If you spend any time on social media platforms, chances are that you’ve come across the hashtag #bodypositivity at some point. At the time of writing, it has been used over 11 million times on Instagram alone.
But what exactly is body positivity, who is it for, and how can building a better relationship with your body help you on your journey towards your health goals?
What is a Body-Positive Mindset?
Body positivity is a social movement asserting that everyone deserves to feel good about their bodies. It originated with the Fat Acceptance Movement in the 1960s, which demanded an end to weight stigma and discrimination based on body size.
Contemporary body positivity aims to challenge societal views of what constitutes a good or desirable body, to push back against judgements based on factors such as body size, race, gender, disability, and age, and to allow all of us to have a healthier relationship with our bodies and how we take care of them.
A body-positive mindset, then, is the state of understanding that your body is already good and worthy exactly as it is. Read on to learn about all the ways body positivity can help you on your journey towards better health.
Improve Your Overall Mental Health
Body image is strongly correlated with mental wellbeing. One study, by the UK’s Mental Health Foundation, found that 30% (that’s almost 1 in 3) of the adults surveyed reported sometimes feeling so stressed out by their body image that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
It is incredibly hard to strive towards goals of any kind–whether personal, professional, or health related–from a place of extreme stress and poor mental health. By building a body-positive mindset, you can improve your sense of contentment and wellbeing, freeing up energy and mental space to work on your goals.
You Cannot Hate Yourself to Better Health
Many people fall into the trap of believing that cultivating body-positivity and working towards health goals are mutually exclusive. This could not be further from the truth.
Perhaps you feel as though speaking harshly to yourself will motivate you to improve your health, while speaking kindly to yourself removes that motivation. However, the opposite is actually the case. One study, which looked at the role of positive self-worth in weight loss, found that “self-efficacy correlates positively with success in all realms of personal endeavor.” In other words, you are more likely to succeed at any goal if you believe in yourself.
Whether you want to eat more healthily, step up your exercise regime, or build muscle, a body-positive mindset allows you to create change from a place of self-love rather than self-hatred. This is not only much healthier overall, it also makes you more likely to succeed. Win-win!
Separate Health From Looks
There is no doubt that we live in an incredibly image-focused society. From airbrushed actors and impossibly thin catwalk models to muscular sports stars and perfectly filtered Instagram selfies, we are surrounded by images of idealized beauty every day. And unfortunately, this can have a devastating impact on wellbeing.
Studies have found, for example, that adolescent girls’ body image was directly adversely impacted by viewing very thin media images, and that both boys and girls “who were making an effort to look like the figures in the media” were more likely to develop weight concerns and constant dieting behaviors.
Cultivating a body-positive mindset allows you to separate your health from the way you look. It allows you to focus on how you feel as opposed to how others may perceive you. A body-negative mindset says “I work out to change my body because it isn’t good enough”, and a body-positive mindset says “I work out because it makes me feel good.”
Setting health and fitness goals which have nothing to do with how you look, whether that’s running a new personal best time or adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet, can help you on your journey to separating health and appearance.
Create Long-Term Change
Feeling bad and berating yourself is exhausting. And when it comes to health habits, it is likely to lead to short-term, extreme practices that are damaging or unsustainable. From crash diets to injuries through overtraining, it’s easy to do yourself more harm than good when operating from a place of body negativity.
When you love yourself and your body, you are much more able to build long-term and sustainable habits that will help you keep you in the best health possible for the rest of your life. And that’s far more valuable than any quick fix!