The term “body positivity” gets thrown around a lot these days.
It means something slightly different to everyone. Some have fully jumped on the body positivity wagon embracing it mindlessly, others think it’s a way to mine likes on social media, and some even think that it “has become an excuse to be unhealthy.”
When I consulted the wise sage Urban Dictionary on the issue, I found this definition in the top spot:
Sorry UD, this definition kind of sucks too. It assumes that body positivity is driven by external factors like “making others feel better.” Call me selfish, but I’m pretty sure body positivity is about feeling positively about your own body. Happiness with yourself is something that HAS to be internal. You cannot control external factors, and therefore, cannot rely on them to be happy.
For me, body positivity is striving for physical health while accepting and appreciating where my body is today.
Body positivity is not growing complacent in a physically unhealthy body. It’s not looking knowing you are unhealthy physiologically (via biomarkers like high triglycerides, high blood sugar, and blood pressure) and saying, “f$ck being healthy, because I’m amazing.” (Let me be clear, you ARE amazing, but that is not an excuse to continue treating your body poorly.)
Body positivity is working toward becoming physically healthy while honoring your body’s capabilities, celebrating successes toward physical health, and being kind to yourself throughout the journey. It’s changing the dialog with yourself from:
“Ugh, I went over my calories today. I should probably do an extra workout tomorrow to make up for it. Otherwise, I’m never going to get rid of all this extra fat on my thighs.”
“That workout was crazy! My body was screaming for that extra protein. I’m so glad these powerful legs got me carried me through that. I can’t wait to see what I’m capable of next time. I’m getting so much stronger!”
Another thing: thin doesn’t always mean healthy.
I suppose this raises the meta-question: What is healthy?
To me, “healthy” goes beyond the physical self and extends to the emotional self. I’ve been “thin” and unhappy. I’ve been “fat” and unhappy. I’ve been “athletic” and unhappy. At no point, regardless of the state of my physical body, did I feel truly “healthy.”
In each of these moments, I was speaking negatively to myself. When I was “thin,” I still fixated on parts of my body that I didn’t like or that “needed improvement.” When I was “fat,” I beat myself up every time I made a less than perfect food decision. I “fat shamed” myself. I felt like crap and it only further fueled my struggle with binge eating. This continued as I became more “athletic-looking,” as I didn’t look “athletic enough” and I was constantly frustrated because I wasn’t “shredded” yet. I restricted to the point of total mental exhaustion ended up bingeing anyway. It might have been on low carb protein bars instead of chips and ice cream, but the mindset was still the same.
Healthy is feeling good, both physically and mentally. It’s understanding that our body needs nutrients over just “feeling full.” It’s listening to your body when it tells you that eating an entire bag of chips does not make your digestive system feel well, but it’s also not judging it for craving a few when you’re super low on glucose and salt. Healthy is showing up for a workout and trying your hardest, but not beating yourself up when you’re completely exhausted and unable to finish it.
Healthy is making the best choices you can for your body and your mind. Sometimes, the answer will definitely be chocolate and nap. Other times, it will be kale and a 5-mile run.
As one of my favorite authors and podcast producers, Leanne Vogel, says, “Your body wants to be healthy.”
Body positivity is actually listening to it.