Body Positivity: Recovery from a Toxic Diet Culture
Let loving your body be your act of resilience in a world that says you shouldn't.
What is Body Positivity? Body positivity is a movement that truly originated from the second wave feminist movement in the 1960s, and the push to reduce fat-shaming, which became the HAES (Health At Every Size) approach to healthcare and lifestyle. Various initiatives have been created in the late 1990s and the 21st century, and the movement exploded on social media in 2017. This movement is based around the idea that every body is deserving of love, and opposes the concepts of fat-shaming and skinny-shaming.
Step 1: Stop Avoiding As proven by psychological studies again and again, avoidance of an object or situation only gives it more strength in the brain and grows neurological pathways of fear. What are you avoiding because of your weight or how your body looks? It could be the scale, the mirror, or even certain clothing styles. Now that you’ve identified what you are avoiding, it’s time to target it head-on! For mirror or scale avoidance, try looking in the mirror (without critiquing yourself) or going on the scale once a week, and for avoidance of certain clothing styles, make a plan to build up to your goal (possibly the ever-dreaded bikini!). Just remember – do you want to spend your life afraid of these simple things?
Step 2: Correcting Thoughts Psychologists often rely on the concept of the CBT triangle – in short, the concept that thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are all extremely interconnected. For this step, it’s important to acknowledge the connection between thoughts and feelings. A well-used technique by these same psychologists is the triple-column technique (it’s not as daunting as it sounds). To complete a triple column technique, you must isolate a thought you have about your body, write out a challenge to this thought (or a few), and write out a new, positive (or neutral) thought. One method that works well is posting this new thought somewhere visible and/ or repeating it to yourself on a regular basis, until it feels more true. In no time, you’ll be building new connections in your brain and feeling a large amount more positive about your body.
Step 3: Notes to Self Often, it’s hard to take others’ words to heart, but when it’s your own reflections (in your own words), it’s a lot easier to integrate – that’s the idea behind this step. The journey of body positivity and self-love has a lot of ups and downs, and, understandably, it’s hard to stay totally motivated all the time. In order to preserve this feeling of confidence, it’s useful (and not at all ridiculous) to write notes to a future self that is feeling less motivated. The first one to start off with is usually the easiest – write down five things you like about your body’s performance and what it does for you (this can be anything from athletic ability to just being able to walk or see). The next note might be a little harder – write five things you like about your appearance. Finally – cutting to the core of why you’re choosing to do this – write ten reasons you’d rather love your body, imperfections and all, than continue fighting and hating it forever.
Step 4: Show It One expression that I like to hold onto is “show, don’t tell” – it’s easy to say that you’ll love your body but it’s harder to commit to it and show it day after day. Often people fall into the trap of not knowing how to show yourself self-love, but here are some little things that make a big difference in how you’ll feel about your body. First of all, I cannot stress the importance of self-care enough – whether it’s just a bubble bath after a long day, or letting yourself get some sleep when you’re absolutely exhausted, it’s important to look after yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Additionally, make sure you make time for fun – enjoyable activities boost mood, and often better friendships and connection with others. Finally, I’ll leave you with a challenge – on your next Instagram or Facebook post, make sure to post your pictures unedited.
Where Can I Learn More? There are so many great resources on the internet and in bookstores/ libraries for body positivity. From thebodypositive.org on the web to @bodyposipanda on Instagram, to Michelle Elman’s Am I Ugly?, body positive resources are lurking around every corner. Why not buy a few positive books, or add a few body positive accounts or body positive tags to your “following” list on Instagram, follow so while you’re scrolling through your feed of perfect bodies, you remember that you are also beautiful.
Learn to appreciate another’s beauty without questioning your own.