Dieting And The Body Positivity Movement
The basic tenets of the body positivity movement are pretty simple: people in all types of bodies deserve to be able to love and accept themselves, regardless of the way that society views those bodies.
The concept has its roots in the late 1960's fat acceptance movement, but it has recently hit the mainstream with the rise of plus-size models like Ashley Graham and Tess Holiday and pop anthems like "All About That Bass" and "Scars To Your Beautiful."
The body positivity movement is in part a reaction to our toxic "diet culture" and the "thin ideal" it presents as compulsory, especially for women, who are arguably subject to harsher beauty standards in general.
In the "diet culture" framework, food is equated with morality: thin is "good," fat is "bad," and any fat person who isn't actively trying to lose weight is doing something despicable. This way of thinking is so normalized that we talk about "guilt-free" or "sinful" desserts, "cheating" on your diet, or "atoning" for and "earning" certain foods.
When you think about it, it's a rather ridiculous way of looking at things. Eating a piece of chocolate cake is in no way a "crime" the way murder or stealing is; the only negative consequences it may bring about are for the eater, who is perfectly free to take on those risks as he or she so chooses.
The body positivity movement has helped countless people feel better about themselves, and I, for one, am glad to see it becoming part of our culture. Yet there does seem to be one drawback. Now, dieters have to deal with pressure and naysayers shouting from both sides of the fence.
While diet culture is still shaming people for being fat and demeaningly demanding that they lose weight, hardcore body positivity proponents may believe that by wanting to change themselves, dieters are supposedly "betraying" the activists whose aim is to accept themselves as they are and fight society's stigma against those of a larger size.
However, wanting to change and accepting yourself in the present aren't mutually exclusive. You can believe that people of every size deserve to feel valuable and confident and still decide that you want to lose weight for any personal or health reason you wish.
A forgiving and self-accepting mindset may even make weight loss easier. If you believe that you are inherently unworthy and that every dieting mistake makes you a worse person, you're apt to react to every setback with a few helpings of despair and ice cream. A more efficient strategy might be to take the morality and emotional baggage out of your relationship with food, focusing instead on your goals and how you want to achieve them.
To move the spotlight off of your body and your appearance, focus on moving to gain joy and strength rather than exercising to burn calories, on enjoying healthy food rather than sticking to calorie counts, and on how you feel over how you look. You also don't have to live up to the media's stick-thin ideals to be healthy; an underweight BMI can have just as many negative health consequences as an overweight one.
It's also important to be a body positive ally. While you can be as dead-set as you want on losing your weight, that doesn't mean that anyone else's weight or lifestyle is any of your concern. You should never judge anyone else for their body size or food choices, and you can and should choose to be supportive of your friends and family members that choose another path.
Whether you've been losing weight or not, you shouldn't let how you look stand in the way of living your best life. You don't have to be a certain size to wear a crop top, rock out on the dance floor, or feel beautiful and sexy in your own skin. You can start that whenever you'd like!
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