I haven’t sat down to write anything long-form in quite some time. These days my brain only seems to hold an Instagram story’s worth of text. But a topic has been heavy on my heart and mind lately. So this felt like the perfect opportunity to reenter discourse.
The body positivity ‘movement’ is now a hallmark of society. Every fashion brand and media outlet has attached themselves to this idea of self-love. I do fully believe that the intent behind this movement is/was pure (albeit with a hint of wanting to sell more clothes or magazines). But what has become of it is, in my opinion, unhealthy.
I have a history of anorexia (more about that in this blog post). A huge component of that disease is body dysmorphia, the fixation on a perceived flaw in appearance. You look in the mirror and your brain literally does not see accurately what is reflected. It’s scary and it’s dangerous. That perception of an untruth became my reality. I fear a similar outcome emanates from the body positivity movement. Rather than focusing on health as a priority, it elevates beauty as paramount.
In the midst of an anorexia relapse during college, people would say to me, “You’ve lost weight! Nice work.” You know what I’d hear instead? “Working out twice a day and eating Luna bars for every meal is paying off—keep it up.” Those words were fodder for my illness.
To tell someone in my college mindset and physical state self, “you’re perfect—love your body just the way it is, don’t change a thing,” would’ve been detrimental. I needed help, I needed intervention, I needed change. I wasn’t close to perfect, I was on the brink of heart conditions.
The same goes for the other end of the spectrum as well. My sister recently sent an Instagram post to me that said, “Telling a dangerously overweight person not to lose weight because they’re beautiful is like telling an alcoholic not to stop drinking because they’re fun.”
Here’s the catch: it’s not about other people. It’s not on you to control other people or tell them what to do. I am advocating for zero shame, pressure, or even outward expression. Instead, what I am promoting here is an internal dialogue that could give way to cultural shifts. What if we stood for health and forewent the standard of beauty? What if strength mattered more than numbers on a scale? What if experiences, scars, physical triumphs were paraded as widely as the perfect selfie? When self-love becomes health-love and not an infatuation with our image, we’ll be in business.
I have not arrived. I am a constant work in progress. I can’t promise to love my reflection every day. But I can promise that I will love my ability to play with my kids. I will love my capacity to build muscle through hard work. I will love my endeavor to eat healthy foods while allowing for special indulgences. I will cheerlead anyone and everyone in my life seeking to better themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally. That is the movement I hope to see. That is the revolution I want to start.