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The ‘Body Positivity’ movement has become quite the trend lately. Essentially, it talks about taking pride in your body, whether you are overweight, underweight, tall, short, etc. It’s a movement that has taken off like the roadrunner being chased by Wily Coyote, but it has now got to a point where people are starting to neglect their health in the name of ‘Body Positivity’.
Now, please understand, we are not here to shame people. Body positivity is an incredibly wonderful movement where people are taking charge of their shape and embracing it, and even loving it. Beforehand, people were compelled to change their appearance based on the opinions of others. This is, of course, wrong. No one can tell you what you should look like, and society should never make you feel inferior based on your appearance.
However, there is a caveat to this. Body positivity cannot be used to justify gluttony. It should be used to encourage self-acceptance and boost self-esteem, something we all desperately need. It’s human nature to want to be revered, or even just accepted. At the moment, though, we are using this notion as justification for over-eating, not exercising, and just neglecting our health overall. Basically, we are loving ourselves to death.
I have kept tabs on the shift this movement has gone through, from when it first started, to the point that it’s at now. When it started, it was to combat the ‘Hollywood appeal’, where starlets were portraying this unnatural image as the true image of health. Naturally, society latched onto this idea, and people started jumping on the weird and wonderful diet fads and medications in an attempt to reach that ‘Hollywood appeal’.
One of the first major celebrities to combat this idea, and probably one of the most inspirational figures to this day, was Marilyn Monroe. She went against the grain by having a slightly larger waist than her fellow actresses, and a little more love under the cover. However, even then, she was recognised as one of the most beautiful women around, and today is no different. Monroe didn’t necessarily start the ‘body positivity’ movement, but she was a progenitor long before it became mainstream.
Before we continue, there is no possible way for you to combat genetics. There are definitely genetic factors that come into play in terms of gaining weight, not being able to lose weight, respiratory, cardiac, and muscular problems, and so on. There is no denying this, and there is no way to fight these issues, unfortunately, thanks to the Geneva Convention.
In saying this, there is an alarmingly growing trend of people, globally, misperceiving their weight and underestimating just how unhealthy they are. Why are we talking about weight so much? Obesity is the leading cause of heart complications, on a global scale, and heart disease is the leading cause of natural death in the world. Nobody is perfect, and we all love a great meal, but we need to recognise that perhaps there is a correlation between the growing numbers of obese people and the fact that heart disease/failure is the leading cause of death.
Obesity also stretches beyond the heart; there is an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, kidney failure, sleep apnoea, fatty liver disease, and pregnancy complications. Therefore, we need to be able to recognise when we need to ‘love ourselves’, and when to say, ‘okay, I have a problem’. We can’t fix a problem if it is not being recognised.
Here comes the question. Is it right to let people carry on thinking they are okay, just because they employ body positivity? Where do we stop and tell people that there ‘body positivity’ is actually killing them? Remember, this has nothing to do with aesthetics, it is purely about the health risks involved with being obese. Are we moving from one extreme to the next?
Before, we were told the being as thin as a runway-model was healthy, and we have now recognised that this is not true, thanks to better education on the health risks of being so thin, along with the eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. However, its now time to step up and say the same about obesity. Yes, being overweight does not make you ‘ugly’, nor should you feel shunned, but the simple truth is that it is unhealthy.
Again, people have every right to demand they be looked at for who they are, and not what they look like. Although, there is a growing commercial trend as well, with companies taking advantage of the ‘Body Positivity’ movement. People have cried out for plus size clothing, and the market is responding without hesitation.
Everyone has the right to have access to clothing they will feel comfortable in, that goes without saying. However, at what point do we push it too far? Companies such as Nike, one of the most prestigious and well-known fitness clothing companies, has now started catering to the plus-size market with ‘wide bottom’ yoga pants. By doing this, it eases the pressure on society to maintain a healthy lifestyle, because they don’t need to maintain a healthy body weight to fit into their clothes anymore. Simply, companies are exploiting the ‘plus-sized’ market, which is currently valued at $46 billion, according to a recent Coresight Research report.
The idea behind the ‘Body Positivity’ movement is to encourage a positive outlook on people’s appearance, which is a great thing. We need to be more progressive in how we look at other people and a lack of tolerance is what has caused so many problems before. However, what if we started focusing on people’s health rather than their looks?
What if we promoted images of fit, healthy people, who will have various shapes and sizes, rather than people who are aesthetically pleasing? Being healthy doesn’t mean you need a six-pack, or bulging muscles, or even be able to fit in a size 2 dress. It simply means that you are looking after your wellbeing; eating right, exercising, and getting a good night’s sleep. At the end of the day, whether you are over or underweight, you are putting your health at risk.
There is no perfect body, and there is no one way that you need to look like to conform to societal norms – everybody has the right to express themselves as they want. We are who we are, and most of our aesthetic traits are simply the results of how your DNA has structured itself, something we have no control over.
However, we do have control over how healthy we are. The better your health, the more you will be able to enjoy your life with your friends and loved ones. These are the aspects we need to focus on, not simply appearance, and take ‘Body Positivity’ to mean loving your body enough to look after it, not as a way to force people to accept you for your unhealthy lifestyle. It is time we, as a society, focus on our health rather than our looks.