The “Body Positive Movement” has legs and is turning out actual results. Record numbers of plus size models set the runways on fire at NY Fashion Week spring 2018, thanks to the influence of documentaries like Straight/Curve and Embrace which brought awareness to people around the world about body bias. And let’s not forget the persuasive power the plus size digital influencers wield with their millions of dedicated and passionate followers. Most of these Instagram phenoms preach a message of gaining self-love at your current weight and advocate for dignity and respect for all body types because we are humans, not because we fit within “acceptable” margins of size. We discussed the difference between self-love and body-positivity in a previous article; the two tend to go hand in hand.
You will hear messages from some body positive warriors that all diets are evil. Certainly, through the greed-driven lens that dominates current diet culture, they can appear that way. If every angle is dedicated to selling products, then those products will come wrapped in psychological warfare. Make someone hate their body and long for an impossible ideal, odds are you can make that same someone buy into a diet program that holds the promise of that ideal.
To break these chains, the body positivity movement has pushed fiercely against this mindset. People can finally see that freedom from body obsession coincides with freedom from food monitoring. Diets are often perceived as a sort of mind-control — a way to occupy our thoughts so that we don’t have mental room to take on oppression and inequality. We have always supported that argument, but is there a way to want to change your body that is still body positive?
The reality is that what we put into our bodies influences the way we feel and behave. We often concentrate on the serotonin released in the brain which many antidepressants control, yet 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract. We are literally built to associate happiness with food intake. So, if your body is reacting poorly to your diet, it has a direct correlation to your feeling of happiness. This makes a case for approaching diets from a new angle — cultivating happiness. When we imagine the diet industry shifting its focus from body obsession to planting seeds of joy in every customer, tears come to our eyes!
The same community that lifts up plus size influencers are sometimes their harshest critics, and one such backlash made national news. We all know plus-size supermodel Ashley Graham (if you don’t know who she is, please come out from under your rock).
Back in July of 2016, she posted a picture where she posed at an angle that appeared to be very slimming and many of her followers were upset and expressed themselves in horrible comments, “What happened to embracing your size? You advertise that message then go and lose weight?? I mean hey more power to you, but idk…puzzled,” one commenter posted. “Fake fat person. … You’re not overweight, stop saying you are. If you are fit, own it, don’t crutch on what made you famous. If you changed, just keep it real, don’t tell me you’re fat when you look like perfection,” one hater argued. “Where are your curves?!” another asked. The community that was so starved for representation in high fashion was now devastated that their one and only had betrayed them.
Graham addressed the issue with a beautiful open Lenny Letter to her body shamers calling them out on both ends of the spectrum — claiming she was too fat, or too thin! She concluded by saying, “My body is MY body. I’ll call the shots.” Now that’s what we’re talking about!
So this pendulum swing has gone from bullying fat people to be thin to outrage over someone not choosing to stay fat. How can we get it back to center, where people, especially women, have the right to look the way they look without it being anyone else’s business? We deserve to have autonomy over how we look without judgment. That starts with looking in the mirror and checking our opinions about ourselves, and how we decide to look at our bodies.
So here’s the rub: you’ve gotta do what makes you happy. Whether it’s losing or gaining weight in a healthy way, you have got to do what makes you and your body feel good. The ultimate goal would be changing your perspective from “If I change my body, then I will be happy,” to “If I am happy, my body will change to where it wants to be.”
Actor/influencers Kathy Deitch and Eva Tingley spearheaded PlusThis!, the multimedia brand which features pop-culture, fashion, debates regarding food and health and the societal negativity and stereotypes that surround women who dare to take up a little bit of space. The duo broadcasts live every Thursday at 6 pm PT from Universal Broadcasting Network and simultaneously across several platforms including Facebook Live and YouTube Live.
Photos: Debby Wong/Shutterstock