Yes, you read that right, I am over the body positivity movement. Here is why…
The Body Positivity Struggle
In the last 10 years that I have paid attention to my weight and been able to plug my height and weight into a BMI calculator, I have been overweight, underweight, and obese.
I will say that I realize there is a such thing as thin privilege and I know that even when I was technically overweight according to my BMI, I was still able to enjoy many of the privileges that come with being thinner.
I mean, men still told me I would be prettier if I lost some weight, or that I shouldn’t have short hair because my face was too chunky, or my favorite, “your back is so wide you could be a linebacker.”
The linebacker comments probably stung the worst, because the women in my family all have wide shoulders and I knew that there was nothing in the world I could do to “fix” the width of my shoulders. (Insert eye roll at thinking I needed to change something about myself to make me more appealing to men.)
However, despite the nasty comments I got, I am the daughter of a mother who has been overweight my entire life, and I have witnessed people say things to her that no human should ever say to another human.
When I go to the doctor and complain about my knee hurting the doctor is more likely to blame it on my mental health than my weight, while every aliment my mom suffers from is a product of her being overweight, including her mental health.
So, believe me when I say that I get why and how the body positive movement was born. I backed it and supported it at one point, and I don’t necessarily hate it now, but I do kind of wish it would just go away.
I also wish fat shaming would go away too, maybe the two of them can go away together and figure out when and how we became so obsessed with women’s bodies.
Appreciating Your Body Doesn’t Need a Title
Don’t get me wrong I am not saying I want women to stop loving their bodies, our bodies can do some pretty impressive things.
I mean my body grew an entire freaking human and then it proceeded to feed that freaking human for two years. Two years!!
My body kept me and another human alive for two years. Oh, and it also supplemented the feeding of a baby that wasn’t even my own for six months.
My body has also survived multiple car accidents, a dirt bike accident, it has survived all the times I have pushed it way to hard at swim meets or track events.
When I started lifting weights after my son was born all I could think about was wanting to get strong enough to squat and dead lift my weight. I don’t know why that was my big goal, but it kept me going and really lit me up on days when I didn’t want to go to the gym.
I remember the weeks following when I was finally able to accomplish both feats, I was so pumped to go to the gym every day. I was more excited about leg day than any weight lifter ever should be.
Then came the bigger feats of being able to squat press 300 pounds and the time I was able to bench press my weight 3 times in a row.
Or when I was finally strong enough to do pull-ups. I got into so many arguments with men trying to mansplain that women shouldn’t lift heavy, because it makes them “bulky.” *Insert, eye roll*
No one in the history of ever, would tell a man not to lift heavy for fear of looking bulky. Men will literally shoot themselves full of steroids that have the potential to cause erectile dysfunction and heart problems to be bulky.
But the World Might Actually End if Women Were Bulky
Women are supposed to be thin, but also have muscles, but not too many muscles, like toned, but not too tone, you know? Like still feminine, and she should always have a spotter, but like a male spotter, and then men who never rack their own weights will rack hers.
I could write an entire paper on weight lifting culture and toxic masculinity, but I will save that for another day.
Somewhere between the glory days of enjoying my body for its capabilities and strength, and the winter of 2017, I fell into the trap of my borderline eating disorder that has reared its ugly head since the days of high school.
Here is the thing about eating disorders, they aren’t rational. There comes a point when they stop being fed by the desire to be thin and start being fed by the addiction to control everything.
When in the throes of my eating disorder I controlled everything. I could not understand how people just ate when they were hungry. My meals were planned explicitly, what I would eat, the amount I would eat, and when I would eat. If the plan was altered at all I just wouldn’t eat.
This is the reason the body positive movement got dangerous for me. Sure, the movement is supposed to be about loving your body despite societal pressures, but I’m an all or nothing kind of gal.
When the body positivity movement really took off and I was on board. I jumped on that train without giving it a second thought.
I read the posts on social media about loving my body completely, I watched the movies with body positive themes, and I was all about the, “I don’t want to be skinny; I want to be strong.”
Here is the thing though, body positivity means you also need to have a positive mindset; you need to be in a state of constant positivity to think about your body that much and stay healthy.
It makes sense that when my depression showed up it also invited my eating disorder. I mean what was my depression supposed to do when my brain was so occupied with my body.
No one notices your struggling with an eating disorder unless you are already thin when the eating disorder starts.
The depression is easier to treat with meds and therapy, but the eating disorder is sneaky. Plus no one ever admits to having an eating disorder until they are in recovery. Even in recovery I can only call it what it is in writing, for fear someone will claim I am not skinny enough to have an eating disorder.
Where the Body Positivity Movement gets it Wrong
Part of the body positivity movement is loving every aspect of your body or you’re doing it wrong.
Maybe that is not what it was meant to convey in its messaging, but that is the message that comes across.
Again, I do believe when the body positivity movement started, it was started with the best of intentions. But you already know what they say about good intentions.
Basically, the movement took up so much room that it left no room for people who just didn’t want to think about their bodies. Either you were on board with the mission of loving every part of your body and wearing a bikini, or you were out.
This type of thinking seems to happen a lot these days and I don’t think it is doing us any good, we cannot create real change if we refuse to listen to people with differing opinions.
The reality is, there is room for all of us at the table.
This movement that was supposed to be lifting women up just placed more conditions on the acceptable emotions a woman was allowed to feel about her body.
“Oh, you don’t love your body, well shame on you, you are perpetuating negative self-image in women.”
Women are more nuanced than that and so is the way we think about our bodies. Instead of thinking that we must believe we are beautiful, maybe we could just crush this toxic mindset all together.
Women are more than their beauty, which also means women don’t have to think about their beauty 24/7.
My dog is the perfect example of a being that does not think about the size of his body. How do I know this, you ask? Because he tries to sit on me like a lap dog, despite the fact that he weighs over 100 pounds, he’s terrified of small dogs, and he gets stuck in places too small for him all the time.
That is also how I know he doesn’t think of his body as beautiful either. He is so unaware of his body that he gets stuck in places he is too big for.
Unfortunately, humans aren’t as simple as dogs, but it gives us a better goal to strive for than putting the complexities of women’s emotions into two categories.
Slide over body positivity, there is enough room for body neutrality too.