What IS Body Positivity, Anyway?

9/1/14

Author: Emily Burrows

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Body Positivity ImabeOur work at Grow Well is shaped by several powerful movements for happier and healthier living. The body positive movement inspires us because we echo the call for greater self and body acceptance. Read below to learn more.

How important is your physical appearance to how you feel about yourself? 

That’s a tricky question to answer, isn’t it? From a very young age we’re exposed to others’ expectations of our bodies, so much so that those expectations usually become our own. In the Western world, this means adhering to a specific picture of how our bodies should look in order to be attractive. For women especially (though true for men, too), self image becomes closely tied to whether or not our bodies meet the conventional criteria for beauty. The media often portrays female beauty as being young, blonde, thin, white and blemish-free, among a laundry list of traits. Few of us meet many, let alone all, of those criteria.

Even if you meet all of those requirements, having your self image wrapped up in the way you fit the beauty “ideal” can become increasingly damaging as your body changes. When our self image is directly linked to a single, regimented and static formula for beauty, we’re fighting a battle we can’t win. So what if we changed the equation entirely?

That’s exactly what the body positive perspective aims to do, by encouraging people to accept and care for their bodies, just as they are in this moment. While “body positive” can be applied to honoring many different aspects of our bodies, often you’ll see it as as reference to body size diversity. The beauty ideal and societal rhetoric create a desperate push to be thin at all costs and, consequently, drive eating-, body- and weight-related shame.

At the core of the body positive movement is the understanding that social conditioning pushes us to expend a lot of energy (and money!) to change our bodies in ways that aren’t necessarily healthy emotionally, mentally or physically. One of the loudest messages we hear is that we need to lose weight not only to feel good about ourselves, but also because of the pervasive assumption that weight loss is always necessary for optimal health. In fact, research increasingly shows that healthy behaviors (especially fitness) are more predictive of health and longevity than weight is.

These findings support the body positive Health at Every Size (HAES) movement, which embraces body size diversity and discourages weight-related stigma. HAES is founded on the evidence-based premise that restrictive dieting is unsustainable (95% of dieters regain the weight they lost) and can be both physically and emotionally destructive. HAES emphasizes healthy lifestyle habits (especially mindful eating and movement) for the sake of long-term health and happiness, rather than weight loss.

At its core, the body positive movement rebels against the message that some bodies are better bodies than others. It instead promotes the idea that you and your body are worthy of love and care, just by virtue of existence.

Body positivity empowers us to break free from ridiculously narrow cultural representations of health and beauty.  It also helps us untangle our self worth from our physical appearance, so that we care for our bodies, not out of shame, but out of love.

Emily Burrows offers body positive Self-Care and Wellness Coaching and Private Yoga Lessons, to help you live your happiest, healthiest, most meaningful life. New to yoga? Try Yoga Basics, an online jumpstart to a self-compassionate yoga practice!

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