Tired of adhering yourself to society’s perception of an ideal body shape? The truth is that no matter how hard you try, you will always be either too thin or too fat or just not the RIGHT size or shape. So, what’s the point? The point is, as rightly quoted by Lady Gaga, “You define beauty yourself. Society doesn’t define your beauty”.
This is where Body positivity steps in. All the humans deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of how society and popular culture views ideal shape, size, and appearance for any gender for that matter.
The Body Positivity Movement
This movement for Body positivity dates way back to the late 1960s when a young engineer gathered a small group of people to create the National Association to Aid Fat Americans (today known as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance or NAAFA) as he was disgruntled over the way people treated and perceived his fat wife.
Nowadays, a term called ‘plus-size’ is being used to refer to people who wear sizes ranging from XXL to 6XL.
The irony here is that even people who understand and encourage body positivity don’t realize that using terms like ‘plus-size’ connotates the body shape as being large and creates a category in itself. There is no requirement of labeling a particular sized person as ‘plus-size’ because as per this logic, we shall have labels like ‘minus-size’?
Therefore, this term should be discontinued in usage and terms like XS, S, M, L…..6XL can be used when introducing a new product in a particular range.
In addition to this, thin people are shamed as well and are referred to as ‘skinny’, especially women who hear a lot of phrases based on how underweight and skinny they are, for instance, “You’re so thin, do you even eat food?” or “You’re only bones, there’s no meat on there”, etc.
It tends to take a toll on people’s mental health and affects their self-confidence and socializing routines as they are low on body positivity and self-esteem.
The questions shall rather be, “Is this weight healthy for your body, and do you feel fit?” or “Do you feel energetic throughout the day or do you wish to switch to a healthier diet”, and so on.
What is Healthy?
The term ‘healthy’ in our society is equivalent to ideal body size, i.e. neither too thin nor too fat. This is a benchmark that society has placed on us.
The purpose is to stay fit and that our body is free of unhealthy fat and unwanted substances such as excess fattening and junk food.
The terms ‘fat’, ‘slim’, ‘thin’, and ‘obese’, are present to determine the body shape and are not meant for associating a connotative meaning to the same.
For instance, being slim doesn’t equate to being malnutrition, or being fat doesn’t equate to being ugly. That’s not how it shall work.
Moreover, people take pride in pointing out how one should go about their eating habits or diet, but it is essential to be mindful of the other person’s appetite and body image when doing so, there is a thin line between body shaming and advising someone over unhealthy diet routines.
People don’t realize they are body shaming and perceive it as a normal comment to pass due to their conditioning since birth. Nonetheless, the tone must be that of acceptance and growth over that of fat/thin humor.
Why shall it matter as to how you look, how you walk, or how you eat, it is the personality that speaks a thousand words and not the body shape? The fact that should matter is how to stay fit and healthy, and not to be in the RIGHT shape or size.
For instance, just because you have a normal BMI (body mass index), doesn’t mean you don’t need to exercise, as your body would still require the fuel and stamina to get you through the day. Hence, focus on keeping yourself fit, and at the end of the day, it is your body and you must decide how to treat it!
On the contrary, some researchers have criticized this movement because according to them it shall encourage obesity or being underweight and ignore the associated health concerns.
It is so because a lot of people succumb to obesity or malnutrition, but these are health conditions that can be tended to with healthier practices and diet routines.
However, body positivity is about self-acceptance and not letting your physical appearance hamper your self-esteem and potential, not about encouraging obesity or other unhealthy lifestyles.
It is about putting an end to body shaming comments and fat or thin stigma that people, especially women, go through. Fitness is a choice that people make regardless of their body shape or size.
Almost all social media platforms promote body positivity and slam those contributing to body shaming.
They say all bodies are beautiful and must be respected regardless of their shape or size. Many social media activists have promoted this cause and are spreading a positive image about loving one’s body.
However, it is essential to note that body positivity is an attitude, it is a perspective that shall be embodied with time and genuine acceptance and not under the pressure of social media expectations.
For instance, if a person likes their body to be thin, they must not be confused by the social expectations of not going to the gym as they have to accept their body as it is. It should be a free choice. One shall be free to choose whichever way their body serves and suits them.
It is not all about the appearance that needs to be perceived positively but a person’s opinion about how they want their body to be respected.
Another popular term surfacing is that of body neutrality.
Body neutrality is about being neutral about body image i.e., neither negative nor positive. It encourages people on how their body serves them rather than how it looks.
In simpler terms, body neutrality tends to focus on the body’s function rather than its appearance.
It takes into account that it is not feasible for a person to always feel positive about their body, they must be free from that pressure and focus more on how their body is serving them at a point in time, especially as bodily changes occur beyond control, such as aging.
Proponents of body neutrality say that placing a body’s value on what it does rather than its appearance promotes a healthier attitude and better self-esteem.
Some of the real-life examples who are an inspiration in themselves as to how to view oneself regardless of the shape or size include, Hareem Farooq, a young Pakistani film and television actor, who was body-shamed by her audiences and her weight became a bigger concern over her skills, mentioned that she later lost weight, not due to the criticism she received but because she started to love herself, eat healthily and work out and, as a result, she lost some pounds.
In her words, “As for those who body-shame, she said that sometimes people make others feel bad just to feel good about themselves”.
Another example is that of the actor and model Aamina Sheikh, who was body shamed and mentioned how, “In school, they used to say to me, ‘You have a hockey field for a forehead, Aamina’ and I used to find that hilarious! Even now I find myself quoting that when notable designers, directors, photographers, make-up artists, or colleagues admire my forehead.”
She even mentioned that people tell her not to tie her hair tightly as it’ll further recede her hairline and that she cannot afford that. All these comments didn’t stop her from pursuing her career just the way she was and that is how body positivity should look like.
In addition to body positivity and body neutrality with regards to body shape or size, people are shamed based on their height, skin color, and features as well. For instance, boys should be more than 5’7 inches tall and girls shall not be taller than 5’6.
It is disheartening to note how an individual's self-esteem gets hampered due to comments like these which are not only beyond their control but also do not add to their growth as an individual. In developing countries like India, people want girls to be 5’6 inches in height, fair-skinned with so-called aesthetic looks.
The focus is more on appearance rather than the personality of the individual.
The agenda is to feel comfortable in your skin at any point in time as per the INDIVIDUAL’s choice and not that of the SOCIETY’s. And to keep your body fit.
Skyria celebrates all women, no matter the size and shape, and hence, offers size inclusive activewear ranging from XS to 6XL. Body shape or size is no more a hindrance to an active lifestyle with Skyria’s activewear. #NeverPressPause.
It is essential to love the skin you’re in as much as you can and whenever you can! Your body consists of a biological and psychological structure that needs to be taken care of regularly via exercise, healthy food, and positive thoughts.
It is not about the ideal body image and size; it is about how you want your body to function and look! #LookHappy #BeHappy #FeelHappy
Written By- Aashika Jain