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Body Positive Movement

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

Last year, I gave a presentation during a UCLA Body Image Task Force Meeting about the Body Positivity movement: it's myths, misconceptions, and facts. I've shared my notes and script below!

Things that might surprise you

It isn't just about embracing and loving yourself, it's a social justice movement enjoying marginalized bodies 

What is the Body Positive Movement? What does it encompass?

On its most basic level, body positivity is the idea that every person, regardless of body type, is deserving of a positive, self-loving lifestyle.

Started by Connie Sobczak and Elisabeth Scott, the movement encourages people to adapt more affirming notions and attitudes toward their bodies, with the hope of improving overall health and well-being. (Study Break Magazine) 

The movement advocates the acceptance of all bodies no matter the form, size, or appearance, which will change people's behaviors towards certain products and services 

The movement sets forth the notion that beauty is a construct of society, and poses that this construct should not infringe upon one's ability to feel confidence or self-worth

Depression, social anxiety, eating disorders and heightened insecurities are some of the cruel demonstrations of body shaming effects. 

Body Positivity: True or False? 

1. Health is more important than beauty


Self-compassion and self-love, rather than body size, could be the best indicator of good health

2. Loving my body looks like this:  Exercising daily (or multiple times in a day) + Eating an extremely healthy diet 


Our bodies needs and cravings change every day, and even throughout the day! To stick to one set of rules and behaviors ignores these differences and doesn’t allow us to be intuitive! 

3.We can tell how healthy someone is by looking at them. If someone is slim, they are healthy. If someone is fat, they are unhealthy. 


As a culture we’ve been obsessed with weight.

4. The "Thin Ideal" is the valuing of thinness that is conveyed and reinforced by many social influences, including family, peers, schools, athletics, business, and health care professionals.


5. Weight loss prolongs life


Mortality is higher for “successful” weight losers, and the Centers for Disease Control concluded that “overweight” people have the lowest mortality.We need to stop forcing our bodies to fit a sociological ideal that is not biologically maintainable or healthy. Discussed later in Linda Bacon’s “Health at Every Size” - all the ways in which our bodies fight weight loss

6. Unconditional body positivity “de-incentivizes” people to make healthy choices. 

The argument is “If you love your body even when you’re fat, and if you stop characterizing fat as a bad thing, you’ll live a lazy and unhealthy lifestyle because you won’t feel the need to eat well and exercise. BUT, in reality, if someone’s incentives to make healthy choices are rooted in fat-phobia and shame, then it’s not actually a healthy situation at all. Loving your body unconditionally doesn’t mean neglecting your physical wellness in order to prove that you still can feel good about yourself. 

Common Misconceptions

1. The Body Positivity movement = fat liberation movement 

Body positivity has roots in the fat acceptance movement as well as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. Body positivity differs from fat acceptance in that it is all encompassing and inclusive of all body types, whereas fat acceptance only advocates for individuals considered to be obese or overweight

2. An excuse to disregard health issues. So many people complain about the movement because they say that it’s an excuse for bigger individuals to continue an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s NOT.

In 2018, the University of East Anglia released a report saying that the "normalization of plus size" was damaging to people's perceptions of obesity, made overweight and obese people less likely to attempt weight loss, and undermined government initiatives intended to overcome the problem.

3. Fat phobia/Fat shaming

In fact, it’s so embedded in our everyday lives that we don’t often recognize when we’re perpetuating fat-phobia, or the act of discriminating against someone because of the size of their body. People hide their fat-phobia as "concern" for our health. Fat libration =\= fat acceptance. As long as we demonize any body shape, there will always be a fearful comparison. Observe and treat BEHAVIORS, not bodies.

4. Asking for equality is not the same as “glorifying obesity,”

Fat acceptance is a movement designed to promote dignity so that people of size have equal access to opportunities. Research has shown that overweight and obese people face stigma and discrimination when it comes to employment, health care and education, stereotyped as lazy, unmotivated and sloppy.

Recognizing the systematic discrimination against fat people - stigma and stereotype. Fourth most prevalent form of discrimination

If we were accepting of fat, the billion dollar fat loss/dieting/weight loss industry would fail

Can result in misdiagnoses - failure to address other health issues by focusing on weight

Lower pay 

Flights- buy two tickets?

Fashion and access to clothing that fits

Not about being positive and ignorant of the facts. Yes embrace healthy habits but not solely be driven by weight, instead by feeling good in your body. Studies have found that anywhere from one-third to three-quarters of people classified as obese are metabolically healthy. The movement advocates for letting your weight fall naturally and enhance self care.

Linda Bacon “Health at Every Size”  riveting book that cuts through the lies, biased reports and questionable science about weight, and teaches us how to treat our bodies with genuine care and respect. It discusses how diets and exercise regimens generally stop yielding weight-loss results after a certain amount of time. Bacon questions what people hope to get out of dieting, such as love and acceptance, and how to figure out what you’re really looking for.

5. Many assume that the movement is geared solely toward plus-sized women (which can be a stupid term), while shaming other body types.

Yes, about unequal representation in the media and unrealistic beauty expectations, but also so much more than that. The Body Positivity Movement is meant to encourage everyone, regardless of religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, age, weight or disability, to love and appreciate their bodies.The movement states that neither fat-shaming nor skinny-shaming is acceptable, and that all body types can and should be celebrated. Body shaming of all types must be unacceptable as it invokes a strong feeling of self- doubt and loathing. Even in the popular culture, appreciation of the fat and curvy body is often achieved by insulting the skinny body type. Why do we need to insult one body form to promote the other? 

6. Body Positive movement is exclusive to women 

Too many assume that men do not suffer from body issues the same way that women do, which is false. Men are faced with the same stereotypes of the “ideal” body in media (Study Break Magazine).

The body positivity movement focuses largely on women, because of the fact that societal beauty standards apply more prevalently to women than they do to men.

For some, “body positivity” suggests you need to be happy about your body all the time. That can seem forced at best, if not restrictive. By comparison, true “body neutrality” and “fat acceptance” reject the idea that anyone should be ashamed, held back or discriminated against because of their body.That’s different than simply loving the way you look.

Starting with the premise that you are okay just the way you are. Strip away shame and move and act in mindful ways. Restore self confidence + combat unrealistic beauty expectations.



Think about weight bias. Fat? Weight loss? Exercise? Health? 

What do people hope to get out of dieting, such as love and acceptance, and how to figure out what you’re really looking for

Challenge your:

- Ideas about fat 

- Ideas about weight loss 

- Ideas about health and exercise

Be careful for false body positivity 

Katya Weiss Anderson on the danger of false body positivity (

“Some people’s approach to self-proclaimed “body positivity” is predicated on obsession. It pulled me to feel like anything less than a full-time fitness and healthy eating obsession in my own life was not enough. I felt myself being pulled towards orthorexic tendencies.”

“I don’t care if “strong is the new skinny” for you – we don’t need a “new skinny.” Think of all the toxicity that surrounds thinness in our culture, and all the damage that springs from it.”

Love must come first – before skinny, before strong, and independent of both.

Learn and challenge everything you’ve been taught about food, body image, and your body

(Health at Every Size)

People come in all shapes and sizes. And our bodies have very strong compensatory mechanisms. Any time we try to manipulate our weight, the body fights back. We’ve become so obsessed with weight that it’s a major revolution for people to say, hey I’m wonderful just the way I am – I can choose to see myself as attractive. There’s simply no evidence that diets lead to lasting weight loss or health benefits. The evidence that being fat itself poses a health risk is pretty limited.


Every discovery in public health, no matter how significant, must compete with the traditions, assumptions and financial incentives of the society implementing it.Since 1959, research has shown that 95 to 98 percent of attempts to lose weight fail and that two-thirds of dieters gain back more than they lost. The reasons are biological and irreversible. As early as 1969, research showed that losing just 3 percent of your body weight resulted in a 17 percent slowdown in your metabolism—a body-wide starvation response that blasts you with hunger hormones and drops your internal temperature until you rise back to your highest weight (Highline)




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