What the Body Positivity Movement Gets Wrong

"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."
- Maya Angelou


Obesity is a global health crisis. 41.9% of American Adults are clinically obese. Black adults have the highest rate of obesity at 49.9%.  (1) It is the fifth leading cause of death, killing over 2.8 million adults each year (2) 13 types of cancer and 200 health conditions are directly related to obesity. If someone is 50 pounds overweight, their likelihood of dying of any cause is twice as high as someone who is a healthy weight. If they're 100 pounds overweight, the risk is three times higher (3). Simply put, we have cultivated a culture that is leading itself to a slow, medicated death.

Yet despite the impact of this health crisis, there's a lot of hate surrounding "diet culture".  Proponents of the body positivity movement say wanting to lose weight is wrong, damaging to your self esteem, and (for women) buying into the patriarchy.  They say diets fail 95% of the time, set unrealistic expectations and confuse size and health.  "Love yourself" has come to mean accepting your body and health as though it's something you're unable to change and influence. 

Is some of this true?  Absolutely. However there is something fundamentally flawed with this-

Why do we think you have to hate your body to want to change it? 

Quite the contrary, only by being rooted deeply in love for yourself will you have the ability to change.

Diets aren't deprivation.

Salads aren't sad.

Exercise isn't punishment.

Becoming healthy is the ultimate act of self love and self respect.

Buying into a culture that celebrates slowly killing yourself with addictive processed food and added sugars is not empowering. It's not "treating yourself". It's perpetuating a cycle of addiction that is killing our society and has us tethered to a life on medication.

You can decide you have habits that no longer serve you without wallowing in guilt and self-loathing. Most people are fundamentally doing the best they can, given their knowledge and resources. There's nothing wrong with saying you have evolved to a point where you are ready to let go of the "old you" and commit to nourishing your body with food that it deserves. Maybe you leaned on unhealthy habits because of stress, Covid, a death in the family, or just plain needing comfort. That doesn't make you bad, weak or unworthy, it makes you human.  What makes you strong is having the courage to say "yes, I love myself enough that I can work to change".  Does this mean you never eat a potato chip again?  Of course not.  It means that you acknowledge that one of the most impactful things you can do to prevent disease and death is to eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight. That choice is nothing to vilify.  

That said, where we do agree with the body positivity movement is that your self worth is in no way correlated to your jean size.  You are good, worthy and wonderful because of the soul residing in your body, not because of what you eat.  This is why we will constantly correct clients who say "I was good" or "I was bad" when discussing what they ate. You ARE good regardless of what you eat. You can, and should, celebrate your body in every iteration by caring for it with healthy food and movement. 

Your soul will inhabit this body for a lifetime--choose to take care of it.


(1) https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

(2) https://easo.org/media-portal/statistics

(3) https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/health-and-wellness-articles/can-you-be-overweight-and-healthy


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