclusivity, worthiness and respect allows people to open the door to healing from a lifetime of body-loathing. To uprooting messages, traumas and seeds of shame that have been planted and watered by diet culture over the course of a lifetime. Because true healing happens when we move past the image of our bodies, and we step into embodiment. Reconnecting to the aliveness of our current body, allowing us to live in it fully, in the here and now, regardless of how we feel about it.
I hope this challenges you to dig a little deeper where you’re ready dig. And if you’re not ready, that’s cool too! Push when you can, rest when you can’t. And do what works for you, until you’re ready for more.
I’m a body image and disordered eating therapist in Horsham, PA. I specialize in helping women heal from binge eating, body-image struggles and chronic dieting.
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