Updated: Aug 21
You wake up, check your phone, and your Instagram account is flooded with flawlessly filtered images of women doing yoga in Lululemon, hashtags proclaiming “#bodypositive”, “#lovetheskinyourin”, and models that are in slightly larger bodies than the status quo—but their curves cut in all the “right” places and their belly is flat. Is this body positivity?
Although there is no one “correct” expression of body positivity, the movement has certainly meandered from its organic roots. Launched in the 1960’s as an anti-discrimination movement by black queer femmes, the body positivity movement envisioned a world where all bodies could be safe in the world, and at home in their skin. Embodied.
Fast forward to 2021 and body positivity isn’t a grassroots radical movement, it’s mainstream everyday language. Social media accounts buzz with hashtags that read #bopo, #bodypositivity, #loveyourcurves, and #lovetheskinyourin. While it can be incredibly empowering to feel good about yourself aesthetically and challenge society’s narrow standards for beauty, the mainstreaming of body positivity has led to some of its core goals falling by the wayside, becoming a diluted version of the original movement. In doing so, this once again marginalizes the people it was originally intended for. Because of this, many individuals have taken to creating new sacred spaces and finding different language (body neutrality, fat liberation, body respect) that speak more to the original ideals of the movement: embodiment, challenging weight stigma and fatphobia, creating health equity, and cultivating a nurturing relationship with one’s body.
In addition to this mainstreaming, the diet/wellness industry has attempted to hijack the body positive movement. To not lose relevance—*profit*—in a world that has increasingly become ready to “ditch diets” and more size accepting, the diet industry has made a major pivot in its entire marketing strategy. Big diet companies have adopted the language and slogans of movements like body positivity and principles like intuitive eating while still maintaining the original hallmarks of dieting. They’ve essentially become a wolf in sheep’s clothing—harder to spot but still a diet all the same.
So how do you take care of yourself in a world where body positivity has many meanings and expressions?
Find the meaning, language, & expression that works for you:
Recovering in a society that’s so inundated with outside media input, makes it easy to get lost in thoughts of: “am I doing this correctly” or “am I doing enough.” And the answer is: simply by being and existing, you are doing it correctly and you are doing enough. And the same is true for body positivity, there is no “right” or “enough” way to practice body positivity. The “right” way is what feels good and true for you when you are living from a place of authenticity. If that means changing the language you use from “positivity” to neutrality, acceptance, liberation, gratitude, or any other word of your choosing—that’s good and healthy. Language is powerful, and the way we speak to ourselves matters. Forcing pseudo positivity when that’s not how you truly feel, isn’t always constructive. It’s okay to have “bad body image” days; it’s also okay to have days completely at home and in touch with your body, or days where you do feel really body positive, or even days where you don’t notice your body at all. The point is, it’s all okay and it's fluid. The vocabulary you choose to express your relationship with your body, and your very relationship to your body, can all be fluid and evolving—as long as it’s yours and feels true to you. That is the very reason this movement was created: so individuals could have agency, freedom, and safety to be who they are in their bodies without definition from external ideals.
Use discernment with media intake:
In early recovery, or at any stage of your healing journey, filtering your media intake can be incredibly liberating towards keeping you protected and grounded in what feels healthy for your body positivity (or insert your chosen word here) practice. This is all about you. So, if you scroll across a meme, article, post, or tweet, and something feels off, trust that feeling and don’t hesitate to block, mute, or delete that content or account. When it comes to self-care and protecting your serenity and recovery, you are not being "too sensitive” or “overreacting”. And you don’t need to apologize for taking care of yourself.
A helpful suggestion: if something feels “diety” or not in alignment with the spirit of recovery, it probably is. As mentioned earlier, the diet industry has gone to great lengths to appear holistic and body accepting, however, this is merely a guise for its true underlying efforts to profit off of insecurity and fatphobia. If you are brand new in recovery and struggling with deciphering between the voice of the ED (eating disorder) and the voice of your higher Self, it’s sometimes suggested to place a moratorium on social media altogether. If you have a treatment team or counselor, social media exposure may be something worth exploring.
On the other end of the spectrum, social media can be a powerful and helpful resource in recovery, depending on who you're following and listening to! So, if you are choosing to incorporate social media in your recovery journey at this time, and you looking for recovery resources, check out our page here. This link provides tons of resources for recovery groups, and Instagram accounts focused on intuitive eating, body positivity, fat liberation, social justice, and trauma recovery.
Trust your wisdom & intuition:
Although this has been mentioned in earlier sections, it deserves a category all its own. You are your own best guide and healer. And your body contains all the wisdom within it to access all the information it needs for its own healing. At times, life circumstances create situations that cause us to lose access to this internal body wisdom, we live outside of our bodies—in our minds, disconnected. But through healing and safe connection, we regain access to this intuitive, innate knowledge and become once again able to live embodied and discover for ourselves our own individual and unique expression of what it means to be body positive.