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Body Positivity is Healthy

posted in: Perception of Beauty
May 29, 2015

This article has been edited since first published, see below for details.*

I’ve been biting my tongue about a recent hot topic that hits close to home for me. I recently realized, however, that keeping quiet does just as much harm as the people and comments I’m about to call out.

I’m lucky to be witnessing first hand the rise of the body positivity movement. With the use of modern technology and new media, women who have been silenced for so long are finally able to speak up about their bodies, their feelings, and their beauty.

For so long, society has blindly accepted the thin body ideal with open arms. Women have put their bodies through turmoil to fit in to the socially acceptable silhouette with the help of shape-wear, crash diets, and dangerous behavior. They’ve dragged their self-esteem through the gutters while believing that as long as they dropped x dress sizes, they’ll be happy, be loved, be adored, belong. But now, that’s changing. With help from advocates such as the beautiful Tess Holliday, Ashley Graham, Courtney Mina and Brittany Gibbons, finally we can start to see change. We can start to see women of all sizes feeling beautiful without having to drastically change their bodies for it. Beauty is being redefined, as it often is every century or so, to become more inclusive and body positive.

Unfortunately, with every fuller framed woman gaining her confidence to feel beautiful and perhaps even display her body, fat-shamers are becoming more creative with their jabs. Instead of pointing out the fact that they are not what society (media) has considered beautiful for years, the focus has turned on their health. Yes, suddenly everyone has an advanced degree in diagnosing deadly disease via one picture on the internet, and it is their mission to end the obesity epidemic.

What these commenters, and those who agree with them, fail to realize is that the fight for body positivity has absolutely nothing to do with health. It’s not here to convince everyone to be fat. It’s not here to downplay the serious effects of heart disease or diabetes. In fact, I’ll just slip a link to a study here showing that overweight and obese individuals can be in overall good health. Regardless, body positivity advocates are showing everyone the finish line, but people are too hung up on what brand of shoes the runners are wearing to cross it.

Look around you. Advertising suggests that being fat is bad. But the overtones to the weight loss discussions are not by way of health. Headlines like “Get an Insane Body: It’s Hard, But You’ll Look Hot,” “I Lost 10 Pounds in 10 Days: Ready to Date!” and “Kim’s Nightmare: 65-LB Weight Gain!” offer thinness as the solution to social problems. It enforces that being thin will get your life on track, get that guy you’ve always wanted, and land the job you’ve worked all your life for. It convinces us that if we are fat, we’ve lost control and are doomed to a life of loneliness, judgement, and self-loathing. All forms of media serve up thin bodies as the default; any other body is deviant for the use of comic relief or pity.

What body positivity advocates are trying to show is that being anything other than thin does not mean that you are less worthy of love, happiness, and success. Being fat does not mean that you are any less in control of your life. Your size should have nothing to do with the swimsuit style you wear, or eating in public, or dancing in a club, or literally any other thing you want to do. Your size does not dictate your worth and it sure as hell does not dictate your destiny.

Since when has hating your body become more accepted than openly loving it? Cue the scene from Mean Girls when The Plastics all try to one-up each other with self-deprecating body comments.

While media that reinforces the thin ideal alienates every other body type, diverse and body positive media is inclusive. Our society is obsessed with thin for the sake of aesthetics, not health. Plus-sized women are ridiculed and treated like second class citizens because of socially constructed body standards, not health. Clothes and shape-wear are marketed as slimming and concealing so that women can hide their bodies’ (apparently offensive) appearance, not to feign health! Yet, self-credentialed online commenters feel the need to voice their concerns for the health of Grahams and Minas of the world, and the message they are sending to other women.

In Brittany Gibbon’s new book, Fat Girl Walking, she talks about a time when she was at her thinnest:

“Within seven months I had lost close to ninety pounds and was wearing a size 12 jeans. My fingernails and toenails began to crack in half. My hair fell out, leaving quarter-size clumps around my hairline and scalp. I was actually anemic, reliant on laxatives for bowel movements, experiencing tachycardia… and everyone told me I looked stunning. Truly, that I’d never looked better” (pg 225).

We give most thin models the benefit of the doubt in terms of health because of their outer appearance, yet many onlookers feel entitled to backhandedly show pseudo-concern for a larger someone they do not know, have never met, and have never examined after earning a degree from medical school.

Ask any overweight woman, and you’ll probably find nine times out of ten that woman has already gone through lengths to try and fit into the one body type society finds attractive and acceptable. And nine times out of ten, you’ll probably find that they did it because of appearance, not health. So when we come across a woman who is perfectly happy in a body other than the thin ideal without the validation of others, why must we continue to push self-hate?

Let me finish off with a personal story: as a kid/teenager, I dreamt of becoming an entertainer. I poured myself into music and acting, and went on auditions regularly. The closest I got to “my big break” was singing in front of a woman whom I was told was an influential agent. She told me that I had the talent, but I would have to lose weight before I became marketable. I was sixteen, and I was told that I couldn’t follow my dreams in the body I was in, and it sure as hell was not about my health.

Here I am now, 22 years old and at my absolute healthiest after losing 30 pounds two years ago. I eat clean and drink plenty of water. According to my doctor and the BMI scale, I’m healthy, but I still have a round tummy and flab on my arms. I’m only human and the rolls and folds that remain still hold me back some days, due to the years of being told they (not my health) were what made me lesser. It doesn’t happen overnight, but these women and images inspire me to embrace who I am one day at a time, and value myself and my body with no regard to society’s perception of it. They inspire me to continue to share the message so that other women can join us and start to live happily in the skin they’re in, too.

Body Positivity is Healthy | Slashed Beauty

Body positivity is not about physical health. It’s about loving your body instead of constantly fighting to change it for the sake and approval of others. It’s about realizing that being fat and being happy are not mutually exclusive. It’s about allowing yourself to genuinely enjoy curves and rolls without it being a fetish. It’s about breaking down the walls that society builds around plus-size people and showing everyone that you can be kick-ass with any size ass, and actually have it all. It’s about coming out of the hiding plus-sized women are coaxed into, and knowing that you have every right to proudly show off your body as any other woman does.

If you want to talk health, become a doctor. Until then, stop trying to tear happy women down.

*EDIT: The first line of this article originally read: “If a thin person smokes, can you still consider her beautiful? It seems that a lot of people misunderstood this and let it cloud their understanding of this post. To clear things up: I was trying to point out the health vs. social acceptance difference in that scenario. Many thin and attractive models and celebrities are open smokers, yet are not made to feel less worthy of their personal or professional success because of that fact. Even though they do not hide their participation in an activity harmful to health, there is a very different collective reaction to their appearance. In contrast, plus size women experience ridicule when in the spotlight for the “sake of their health”… which is what I’m calling bullshit on. Anyway, I cut it so people don’t get hung up on it and miss the actual point.

Share the message, pin a picture, and share your own with #BodyPosIsHealthy


29 Responses

  1. Tyler Fredrickson
    | Reply

    Seriously? I seriously find it an instant turnoff when someone smokes. I would never date someone who smoked. What point are you fishing for? Do you want to expose people’s internal biases by getting them to say, “Oh, wow, you’re right, fat-shaming’s concern with health is only artificial, because no one turns someone down for smoking or smoking-shames?” That’s ridiculous. Millions of people despise the practice of smoking and refuse to date anyone who smokes, myself included. You are going to get the opposite of the response you want from this.

    • Hi Tyler, thanks for sharing your opinion! I think you’ve gotten a little hung up on that line when my point of bringing it up was merely this: people seem so concerned with physical health, yet many thin models and celebrities are known smokers. Regardless, they are not receiving half the flack when in ad campaigns or on covers of magazines that these women do for flaunting their bodies… yet are open about activities that are harmful to their health (just like people claim the body positive advocates are). I, too, am turned off by smoking. But I think you missed what came after that comparison 😉

      • Tyler Fredrickson
        | Reply

        True, but I think you’re mis-identifying the issue. I have no idea which celebrities smoke; most people do not. They do not smoke during most of their released media, so it doesn’t come to attention, unlike obesity, which is always visible. But whenever a celebrity smokes on TV, or a magazine cover, or anything similar, the comments are *filled* with people berating them for smoking and repeating the health risks. People complain about the health risks whenever they are visible. Smoking is not always visible, obesity is. Furthermore, many of the obese people recently exploding across social media are being shown simply *because* they are obese, and the companies in charge know it is a huge advertising point to attract overweight customers. And for that reason, the media has been reporting *hard* on the fact that they are overweight. But when a smoker smokes on the cover of a magazine, that is not the point of the article. They were not hired for being a smoker. You’re comparing apples and oranges.

        • You make a good point but I still feel that you’re a little outside of what the article is about. My point is that regardless of someone’s health, in which nobody can really be sure without being that person’s doctor, we shouldn’t tear down people who are happy about their bodies and don’t let their bodies dictate who they are as people. I feel that a lot of people hide their fat shaming behind veils of concern for health, as seen in some of their other comments about these women’s figures. Also, a thin, attractive smoker can probably still feel that their body is attractive despite their unhealthy habits. While I do see your points, the comparison was just something that had crossed my mind, not my main argument 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. $11492132
    | Reply

    > If a thin person smokes, can you still consider her beautiful?

    Seriously? No. When I was younger and dating, it was a massive instant turnoff. I shamed my mother into quitting, but not soon enough, as she now has COPD. But at least she isn’t dead for almost 40 years, as the heart attack she had at 45 would have killed her if she were still smoking then.

    When I look at Tess Holliday, all I can think is how awful she must feel every day. I see no beauty. I see pain and suffering that’s only going to get worse as she hits her 40s and 50s. Let’s be honest here – she’s greatly understating her weight in her portfolio. She’s clearly well over 300 lbs. Think about getting up off of the couch while wearing a vest that weighs 150 lbs. That’s her life every day, excess fat grinding on her joints, taxing her heart, producing adipokines that intensify everyday aches and pains and promote cancer. It makes me profoundly sad.

    • Thanks for taking the time to share, Nono. I appreciate you expressing your thoughts maturely. What I was trying to get at with that line is that both smoking and obesity are unhealthy states of living, but a thin and attractive woman who smokes is more likely to be socially accepted than an obese woman because of the social stigma. Thanks for reading!

      • $11492132
        | Reply

        > a thin and attractive woman who smokes is more likely to be socially accepted than an obese woman because of the social stigma.

        As soon as the cigarette comes out any attractive woman stops being attractive in my eyes. Someone is going to start talking about “male gaze” at this point, but keep in mind that I’m responding about “considering someone beautiful.” It works that way with other men too – I’m going to discount the possibility of any real social interaction as soon as he pulls out a cancer stick.

        Smokers are thrown a hell of a lot more shade than obese people. And coincidentally ex smokers now outnumber smokers, despite statistics that say quitting smoking is just as hard as losing weight and keeping it off.

        • Thanks for visiting again Nono! This article isn’t about comparing obesity to smoking, it was just a metaphor I wanted to include to paint a picture. Sorry it was so distracting for you.

  3. Amber DeMordaunt Johnson
    | Reply

    I think this goes for the opposite end of the spectrum as well…skinny shaming is definitely a thing and whenever I see people commenting on a photo of a smaller girl saying she needs to eat a cheeseburger makes my blood boil! Just like some people are considered healthy at a heavier weight, the same goes for naturally smaller framed people. It shouldn’t be assumed bigger people are binge eating all the time or that smaller people are starving themselves. Just my two cents. 🙂

    • You’re so right, Amber! It’s true that it definitely goes both ways, and wrong in both directions. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. 🙂

  4. Icequeen81
    | Reply

    Great article, pink look good on you 🙂 , love your eyebrows, Have a great weekend, Blessings

  5. Wow Miranda, this was absolutely beautiful to read. You look stunning in your pictures and I greatly admire all of the women you posted pictures of. I really needed this post today. Recently I was told by someone that could be very influential to my career that ‘wow…you lost some weight, you finally look nice. But still a ways to go’. As if my weight is the end all be all and had nothing to do with the situation at hand. It isn’t the only time recently, but it’s really affected me in such deep ways and I am really going to take this message of embracing body positivity to heart. THANK YOU!

    • Margo, I’m so glad that you took the time to read and that it helped you. It’s crazy the obsession with thinness that so many hold on to and preach at the expense of others. You can do ANYTHING, your body has nothing to do with it 🙂 Like I said, it’s not an overnight thing and I still struggle with acceptance a lot but the mindset really helps on days like you had today. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  6. Lisa Foster
    | Reply

    Beautiful message, beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Rachel Runyan
    | Reply

    First of all: You’re gorgeous. Secondly: Thank you for posting this!

    I’m obese. More than 10 years ago, I lost 40 lbs and have kept it off (I’ve lost and gained back tons more in the past, but that’s another story). For anyone else, this would be seen as a triumph. All I hear is: “Can’t you keep it up?” If I could, I would, but the body fights you and it’s very difficult. For me, it’s a victory to maintain the loss.

    My health: My cholesterol is low; lower than my own doctor’s. My blood sugar level is perfect. My only health issues are seasonal allergies, and some pain from a car accident where I was rear-ended two years ago (and I do my physical therapy exercises). Neither is related to my weight. My doctor still suggested a gastric bypass recently, but he didn’t know if the insurance would cover it because I’m too healthy.

    Would I be in even better health if I were thinner? Probably. Do I want to be thinner? Definitely. Do I try to be thinner? Yes, I do. Do I eat right: Yes. Low fat. I eat less than my thinner friends and family, thank you very much. One friend thought I was just eating less in front of people, still she lived with my family for a few months and saw that’s how I actually ate.

    I have self control. I’m not stupid (I have a very high IQ, and I got two 4-year degrees in 4 years, all on scholarships). I’m not lazy. I haven’t given up on myself. I don’t sit around watching TV all day (I go weeks at a time without watching TV). I don’t eat entire cakes or pints of ice cream in one sitting. I’ve never done drugs (not even pot); I’ve never smoked; I rarely drink. I wasn’t a fat child. I’ve been with the same man for 29 years, married for 24 of those. He thinks women of all sizes and shapes are gorgeous, especially me. And he’s never been fat, is very good looking, has a genius IQ and has worked at the same company for 23 years. So, no, I didn’t get “stuck with a loser,” or “settled.” Yes I was heavy when he met me, and even heavier when he married me.

    Of course, some people just eat too much, eat unhealthily and don’t exercise. Maybe they just haven’t learned better. They still deserve to be treated with respect. With a lot of us: Genetics, medications, viruses, insomnia, vitamin D deficiency, stress hormones, etc. affect our weight. No, they are not “just excuses.” They’re real issues we struggle with.

    We all know our size is not “ideal,” and most of us try really hard to lose weight. Which is hard when it’s not just what you’re eating and doing. Or when you try, everyone comments, “Are you sure you don’t want more? Don’t you like my cooking?,” and so on when you do eat less. Or make fun of you or stare at you when you do go to the gym or an exercise class. It’s like people say they want you thinner “for your health,” but then deliberately sabotage you when you try. Because it’s easier to tear us down then work on themselves. Too lazy to work on themselves? Isn’t that what they accuse us of?

    Sorry to write an essay. Everyone have a great weekend, and remember that you’re beautiful.

    • Rachel thank you so much for sharing your story, I loved reading it. I totally get what you mean about how people show concern yet still throw shade when you actually give into the pressures and start working on your body. After my weight loss, I became *obsessed* with keeping the weight off. I still have to break the habit of weighing myself every morning… as if the number on the scale reflects my self worth for the day. It’s just not fair for people to use health as an excuse to continue to fat-shame when the arguments are really apples and oranges. Thanks again for reading and commenting 🙂

      • Rachel Runyan
        | Reply

        Thank you. You’re very sweet. Big kudos to you for losing the weight, but not becoming obsessed with the scale. <3

  8. Wake Up for Makeup
    | Reply

    One of the most intelligent and classy 22-year olds I know. You look absolutely perfect!

  9. Harshleen
    | Reply

    Great post! You have made your point beautifully. Btw you look gorgeous!

  10. Ange
    | Reply

    You are a rockstar!!!!!!

  11. Jessica W
    | Reply

    “What body positivity advocates are trying to show is that being anything other than thin does not mean that you are less worthy of love, happiness, and success. Being fat does not mean that you are any less in control of your life.” F*** YAH! Being overweight doesn’t mean you are lazy, dumb, idiotic, etc… I just want to hug and kiss you (I hope that’s not too weird or anything!!) because this post f***ing rocks.

  12. Hey Aprill
    | Reply

    So much awesomeness in this post! <3 Just wanted to tell you I love it!!!

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