Body positivity – not so positive

Something that is a big issue in Western society is body image, body positivity or any form of being happy in the body you’ve been given. When social media shows us all the beautiful people out there, it’s hard to feel positive about yourself. Some people are crazy enough even to go under the knife to change those things about themselves that they hate. I’m not going to talk about plastic surgery today, but how, in our society, obesity is being promoted as healthy and body positive.

Looking back, I can remember seeing pictures of models, like the Victoria Secret models, and thinking that they were simply blessed with the “perfect” body and I was not. The typical view that some people have that models starve themselves to achieve the ideal body image is often not true yet this perception can have harmful effects on impressionable teenagers. There are serious health issues that could result from efforts to achieve your ideal body in an unhealthy way. Anorexia and bulimia are major issues in the Western world. These eating disorders affect the body and mind in complex ways. People suffering from these disorders look at themselves in the mirror and what they see is never good enough. They try to eat less – or nothing at all – to lose weight. Sticking your finger down your throat after a meal won’t make you love yourself. It will cause an array of mental and physical health issues.

It was only at the end of 2018 when I started feeling as strongly about being healthy as I do right now. I have always felt terrible about myself. My mental health was taking strain and I had lost all hope. I had never been motivated to do anything about it. I started making changes to my eating habits, started exercising and started losing weight gradually. I can assure you, that is the only way it works, and it does work slowly. But anything in life that is worth it takes time and effort. My aim is not to be super thin, but to be healthy and to look good.

It is true that there is nothing wrong with loving your body; being comfortable in your body, as long as you are healthy. But here is an example where simply feeling good about your body is not enough. Tess Holliday, the first size 22 woman to be a model as well as feature on the cover of the UK Cosmopolitan September 2018, astounded many people on the internet. At 1,65m tall and weighing 127 kg (according to Google), she falls under the category of morbidly obese. She also has no intention of making any changes to her lifestyle. In my opinion this promotes obesity and not body positivity. I honestly don’t agree with how body positivity is seen in the world, as it should promote health. It does not matter what size you are, as long as you are looking after your body, feeding it healthy food and trying to become a better version of yourself every day. Not everyone has the time to spend hours in the gym or the money to buy healthy food, because, let’s be honest, unhealthy food is much cheaper than healthy food. But there will always be small changes for your health that you can make in your life.

Body positivity means that you love yourself, not that you want to shorten your lifespan, which is exactly what obesity does. There are so many complications that can result from obesity, the main being: heart disease and diabetes. A whopping 40% of the deaths around the world are linked to obesity. Being obese can even lead to infertility, as well as breathing problems and having a high risk of getting certain cancers.

Our society should try and promote a healthy lifestyle that leads to body acceptance. Young people should be taught the difference between having a healthy body image and actually keeping their body healthy. When you take care of your body, you feel great and you look great.

By Anri Brink

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