The Body Positive Movement is Toxic – Conservative Article
TW – Eating disorders.
If you are struggling, contact the Samaritans on the free helpline 116 123, or please click on this link to access support services.
Over the last few years, the Body Positive movement has reached the forefront of social media. The movement celebrates bodies of all shapes and sizes, promoting the idea that everybody is beautiful, regardless of the ever-changing beauty standards.
The movement originates from the 1960s, “where advocates protested capitalism and a diet industry that profited from anti-fatness and discrimination.” The popularity of the movement today makes complete sense, especially coming out of the early 2000s, where quotes such as “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” permeated the media. The promotion of self-love is important and I highly value this part of the message.
What I cannot condone, however, is the notion that all bodies are healthy.
In the UK there is a clear rise in cases of obesity. The Health Survey for England 2019 estimates that 28% of adults are obese. Additionally, it estimates that a further 36.2% of adults are overweight but not obese. It is also estimated that around one in every five children aged 10 to 11 are obese. Obesity can lead to various health conditions that are “potentially life-threatening”.
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Some types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer
This is where the Body Positivity movement starts to become flawed. There should be no place for the glorification of obesity, in the same way, that we should not glorify any other eating disorder. Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia have been glorified by the media in the past through the notion that “starvation [was] our ticket to acceptance.” This is equally as damaging. A movement that claims to be body positive should not be promoting any kind of eating disorder. It should simply be promoting health.
The Body Positivity movement may not be as accepting as it makes itself out to be. Ashlee Marie Preston, a well-known figure in the Body Positivity community recognises the toxic traits of the movement. The activist reached a point where she had to lose weight in order to improve various aspects of her health. She writes that the thing that she was most worried about was that she “felt reluctant to explore weight loss as an option because [she] was afraid of losing community.” She then writes that “when it comes to the BoPo movement at large, the threat of being exiled to social Siberia for losing weight is real.”
The message of ‘body positivity’ no longer exists when people like Preston feel as if they cannot take charge of their health due to the toxic pressures of the so-called ‘body positive’ movement. The loss of weight equals loss of support amongst a community that claims to support people of all shapes and sizes.
This certainly does not sit right with me.
So what message should we be putting across? British personal trainer, James Smith, makes an excellent suggestion on the matter. Smith states that “we shouldn’t really be putting ‘this is healthy’ with an obsese person, irrespective of how they feel about it. Because objectively, obesity isn’t healthy. As a society, we shouldn’t be shaming it, but we shouldn’t be glorifying it either.”
Smith’s emphasis on the fact that we should not be shaming, nor should we be glorifying obesity, is a much healthier approach. Ultimately, the Body Positivity movement is a backlash to the pressures in the media to be skinny. For so long, the media has pushed the idea that skinny equals happy. In protest, the Body Positivity movement is opposing this notion, yet in the process, promotes obesity, which is also an eating disorder.
We need to tackle this issue somewhere in the middle, and Smith’s idea of removing shame whilst avoiding the glorification of obesity is a starting point.
For many, weight loss is an essential part of their journey to health. Luke Worthington “believes that instead of not talking about weight loss at all, we should be educating people on how it can be done safely and healthily.”
Obesity should not be glorified. Losing weight in a healthy way should not be shamed. The Body Positive movement is a hindrance to us moving past toxic body shaming in the media.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Rebecca Selt
Point of Information
Sure, there is a dark side, but what movement doesn’t have one? – A Liberal Response
For far too long, traditional media, and more recently social media, have been oversaturated with images of the ‘ideal’ female body. Growing up within this environment has undoubtedly impacted the way I view myself and my own body. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of comparing a real-life body to the touched-up and manicured ones in glossy magazines. What is most distressing, however, is the fact that I know I am not alone in this.
The images society puts out matter. They have the power to ruin the perception of our bodies and make us feel ashamed when we cannot live up to the unrealistic ideal.
Therefore, as Rebecca touches on, the Body Positivity movement was ground-breaking in all the right ways. Images started to represent the rainbow of different body shapes and sizes that we see when walking down the street. There is no longer one image of beauty. And the impact of these changes will definitely be comforting to girls and women everywhere.
Rebecca is definitely correct in highlighting a ‘dark side’ to this movement. Obviously, obesity should not be glorified, in the same way, being underweight shouldn’t be glorified either. Put quite bluntly, both can kill and so this is certainly not something we should be promoting. However, what I find less convincing about this article is the notion that the body positivity movement, in promoting normal bodies, is increasing obesity rates.
Obesity rates have steadily been rising for years. I would argue that this is mostly due to diet and lifestyle changes, not because other bodies are being promoted. In general, compared to a good few years ago, we move less and eat more ‘unhealthy’ foods. Therefore, although Rebecca gives the example of Ashlee Marie Preston, I feel this is quite a rare case. For the most part, I truly believe the body positivity movement to be reasonable and generally positive. Although health should always be the priority, the body positivity movement doesn’t have to undermine this.
It can definitely be seen as toxic. But with any positive social movement, there is a small radical sect that is blown out of proportion and used to condemn the movement as a whole. (Please see feminism). Therefore, whilst Rebecca touches on an important issue, I think it is much less significant than some sensationalist media likes to make it out to be.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Beccy Reeves
A Hindrance to Progress? Absurd. – A Labour Response
I applaud Rebecca for tackling what is such a sensitive and seemingly divisive issue. In keeping with the latter though, I fundamentally disagree with Rebecca’s main points; the body positivity movement is not a hindrance to progress. Rather, it encourages a move away from toxic body shaming that we are all too familiar with.
The entire sentiment underlying this movement is that loving your body, regardless of your size or weight, is inherently a positive thing and something that we should aspire to do. This applies to everyone, including those who are overweight, which is often lost in translation. The narrative that Rebecca is following jumps to the conclusion that encouraging a larger person to be comfortable in their own skin is glorifying obesity. Absurd.
No one is encouraging anyone to gain weight. In fact, there is no promotion of a lifestyle, only of dignity and acceptance. Body positivity allows people to accept and exist in their own bodies – something that is very difficult given the ever-changing beauty standards and the growing pressures of social media. If just one person feels less alone in this look-obsessed society, the movement is positive. In fact, feeling less alone could itself encourage someone to lose weight.
Unfortunately, both with and without the body positivity movement, body shaming exists. And ultimately, it is not the answer to weight loss. Body shaming is actually a greater hindrance to progress; fat-shaming is believed to drive weight gain and is more harmful to both physical and mental health. The movement at least helps alleviate some body shaming and the subsequent mental stress of such. Similarly, Rebecca claims the body positivity movement is promoting an eating disorder but in actual fact, the existing beauty standards that have driven this promote greater disordered eating habits, even subconsciously – something I have spoken about in great depth previously.
Ultimately, tackling obesity involves more than merely condemning the body positivity movement. We should be encouraging healthy eating and balanced diets above an obsession with BMI and the number on a scale. But we also need to support the body positivity movement and the acceptance that comes with such. It is not glorifying obesity. It is not “toxic”. And it is certainly not a hindrance to moving away from body shaming. We need it.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo
I’m Abi! I am a liberal, political enthusiast from the Welsh valleys. Since I was young, I have been captivated by politics. I used to spend so much time watching the morning news before school, and have paid close attention to political campaigns for as long as I can remember. It was a lot later that I decided I wanted to pursue politics academically. Now, I have just finished my second year studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Exeter.
I am a third year student studying English and Film Studies at the University of Exeter. After completing my degree, I will be converting to law to begin my journey of becoming a commercial lawyer. As an avid reader of the Financial Times, I have begun to understand how important the commercial market is in forming global politics.