Body Positivity is Toxic: The Dark Side

As a body positivity activist, I’ve long been an advocate for loving the skin you’re in. However, as the movement has gained popularity, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend: toxic positivity.

This is the idea that we should always focus on the positive and never acknowledge the negative. While this may sound good, it can harm our mental health.

Body positivity has become a buzzword in recent years, with many people embracing the idea that all bodies are beautiful. While this is a positive message, it can be taken too far.

In this article, even though I’m a big proponent of positivity, I want to play devil’s advocate and explore the dark side of body positivity and how it can harm our mental health. We’ll delve into toxic positivity and why it’s important to acknowledge both the positive and negative aspects of our bodies.

The Dark Side of Body Positivity

As someone who has been a vocal advocate for body positivity, I have seen firsthand the power of this movement in helping people feel more confident and comfortable in their skin.

However, I also recognize a dark side to the body positivity movement that is often ignored or overlooked.

Promoting Unhealthy Lifestyles

One of the biggest problems with the body positivity movement is that it often promotes unhealthy lifestyles.

woman holding an apple and a doughnut

While loving and accepting your body is important, prioritizing your health is equally important.

Encouraging people to love their bodies regardless of size can lead to neglecting healthy habits such as exercise and a balanced diet.

While many different body types and shapes exist, it’s important to understand that being overweight or underweight can have negative health consequences.

Encouraging Obesity

Another problem with the body positivity movement is that it can encourage obesity.

While embracing you as you is important, it’s also important to recognize when your weight is putting your health at risk.

When people in the body positivity movement promote the idea that you can be healthy at any size, they essentially say it’s okay to be overweight or obese.

This can lead to people ignoring the health risks associated with being overweight or obese and can even encourage people to gain weight.

Can Make People Guilty

Body positivity can make people feel guilty for wanting to change their bodies.

a woman sad and almost crying

While everyone should feel comfortable in their skin, it’s also important to understand that some people may want to change their bodies for personal reasons.

Whether it’s to improve their health, enhance their appearance, or feel more confident, people should not be made to feel guilty for wanting to make changes to their bodies.

Benefits and Risks of Body Positivity

Body Positivity can empower people to love themselves and their bodies, but it can also be misunderstood or misused. So, let’s dive in and explore both the benefits and risks of body positivity.

EffectDescriptionPotential BenefitsPotential Risks
Improved Self-EsteemPracticing body positivity can improve self-esteem by promoting self-love and acceptance.Increased self-confidence, better mental health, and reduced risk of developing eating disorders.None
Encourages Healthier BehaviorsExcluding certain body types promotes unhealthy behaviors under the guise of “self-acceptance.”Improved physical health and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.None
Promotes InclusivityBody positivity promotes inclusivity and diversity, celebrating bodies of all shapes, sizes, and abilities.Reduced stigma and discrimination towards certain body types, increased acceptance and diversity.Improved mental health and reduced risk of developing eating disorders.
Can Go Too FarThe body positivity movement can sometimes go too far and promote unhealthy behaviors or glorify obesity as a desirable state.NoneIncreased awareness and understanding of the harm caused by harmful stereotypes, increased acceptance, and diversity.
Challenges Harmful StereotypesPracticing body positivity can challenge harmful stereotypes about body types, gender, and beauty standards.Improved mental health and reduced risk of developing eating disorders.None
Requires Continued EffortPracticing body positivity requires continued effort and commitment to promoting self-love and acceptance.It requires ongoing effort and can be challenging to maintain in the face of societal pressures and beauty standards.Requires ongoing effort and can be challenging to maintain in the face of societal pressures and beauty standards.

Note: It’s important to remember that the potential benefits and risks of practicing body positivity can vary widely depending on an individual’s experiences and the context in which body positivity is promoted.

Body Positivity “A False Promise?”

The Problem with “Love Your Body” Messaging

The “love your body” message is often promoted in the body positivity movement but can also be problematic.

LOVE YOUR BODY - letter board

This message suggests that we should love our bodies no matter what, which can be difficult or even impossible for some people.

It can also imply that our negative thoughts or feelings about our bodies are invalid, leading to shame and guilt.

Furthermore, focusing on loving our bodies can be unrealistic and harmful. It can lead people to feel they need to love their bodies unconditionally, even if they are unhealthy or uncomfortable.

This can prevent people from seeking medical treatment or making lifestyle changes to improve their health.

The Pressure to be “Body Positive”

Another issue with the body positivity movement is the pressure to be “body positive” all the time.

This can create a sense of guilt or shame for those struggling with negative body image or having difficulty accepting their bodies.

It can also create an expectation that everyone should love their bodies, regardless of personal experiences or challenges.

It’s important to remember that body positivity is a journey, and it’s okay not always to feel 100% positive about your body.

It’s also important to recognize that being body positive doesn’t mean ignoring health concerns or promoting unhealthy habits.

How to Promote Positive Body Image in a Healthy Way

Encouraging Healthy Habits

As someone who has struggled with body image issues, I know how important it is to care for your body. And the best way to do that is by developing healthy habits.

woman sitting on the table eating fruit

Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly are all great ways to promote a positive body image. When you feel good on the inside, it shows on the outside.

But it’s important to remember that healthy habits look different for everyone. You mustn’t follow a strict diet or workout plan to be healthy. Find what works for you and make it a part of your daily routine.

Celebrating All Body Types

One of the biggest problems with the body positivity movement is that it often only celebrates certain body types.

4 women of different sizes, shapes, and colors

But true body positivity means celebrating all body types, regardless of size, shape, or color.

More Nuanced Approach

Rather than promoting unconditional love for all bodies, taking a more nuanced approach to body image issues is important.

This means recognizing that body image is complex and can be influenced by various factors, including societal and cultural pressures.

It also means promoting overall health and wellness, not just body size or shape. This can include encouraging healthy eating habits, regular exercise, and regular medical check-ups.

Furthermore, it’s important to recognize that body image issues can be deeply rooted and may require professional help. This may include therapy, support groups, or medical treatment.

Wrapping Up

Ladies, it’s time for us to redefine body positivity. It’s not about blindly accepting ourselves, flaws and all, without room for growth or improvement.

It’s about acknowledging that we’re all human and have areas we want to work on, but that doesn’t make us less worthy of love and respect.

So let’s ditch the toxic self-acceptance and instead focus on true self-love. Let’s love ourselves enough to care for our bodies and minds.

Because at the end of the day, we all deserve to live our best lives, and we can only do that by embracing our unique beauty and striving towards our full potential.

Remember, you are worthy, you are beautiful, and you are enough. Always.



Resources

Studies:

Organizations:

Books:

  • “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf Link
  • “Body Respect” by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor

Websites:

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Maggie Walker
Maggie Walker

Certifications: Fashion Design (BA)
Education: School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Lives In: Chicago
Maggie has invaluable experience working in the fashion industry. Regarding fitting and clothing, only a select few can match up with her experience.
She oversees every aspect and has put her heart and soul into MadisonPlus.

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