Body positivity or bopo is a hot topic. There are over 90,000 Instagram posts with the hashtag body-positive and a quick google search brings up hundreds of hits. But we seem to be missing the mark with body positivity. I often find people are confused by the topic, thinking it means they must love their body every day or even have a certain body type to be body positive. For example, can thin women be body positive role models? Does body positive mean you have to love your body? Or, can you be health-focused and body positive? I’ve tackled a few of these body positive myths & added my thoughts to challenge these misconceptions.
Myth #1: Body Positive Means You Have to Love Your Body
Being body positive or having a healthy body image doesn’t mean you have to love your body every day. It also doesn’t mean you have to be obsessed with or think about your body all the time. Healthy body image is about accepting your body. It also means that you don’t obsess about your body. You see your body as an extension of you. Grooming your body is a simple pleasure in life but your focus is typically not on what you look like. And even people with healthy body image struggle to love their bodies. Hormonal fluctuations, aging, and other changes can create times where it’s difficult to feel comfortable in your body. That’s o.k. and you can still have a good body image even if there are days or moments where you’re struggling to feel like “you” in your own skin.
Myth #2: Being Body Positive Means You Won’t Take Care of Your Health
A common misconception in our culture is that being thin equals healthy. Therefore, if you are not thin and embrace your bodies natural size/shape (which may not be thin) you are not healthy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every body has a natural “set point” for Its weight. This is like your height. It is genetically determined and there is very little we can do to change our set point. In fact, it is lifestyle behaviors such as exercise and the quality of the food that you consume that impact health, not your actual weight. What’s more, studies have shown that it is difficult to take care of your body or your health when you can’t accept your body. If you don’t like or feel comfortable in your body, why would you want to take care of it? Or do things with your body that make you feel good. Research shows that accepting your body improves your health. You’re more likely to do loving things for your body like gentle exercise or eat foods that make you feel good if you have positive feelings of your body.
Myth #3: Only People of a Certain Size/Shape Can Be Body Positive
Just like there is a myth that only slender people can be healthy, there is also a cultural misconception that body positivity is only for people who have larger bodies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Having a smaller or thinner body does not necessarily mean you have a better body image. People with all body shapes and sizes struggle with accepting their bodies. Body positivity is about accepting your body’s natural shape and size whether it is thin, round or curvy. Body positivity is inclusive of all bodies, including those that have been marginalized.