‘ Body Positive ’ is a term that many people, (women in particular) today can relate with. It’s a mentality that many women strive towards - a philosophy of embracing our uniqueness and having a more kind, loving and caring attitude towards our own bodies.
This is significant! Particularly with the many negative ideas of what a woman’s body “should” look like, as depicted by the media, which circulates in everyday conversations.
For this, I thank the body positive movement for giving women a chance to celebrate our own unique strengths and natural beauty (inside and out) without feeling like the need to conform to a stereotypical ideal. Because what is ‘average’? Does it really matter if you have curly hair or straight hair? If you’re tall or short? The colour of your skin or the symmetry of your body?
I think not.
So in this sense, body positive has been a saving grace because it gives us permission to be OK with ourselves. More than that - to love ourselves no matter what. Finally!
Body positive also promotes the acceptance and appreciation of all body types, meaning society at large should make a more conscious effort to stop putting other people down and shaming them based on their physical appearances. Yes, this includes people who are overweight or obese - no one deserves to be shamed, and yes, I believe that everyone has the right to feel beautiful.
Again, this is also significant, but it’s not a new or radical concept. It’s a universal ethical principle - but it’s one we have difficulty in mastering. Not because we intend to hurt other people, but because people have a natural inclination to defend ourselves (our ego) if we feel threatened - regardless of whether it is real or imagined.
If you think about it - when was the last time your friends or family expressed their concerns about something that was happening to you or in your life - and their views were radically different to those of your own?
Let’s imagine that your close circle of family and friends are actually likeable people who you also love and care for. Were you able to separate your emotions from the topic and listen to their concerns and entertain its merit? Or did you respond in a way that would imitate that of a two-year-old that was denied its favourite treat?
As adults, we don’t like admitting that we don’t know all the answers - even though the objective reality is that we cannot answer all the mysteries of the universe! And sometimes, our way of dealing with this fundamental human ‘flaw’ is to distort our own perception of reality - we delude ourselves into believing that our ‘truth’ is the one and ONLY truth!
And so back to the topic of body positive - what concerns me about this movement is that so many people and groups of people attach their own meanings to these two words when put together. It’s been hijacked by groups of people who have fallen victim to diet culture and created another cultural branch that is radically opposed to weight loss (in this context, I am using this term synonymously with ‘health’). It’s created a subculture of body positive individuals who promote ‘fat acceptance.’
This is where I believe it gets dangerous.
Hear me out here. In fact, I ask you to note your own feelings of discomfort (and anger) which might arise from reading what I have to say. Reflect on those feelings - and ask yourself whether my words are offensive, or if you feel offended because it triggers something which has happened to you in the past (or time and time again). Some of the topics I will cover may feel a bit raw, but this is where the growth happens - so if you’re open to the process, please continue reading...
We all know the dangers of being overweight or obese - I don’t need to list them here - in the same way, we all know the dangers of smoking. If you’re a parent, one would assume that you want your children to be in the best of health. If you’re a parent and you happen to be a smoker, then one would assume that you would smoke away from your kids so that they do not feel the effects of secondhand smoke in their lungs, because again, the negative health impact of secondhand smoke is widely documented.
By the very same logic, if you are overweight or obese, one would assume that you would want your children to be in the best of health so that they have a chance at living their lives to the fullest and so that one day when they grow up, they can fulfil their dreams of being whatever they want to be.
I’ll note here that I am using the term ‘health’ in its broadest sense - capturing physical, mental and emotional dimensions.
To glorify the subculture of body positive that is synonymous with ‘fat acceptance’ goes against the logic that supports the arguments above. Continuing to blindly orient one’s life denying that a) you have a problem and b) you’re not going to take productive steps to address the problem, means that you are living in a distorted and inauthentic reality.
You’re not doing yourself justice. In much the same way as if you hear the engine of your car sputtering.
That’s a pretty good indication that something is wrong with your vehicle and you should get it checked out by the mechanic so that you don’t break down on the middle of the highway, and end up being even more out of pocket than when you first noticed the issue in the first place, or worse, never arriving to your destination because of a horrible accident.
Are you really living the best version of yourself or could you dig a little deeper so that you can reap the most out of life?
The chances of you being born, by your mother and father, who were born by their parents and so on and so forth until the beginning of time, is one in 400 trillion. That’s significant. You were no accident. And in a sense, you really are a miracle. So why not choose to live your life intentionally and with meaning, in a positive direction so you can make the rest of your life even more significant than it is today?
If you have been struggling with weight issues for a long time, it’s time to forgive yourself for the unintentional damage you have done to your body. Obesity doesn’t hit you overnight, it creeps up on you because you lose touch with your sense of reality. You’re not addressing your responsibilities to yourself. You get lazy and you realise that your parents aren’t always going to be there telling you what to do, even when you don’t want to do it. And so in a sense, you need to be your own parent to yourself in order to fully integrate your identity as a fully-functioning human being.
Before you get angry and say that we are accusing obese people as not being fully-functioning human beings, just note that I come from a place of empathy. Because like our Founder, Oscar - I was once obese myself, blind to the condition I had allowed my body to reach.
We know exactly the kind of excuses people who are overweight or obese make because we once made those excuses as well. We know the unpleasant feelings that would stir up within at any talks of body image, or if friends and family would say with concern, “you should lose weight”. The negative self-talk pushed us to stop looking at our own reflections in the mirror - we denied the reality that we were presented with. We continually told ourselves white lies, “that’s not me, that’s not what I look like”. We lived inauthentically.
There’s nothing braver than admitting you have a problem and there’s nothing more courageous that making that decision to change, for the better.
This is the message that Oscar is trying to spread in this video. How do I know? Because I wouldn’t be working in his company trying to spread the very same message to help people live longer if I didn’t believe that the only way to do this is to first and foremost look after our own health.
Be body positive. Be mind positive. Exude positivity. But don’t distract yourself with cultural movements which steer you away from maximising your chance of living again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that…
There are only two things you can control in your life. Your thoughts, and your behaviours. So behave the way a healthy person behaves and you’ll be happier and live a more fulfilling life. We’ve seen this time and time again. Don’t sell yourself short because you are a miracle and deserve to live the best life imaginable.
What would living an extra day be worth to you? Who would you spend that day with? What would you be doing? The thing about life is we will never know when our time is up. But if you start living each day with the knowledge that it could be your last - would you want to make the most of that day, or spend it looking back at your life with regret.
If you don’t have a solid answer on this, I challenge you to speak to an elderly person for some perspective.
So in summary, love yourself enough to treat your body well.
Rochelle is a Counsellor and Head of Coaching at Health With Results.