You may think that the body positivity movement is new, but that is far from the truth. It feels new now since the internet exists to connect you to everything in the world, but the movement started in 1996 when the Body Positive Organization was founded. What has changed over the years is the basic principles of the body which has acquired new and very different connotations on body positivity.
The foundation began with the basic concept that people should be inspired to aim for becoming healthier no matter what their appearance in size, color, or shape. This has changed direction and the terms “fat acceptance” and “body positivity” is mistakenly used interchangeably.
Body positivity is about accepting your body and state of health as you are at this very moment. It is also about taking actions to improve your health. An example of this is if you happen to be overweight and you are taking measures to include regular exercise in your weekly schedule. This also means you are eating clean food, but during the process, you are also accepting the state that you are in and that you are not ashamed or oppressed through it. Basically, in this case, you understand your problems and you aren’t beating yourself up over them, but you are working on them at the same time.
Fat Acceptance is a dangerous concept on its own because it has come to a point where obesity is almost glorified, and this is a problem because it does not motivate overweight people to better their health. The likelihood of being overweight or obese and being told by your doctor that you are perfectly healthy is slim. The reality is that obesity comes with health risks and shaming exercise and encouraging overweight people to indulge in unhealthy food or an unhealthy lifestyle is dangerous. Basically, in this case, you understand you have a weight problem and you accept it – but you don’t do anything about it.
A ‘thin’ body is not the goal in either of these movements. The principle is health, and as long as you are striving for better health, that should come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Ultimately, fat acceptance should be used as a component of the body positivity movement and not on its own entirely. When used on its own, fat acceptance can provide an excuse for obesity. It doesn’t help obese people get to grips with what it is that makes them put on weight – be it psychological or physiological. Yes, fat acceptance is important, but only when used in combination with an improvement plan, is it a useful tool.
Let’s talk about body positivity a little more. Body positivity encompasses so much more than fat acceptance. Body positivity is about accepting not only your weight but also your condition of health. For example, a person who doesn’t have both their legs can practice the principles of body positivity to accept their condition and improve their health in spite of it – perhaps by focusing on improving upper body strength as a positive. A peaceful relationship with your body goes deeper than accepting your weight because there are so many ways your body can be different from the ‘ideal’ that doesn’t have anything to do with fat. A person who is anorexic or bulimic can make effective use of body positivity to help them get out of the rut and accept themselves in the process of working towards a healthier lifestyle.
All of this talk about how important body positivity is shouldn’t dim the light on fat acceptance which has a very important place in today’s world as well. Fat-shaming is a real thing, and while being overweight is not healthy for one’s body, being shamed for it is unhealthy psychologically. So, fat acceptance has an important role to play in the big picture of health and acceptance.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, fat acceptance does have a place in one’s movement to a better self, if it used properly and if it is used in the structure of body positivity. To celebrate obesity is irresponsible and can place you at high risk of health concerns because you will not be motivated to make a change to your body. Ultimately, accept the body you are in — if it is thin, fat, long, wide, short, dark, light or anything in between and over or under. But do so with a mindset to improve upon yourself if there is room for improvement. Without your health, you can’t enjoy your family, lifestyle, money, or life in general. Put your health first!