Your body positivity is worthless if it’s just positivity

Self love only works when someone is improving, only be positive when you are medically healthy



Anne Cox, professor of kinesiology/sports and exercise psychology, discusses the correlation between appearance and health.

KENDRICK RICHARDSON, Evergreen columnist

You’ve heard it on “Dr. Phil,” “The View” and maybe even “Oprah.” Body positivity is the movement to expand our ideas of beauty, the aim being to include all people regardless of gender identity, race, size or age.

Since the late 1960s, a main focus of the movement was to fight the “fat shamers.” As a result, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance was founded.

The organization encouraged many to argue for a “Health at Every Size” model. This is centered on the idea that everyone should engage in healthy lifestyles and eating habits regardless of a person’s appearance and body shape.

These values are still popular today.

But do you know what else is spreading like a wildfire? Heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, cancer and diabetes, all of which have a greater likelihood if you are obese.

That’s not up for debate, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service.

I feel that this “healthy at any size” notion is suspicious. So, I consulted an expert from WSU.

Anne Cox, associate professor of kinesiology/sport and exercise psychology, considers herself an advocate for body positivity.

“Society tends to conflate physical appearance with health,” said Cox. “Having extra layers of fat doesn’t tell you about the health underneath.”

This wasn’t the biggest contradiction to my perspective. My most significant point of argument was the purpose of the movement.

“The research shows that it’s better to be self-compassionate,” Cox said. “It promotes better behaviors. Loving your body will come naturally — more like a byproduct.”

Cox went on to explain this is what creates a positive-feedback loop — the more you learn to accept yourself, the more likely you are to develop a higher level of self-care, which ultimately results in what is truly body positivity.

I must say, it is sound logic. I definitely left the interview with a new outlook. At several points in the interview, I had found myself speechless.

Soon enough, I found that one discrepancy was left standing. Being self-compassionate and accepting the current state of how things are is only helpful if your health is a priority.

While your appearance and size do not always dictate your level of health, being medically obese still isn’t justified in most cases. The current movement’s method of acceptance could actually be counterproductive to the goal Cox mentions.

Current campaign models like “Health at Every Size” provide an excuse for unhealthy individuals to believe they’re healthy.

If confronted about the increased risk of heart attack, an obese individual may respond by saying health comes in many different sizes and blame those who disagree as victims of the media’s fat hatred.

This mindset could end the positive feedback cycle before it starts as they might not see problems with their current lifestyle.

If Cox had direct influence on this movement, the obesity rate and spreading concern of heart disease might be a bit different.

Today’s body positivity advocates should campaign while also communicating the steps in the correct order — accept yourself, acknowledge your accountability for unhealthy behaviors and work on changing those behaviors with a positive attitude.

Instead, we see a simpler, yet impractical, agenda — accept yourself and become convinced that you’re healthy.

We need serious revising. It is too unpredictable which mindset will be born from the movement’s agenda. Whether or not the current campaign methods are intentional, they are loaded with risk. In a country where one out of three adults is obese, a lot is on the line.

If you believe that the dehumanization of people because of their appearance is wrong, I proudly stand with you. But, if you think someone’s “body positivity” excludes them from needed self-improvement, you’re part of the problem.