Is Body Positivity Doing More Harm Than Good?

‘You don’t have to love your body to be kind to it.’ – Alissa Rumsey

Body positivity is a major topic of conversation these days. From social media to commercials on TV, there has been a growing effort to push a more inclusive image of the human body. While the concept of accepting our individual flaws is a generally positive idea, when does it go too far and start endangering your health? When it comes to wellness, the line should be drawn at obesity — as the condition contributes to life-long health problems if left untreated.

Body positivity is about how our perception of body image (our own and others) shapes our concept of self, mental health, well-being, and relationships. It refers to how you feel about your own appearance, and how you feel about your height, weight, and shape.

Moreover, the term body positivity describes a mindset that the shape or size of someone’s body does not determine their worthiness of love. It challenges the roles of cultural, social, and media influences in the development of our relationship with our body, ourselves, and how we perceive others. Body positivity can also refer to cultivating confidence and self-love, and appreciating your body for all that it can do, despite its flaws. It’s about inclusivity and acceptance of all physical traits.

If the goal of body positivity is to encourage the media to present images of “real” people, rather than idealized images, the movement is succeeding. It’s my unscientific observation that more television ads and programming, as well as print media, feature more overweight models and actors.

Woman looking at herself in mirror, body image
(© Maridav –

When does body positivity cross a line into harmful self-indulgence?

Weight is just one aspect of body positivity, but let’s use it to examine the movement.

For children and adolescents between two and 19 years-old, almost 20 percent are obese – that’s about 15 million kids. The older the child, the higher obesity rates rise.

It’s 12.7 percent among kids two to five, and 22.2 percent among children 12 to 19. About 26 percent of Hispanic children are obese, as are 25 percent of Black children.

We are seeing diseases in these young people which previously were seen almost exclusively in adults. This includes cases of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, gall bladder disease, sleep apnea, and joint problems. There is more obesity in proportion to decreasing education among parents and lower household incomes.

Obesity in children is associated with:

Obesity in adults is associated with:

Teen boy eating junk food, drinking soda while looking at smartphone
(© New Africa –

These negative consequences are increasing in frequency as the incidence of overweight and obesity in our culture increases, while the body positivity movement gains attention.

Body positivity purports loving your body. You care for what you love. Does that make being overweight, or self-indulgence, body negativity? Let’s just get rid of the positive vs. negative and replace them with wellness.

How Can You Practice ‘Body Wellness’?

There are several ways to discover what “being healthy” means to you – physically, mentally, and emotionally. This includes cultivating a realistic perception of your body, including its flaws.

1. Practice positive self-talk: It can increase your confidence and self-esteem. Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations and focus on your strengths. Use statements such as “I am courageous,” and “My body is capable of great things.” You can put these on sticky notes and post them on your bathroom mirror.

2. Seek out community: Surround yourself with people who support and uplift you.

3. Add more physical activity: Move in ways that make your body feel good, such as yoga, dancing, or walking. Focus on how your body feels during these activities, rather than how it looks.

4. Write a gratitude list: List things about your body and yourself you are grateful for. This can help shift your focus from negative thoughts to positive ones.

5. Nourish yourself with nutrient-rich food: Eat whole foods that make you feel good and provide energy. Avoid restrictive diets.

6. Wear clothing that builds confidence: Be comfortable, and bold with color. Don’t worry about following fashion trends or certain sizes.

7. Practice self-compassion: Treat yourself with the same compassion and love you would show to a friend.

8. Ask your healthcare provider for support: Discuss with your doctor your personal path to greater wellness.

You might also be interested in:

Follow on Google News

About the Author

Dr. Faith Coleman

Dr. Coleman is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and holds a BA in journalism from UNM. She completed her family practice residency at Wm. Beaumont Hospital, Troy and Royal Oak, MI, consistently ranked among the United States Top 100 Hospitals by US News and World Report. Dr. Coleman writes on health, medicine, family, and parenting for online information services and educational materials for health care providers.

The contents of this website do not constitute advice and are provided for informational purposes only. See our full disclaimer