Is the Body Positivity Movement Working?


The body positivity movement is in its third wave. Beginning in the 60s as a public protest in Central Park against discrimination of fat people, it evolved into inclusion in the health and wellness industry in the 90s. With the prominence of social media in the past decade, the third wave of the body positivity movement focused on inclusivity and appreciation of all body types on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

Carrying the torch of previous generations, the movement has received criticism for its double standards, the fashion industry’s capitalization, and approval of weight gain brings people closer to medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. On the other hand, it is defended by some as a path towards a safer environment for everyone on social media. It is a defiant stand against heavily edited magazine covers and filtered Instagram posts that psychologically affect media consumers.

A Double Standard

There are different angles at which the body positivity movement has changed the lives of men and, more commonly, women. According to an article review, both men and women experience body dissatisfaction due to comparing themselves to others that exhibit their own desired body types. However, men were only undesirable when they are obese, compared to women who were more frequently found undesirable when they were just overweight. This could be why the most recent wave of the movement is associated with body positivity for women and less for men.

Popular Body Image vs. Positive Body Image

man taking a selfie

As the fashion industry capitalizes on the body positivity movement, it cannot be ignored that some success of the movement is based on pity or brownie points. The likes garnered on a social media post can significantly be affected by the intention of users to practice virtue signaling. It’s not entirely an acceptance of all body types but rather a showcase of acceptance. A “like” on a body positivity post could add to your social media portfolio and mark you as an overall amicable person.

The ripple effect of virtue signaling on social media creates a virtual culture of acceptance, while the more popular, traditionally desired body types remain on a pedestal. The attempt to change this preference of people can be difficult. It was found in a study that even babies preferred to look at healthier, more attractive faces. This is suggested to be an evolutionary trait, as the survival of the fittest dominates our genetics. It is normal for people to be attracted to those who appear healthier to ensure that their genetic code survives without dealing with comorbidities.

Dieting to Get There

It is a movement that receives support for its inclusion but hate for its acceptance of unhealthy eating habits. Although self-help links provide advice to help someone reach self-acceptance and a notion of body positivity, the health risks that the movement is associated with are dangerous.

First of all, the body positivity movement encourages obese and overweight people to remain in their unhealthy eating habits. Even though it was initially intended to provide an inclusive environment for others, it tends to accept all body types despite the health implications. An acceptance of unhealthy habits reinforces them indirectly. This is why the majority of dieticians and nutritionists disapprove of the movement.

As a result, the movement has backfired as its criticisms provide better reasons for getting fitter. Unfortunately, it does not fully explain the appropriate ways a person can become healthy. Self-help tips and words of encouragement do not provide any guides on exercising and a healthy diet.

Consequently, people continue unhealthy diets or fads. The glorification of edited body images ingrained into the minds of everyone before the third wave of the movement even began has allowed predispositions towards psychological problems to surface. Along with a reinforced picture-perfect timeline on Instagram or Facebook, many are still purging or starving themselves to achieve their body goals.

It is crucial for those with eating disorders, such as bulimia, to get on the road to recovery with a plan. They will only reach true body positivity once they practice self-care and prioritize their physical and mental health.

Overall, the body positivity movement has indirectly provided an avenue for health experts to remind the public of healthy eating and dieting. Although it comes at the cost of promulgating positive body images despite the consequences, it is a start of a conversation that needs to happen.

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