The body size and types that society considers ideal has fluctuated for decades. The messages of what is an attractive or appropriate body type and size can be damaging for many who do not fit into these criteria. These often unrealistic and unsustainable body goals can make people who do not fulfill the criteria feel inadequate or unattractive. Considering the damage this can have on one’s mental health, including the development of eating disorders, our Philadelphia eating disorder clinic is sharing why body positivity is important.
History of Body Positivity
Ideas of body positivity have been around for years but have only more recently become widely accepted and formed into a social movement. Body positivity dates back as far as the 1850s, when women protested that they shouldn’t be required to wear corsets to change their body shape or look a certain way.
This then-scandalous protest eventually came into fruition, and the idea of body acceptance became a topic of discussion following the publication of an article titled “More People Should Be Fat!” written by Lew Lauderback.1 The article, which argued that fatness does not equate to lack of health and shouldn’t be shamed, is what contributed to the creation of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance in 1969.
However, the body positivity movement was officially founded in 1996 by Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott. The movement was based on Connie’s experience with an eating disorder and her sister, Stephanie, who passed away at the age of thirty-six due to an eating disorder and Lupus, an autoimmune disease. This autoimmune disease resulted from leaking silicone breast implants.
Elizabeth Scott is a psychologist specializing in eating disorder treatment. Since then, the body-positive movement has grown to include various activities, events, and foundations, and has even impacted the fashion and advertising industries, social media, and general acceptance of all bodies worldwide.
What Is Body Positivity?
Body positivity is a movement that represents acceptance, respect, and appreciation for all body types and shapes just as they are. Additionally, not only is it important for one to appreciate the bodies of others but also to appreciate one’s own body for its appearance and functions.
Body positivity includes:
- Appreciating the unique aspects of one’s body
- Gratitude for the things one’s body can do
- Admiration for parts and features of one’s body, even if they don’t fit in with societal norms
- Comfort and confidence within one’s body
- Focusing on positives rather than perceived imperfections or flaws
- Rejecting negative images or information about bodies
For most people, body positivity is not constant and tends to fluctuate depending on various factors in our lives. Practicing body positivity requires time and patience, but it’s worth the improved well-being and mental health.
Why Is Body Positive Important?
The body-positive movement was born from the understanding that strict, negative, and demeaning messages about bodies and appearance are emotionally, psychologically, and physically damaging to many. The importance of body positivity is linked to increased self-esteem and improved mental and physical health by reminding the individual that they are beautiful just the way they are.
Feeling comfortable in your skin can increase your confidence, which affects other aspects of your life, such as the way you interact with others, your performance at school and work, and even your physical health. On the other hand, negative body image refers to a person’s subjective perception of their body, which may be different from how they really look. It involves being overly focused on comparing one’s size, body shape, weight, or appearance to unrealistic ideals.
The effects of negative body image include:
- Low self-esteem
- Unhealthy self-talk
- Increased risk of mental illness, such as depression
- Increased risk of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder
- Increased risk of body dysmorphic disorder
- Suicidal thoughts
The importance of a body-positive image is founded on positive psychology, which focuses on ways to improve functioning and well-being rather than focusing on an illness or disorder. Body positivity encompasses not just the absence of negative body image but also having intentional respect, appreciation, and love for one’s body.
Eating Disorders and Body Image
As a facility that offers Philadelphia eating disorder treatment, we’re well aware of why having a positive body image is important. Negative body image is a symptom that’s at the heart of most of our clients’ eating disorders.
Research has consistently shown that exposure to depictions of the “thin ideal” is linked to both behavioral and emotional symptoms of disordered eating.1 In addition to exposure to these ideals, there’s also the development of the beliefs that beauty, success, and esteem are achieved by being thin.
Studies have also shown that when people keep these ideas bottled up, they’re more likely to experience body dissatisfaction and engage in unnecessary dieting.2 While the body positivity movement can be improved to include more people of color, LGBTQ, and non-binary, it’s headed in the right direction with the right idea.
Unfortunately, many develop eating disorders because of negative body image and other struggles. If you or someone you know needs treatment for anorexia nervosa or any other form of disordered eating, Banyan can help.
We offer both Philadelphia substance abuse programs and eating disorder support to help clients that may be struggling with one or both. For more information about our services and how to get started, call Banyan Treatment Centers today at 888-280-4763.
- Taylor & Francis Online - The Impact of Exposure to the Thin-Ideal Media Image on Women
- ScienceDirect - Implicit internalization of the thin ideal as a predictor of increases in weight, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating