The Toxicity of the Body Positivity Movement

Aubrie Welker, 10th Grade, BCECHS

How does positivity turn negative? Many of you have heard of the body positivity movement, the online movement intended to lift people of all shapes, sizes, skin tones, etc. As someone who has dealt with body image issues on and off for most of their life, this sounded great to me. But many influencers that claim to support this movement only uplift people who are small to mid-sized, white women with no disabilities leaving out people of color and men altogether. In a study examining around 250 body positivity posts it was found that 67% of the posts only included white women. Many brands use the movement as a way to capitalize off of body issues. They claim to be all for the move yet still photoshop “flaws” off of their models.  Body positivity is telling people over, and over, and over that they have to love how they look no matter what. It puts a lot of pressure on young teens which can lead to a lot of mental health issues from a young age.

We’ve all had days or weeks even when we felt negative about ourselves. That’s ok! We shouldn’t have to always feel good about our appearance to feel good about ourselves. That’s why people are turning to body neutrality. 

Body neutrality is a concept created by Anne Poir about appreciating your body for what it can do for you rather than how it looks. Elizabeth Wassenaar, a medical director, and psychiatrist of the Eating Recovery Center in Denver referred to body neutrality as a “Welcome mindset” for people who find it near impossible to constantly love their body. For example, body positivity would be saying I love my legs, stretch marks, and all, while body neutrality would be I love my legs because they allow me to go on the walks I love. Body neutrality is the ability for someone to feel good about themself without depending on their appearance to make or break that.  Unlike body positivity, body neutrality does not shame someone for wanting to change their appearance even if they do still like how they look but have healthy improvements they want to make.

Some ways you could practice body neutrality is by wearing clothes that are comfortable, Reframing why exercise is important to you, and most importantly being patient with yourself. Body neutrality is like forming a relationship with your physical form, every relationship has rough patches. Keep in mind that everyone struggles with body image, it’s okay if you do too.

Body positivity was helpful and empowering at one point in time but now it would be more efficient and healthy to use body neutrality. Lifting the pressure of having to always love how you look and tying self-worth to appearance would have done wonders for me and many people I knew in middle school. Let’s give our upcoming generations the chance to live without that pressure and switch to body neutrality.