The Body Positivity Movement

Posted by Megan on November 25, 2013

Journey to the Centre of York

Hey guys!

Today I want to talk about one of the movements that I’m most passionate about – the body positivity movement. In this post I’m going to share the journey of how I found the body positivity movement on Tumblr, rant a little (sorry, I just have to), and finally end with some great resources and ways you can learn to love the body you have. Later this week I’ll be sharing some of my favourite, truly healthy, weight loss tips. I strongly encourage you to try to get through this article, but I understand if you can’t. As always, please feel free to comment below. I’d love to answer any questions or talk about any comments or concerns you might have.

I think most of us are aware of media bias and how it can impact our lives. I don’t think most of us realize how much of an impact the media can truly make, especially in regards to our mental health and self esteem.

A billboard reads 'Save the Whales' with subtext reading 'Lose the blubber: go vegetarian'
What I want to know is this – why is this acceptable? These types of damaging messages are littered all throughout our media. At first you might read this and think ‘well, they do have a point‘. NO. There is no legitimate point here. 1) You can’t compare a human body and human fat to a whale body and whale blubber. Our bodies have different functions. 2) You should change your dietary lifestyle because you want to, not because a corporation finds your very legitimate body type offensive.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve struggled with mental illness. Symptoms from my mental illness, side effects of previous medication I was on, and even influence from birth control all contributed to a somewhat significant weight gain on my part. When I noticed myself gaining weight, I wasn’t sure what to think. I have an hour glass body type and my mother would tell me that I was just finishing puberty and this *points to body* was the result. I didn’t want to be vain, so initially I was okay with things. But then I put on more weight. Panicking, I tried eating healthier, being more active. Sometimes I would lose ten pounds, and out of nowhere it would jump back on me. Other times, I would push and push with no results. I set limits for myself, such as ‘I’ll never let myself get to x weight’ and then I’d pass it. My self esteem and even my thought processes were negatively impaired.

One day I was so fed up that I decided to create a ‘Fitblr’, a fitness oriented blog on Tumblr. For a while I was able to draw inspiration from the Fitblr community. I learned about healthier portion sizes, cool new exercises, and I marveled at the weight loss success of some of the blogs I followed. And still, my own weight was all over the place, but slowly sliding up. It didn’t matter that I was eating healthier or that I was exercising. I felt like a failure. Eventually I realized my thoughts didn’t really align with the Fitblr mentality of push, push, push and no excuses. The community that previously seemed so welcoming and inspirational was hypocritical. I felt like garbage, and a growing number of Fitblr members like myself felt like second rate citizens, even though we were desperately trying to lose weight. For some individuals, the environment was so damaging that they developed Orthorexia. Orthorexia is still being proposed as an eating disorder, but it is a very real problem. Individuals are basically becoming so fixated on calorie counting and having a calorie deficit in order to reach this unattainable image that they under-eat and overexercise themselves into malnutrition and even death.

One half of the image is of a photoshopped athlete, made to look like a sexy, curvy model. On the other side is the true image of the model. Her curves are less defined and her face is natural (and less conventionally attractive).
The image on the left is one that was widely circulated in the Fitblr community with such mottos as ‘there are no excuses’, ‘push through the pain’, etc. Eventually it was revealed that the image had been highly manipulated and once people realized what the athlete actually looked like, they were disgusted (which really signifies the corruption in a so called ‘health’ movement). Also important to note: most female bodies can’t ever look like that. To come close you’d have to quit your job, work out non-stop, have a special diet, and even in some cases use steriods.

For a few months, I gave up on losing weight. A defining moment occurred when I happened upon the body positivity movement on my Tumblr feed. What is the body positivity movement? It’s a community, that is growing larger by the minute, composed of individuals that are fighting for self love, and true health. You see, true health isn’t a one size fits all body. True health is a balance between a happy, healthy mind and a body that is well taken care of in a way that works for you. It’s an individual process. Despite what some of us are taught, despite what the media tells us, you can be healthy at any size. Part of that healthy balance is eating right. But the other half of that balance is having a brownie when you want one. Or a milkshake. And part of that healthy balance is being active (and all activity counts, whether it’s running or walking, soccer or yoga), while the balancing half is staying in when you need to so you can mentally recharge while watching a whole season of Game of Thrones (yes, I’ve done this). And some people might never want to find that balance. Or maybe they have a lifestyle that works better for them. Both of those options are okay too. It’s their life, not ours.

An image of a woman hiding behind text. The main message reads 'beauty redefined'. Other text reads 'no more body shaming! big or small, short or tall, none of us are beautiful if we tear others down to build ourselves up.'
This is one example of a positive ‘beauty’ message that you would find in the body positivity movement. The crossed out quotes on the right are VERY popular on Facebook and other social media sites like Tumblr.

The true challenge is learning to love your body for what it is. You can still lose weight and be body positive, as I am now. But you have to love your body every step of the way if you want to be successful. And part of that involves learning how to censor your negative thoughts. Don’t judge others based on what they look like. You might look at me and not realize that 90%  of the time, I eat ‘clean’. Or that I’m working on going for walks every day, even though I have social anxiety, so that I can improve my cardiovascular endurance and start losing weight and building muscle so I can get into running 5ks. You might look at me and not realize that I tried to push myself through a running program when I wasn’t ready for it and that I ended up having excruciating shin splints, not once, not twice, but multiple times. You can’t look at someone and know how healthy they are. It’s not right to judge someone, period. But it’s especially not right to judge someone and make them feel inferior when you don’t even know their story or whether they are happy with where they are in life, or whether they are working to lose weight but they are struggling with an eating disorder or a thyroid problem or a slow metabolism.

An image of a woman's body. Text is written on specific body parts, applauding certain achievements. For example, she has bigger thighs than what would be deemed socially acceptable. Her thighs read 'Ran 12k' and 'Walked through India'.
This is one of my favourite images from the movement. It inspired a whole group of men and women to do the same, to focus on the achievements and strengths of their bodies, instead of their size or shape.

Thankfully, my experience with body positivity at York has been phenomenal. There are tons of resources available, on campus and online.

York specific resources

  1. Feminist Action – an amazing club that is body positive amongst all their other amazing traits. Men are also welcome to join! You can find them on Tumblr, here. All their other contact and club information can be found on their YU Connect page, here.
  2. YFS Access Centre – this resource would be more suited to students struggling with body image that is intersected with a mental or physical disability. Great club! All their contact info (including Facebook) can be found here.
  3. CDS – if you think you would benefit from professional help, I strongly encourage you to reach out to York’s CDS. They also run group sessions for those suffering from disordered eating and body image.

M’s favourite resources (all of these are friendly to men and women)

  • The Exercist – this blog is phenomenal. Fitness myths are deconstructed. Healthy advice is provided. Exercise resources, with images and instructions, are posted. This is my favourite blog, ever. It also greatly helped with my self esteem and previously disordered thinking. This blog also contributes to the #ReclaimingFitness tag, by profiling athletes that you would never see in fitness magazines.
  • Redefining Body Image – did you know that what you find beautiful changes based on what you see? This blog focuses on sharing diverse pictures of unaltered bodies, along with great critiques against media and other useful resources.
  • Good Bodies are Real Bodies – this blog is very similar to the one above. Welcome and safe space for all. Lots of diverse imagery and they welcome submissions! They also have links to other similar blogs.

Let me know what you think! I feel very passionate about this movement and I’d love to have the opportunity to talk with some of my readers about it 🙂 Also, I am realistic about this movement. It’s really a process for most people, not just an easy ‘on and off’ switch to a healthier mind.

-M

Megan
Megan

Megan is a third-year Psychology student. Follow her on her journey of self-development as she explores and ventures through campus.

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