Does body positivity promote obesity?

The body positive movement has taken the internet by storm. The premise behind the movement is to challenge people to love themselves wholly and absolutely. Yes, this includes those with fat bodies. Instead of shying away from rolls, curves, stretch marks, and moles, people are instead encouraged to embrace their bodies for the wondrous temples that they are. By extension, Instagram has been flooded with fat bodies exposing skin usually reserved for those with a thinner physique. Critics of the movement say that convincing individuals with unconventionally beautiful bodies that they are fine the way they are will discourage them from trying to get healthy.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of adults in the United States are obese. Obesity itself is recognized by the CDC as a disease but there are a host of obesity-related conditions as well that include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. We are certainly looking at an epidemic.

Coupled with the physical illnesses that can befall a person due to their weight are mental health concerns.  According to the American Psychological Association 51% of people with obesity who suffered from Binge Eating Disorder also had a history of major depression. The same agency stated that depression can be both a cause and result of stress, which as many of us know often causes changes in eating behavior and physical activity.

Clearly, it is necessary for someone who is interested in losing weight to approach it from both a mental health and physical health standpoint. Going to the gym, eating healthy, and all of the traditional weight loss methods may do well for losing physical pounds but in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid the tragic cycle of yo-yo weight loss, mental health is a critical piece of the puzzle. This is where body positivity comes in.

Despite the negative rap it often gets, body positivity is not about staying inside of an unhealthy lifestyle. It is about loving yourself enough to get motivated for a permanent change. There is enough negativity around body image in American culture. Self hatred is a multi-million dollar industry that has been able to sell face creams, diet pills, and vibrating stomach belts. It is a long road to a healthy body and all of us have room to grow.

Luckily, contrary to an atmosphere in which we learn to hate ourselves to perfection, body positivity allows us to love ourselves into wholeness. It is okay to embrace your stretch marks and strive to achieve a healthy weight at the same time.  One thing does not negate the other, and thanks to the body positive movement and the push for self love, people all over the world are now one step closer to both mental and physical wellness.

By Courtney Stafford, Coordinator at The Cortland LGBTQ Center, a division of Family Counseling Services


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