July 23, 2024
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The Many Sides of the Body Positive Movement

We’ve all heard about the Body Positive Movement that has recently swept the internet and social media. Celebrities, bloggers and Instagram stars are all influencing the movement by promoting self-love and the importance of feeling confident in one’s own body. This topic comes up all the time in my practice with clients of all ages, races, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds. I always work on encouraging clients to think critically about this movement, and about their motivation for participating. As a result, I believe that my clients can better engage meaningfully and develop healthy and positive feelings about their bodies. A high school in the Chicago area recently changed their school dress code to reflect some of the principles of the body positivity movement, with input from the students, and they now allow students to wear a variety of clothing that is banned in many other schools across the country. Body shamers are being called out on public forums for humiliating people, usually women, whose bodies don’t reflect the “ideal.” Women and men of all shapes and sizes are finding their voices and are becoming role models for younger people. “Plus size” models are being featured on the covers of major magazines, and clothing lines that produce more of a variety of sizes are being created. These are all exciting and positive societal changes overall, but are there any down sides? Here are a few important points to consider:

  1. Keep the focus on health: While I absolutely agree with the importance of loving and feeling comfortable in your own body, I also think that it’s essential to prioritize health and wellness. If a person suffers from medical problems directly associated with their weight, they should consider making changes. This is not at all because they should feel ashamed of their body, but in order to care for it in the best way that they can. Medical and mental health providers as well as parents, educators and community leaders need to help encourage this point of view. Encouraging those around us to remain focused on their health is an essential part of the body positive movement.
  2. Your intention matters: As Jessie Kneeland writes in her article on greatest.com, “the intention behind a goal or behavior determines the health of that goal or behavior.” This is a very important point. When trying to lose weight or otherwise change your body, ask yourself what your motivation is. Changing yourself just to “fix” a perceived problem puts a negative spin on things; however, if your goal is to gain strength, improve your health or gain more energy, then you are on the right track. These goals are positive and productive and they don’t bring along any shameful baggage about your body that might get in the way.
  3. Shift your focus to other things: How we feel about our bodies is very important, but so are our interests, passions and hobbies. Remember to keep your focus on these aspects of your life as well, in order to maintain a true and balanced view of yourself. You are far more than a body and it is essential to keep nurturing your mind and soul as well.
  4. Social media plays a major role: As I mentioned earlier, images, articles and videos about the Body Positive Movement are plastered all over the internet. Having public advocates and role models who aren’t afraid to share their supportive view points and their own personal journeys towards accepting their bodies is incredibly important. At the same time, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to bare it all online in order to be part of the movement. Do whatever feels most comfortable for you, and you aren’t participating any less if you choose not to share your journey in public. Also remember that people can be ruthless when it comes to their criticisms of what we share online. As hard as it is, try not to take what those cyber bullies say too seriously if you do choose to post images of yourself and your journey online.

Overall, the Body Positive Movement reflects many necessary and important societal changes that are helpful. Walking through life feeling bad about the way you look is a horrible experience, and encouraging people to embrace their bodies is a beautiful thing. Like any other major societal change, though, there are different ways to look at it. I hope that these tips help shape a more comprehensive perspective of the Body Positive Movement. I’ve spent a lot of time having these conversations with clients in my practice and I’ve seen some positive outcomes from those discussions. Keep these ideas in mind the next time you peruse a new Instagram account or Facebook page that is influenced by the movement and also talk about it with friends, family members or other people who are part of your life.

By Kira Batist-Wigod

 Kira Batist-Wigod is a social worker with a wide range of experience and training in cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma work and stress management. Kira specializes in treating people with chronic illnesses, depression and anxiety. She sees clients in her private practice on the Upper West Side and in New Jersey, where she also holds workshops on various topics. Kira also works at a medical center in the Bronx. Contact Kira by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling 917-765-4743. You can also visit her website at www.batistpsychotherapy.com.

 

 

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