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4 Goals of the Body Positive Movement The term body positivity which has garnered a lot of attention in our digital world refers to having a positive image of human bodies that is not dependent on what society or popular culture views as an ideal shape, size and appearance.

By Kavya Pillai

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Jennifer Burk

The term body positivity which has garnered a lot of attention in our digital world refers to having a positive image of human bodies that is not dependent on what society or popular culture views as an ideal shape, size and appearance. Body positivity aims to help people learn about the ways popular media messages contribute to the relationship one has with their body image which includes individual feelings about food consumption, exercise, health, clothing and self-care. It was not too long ago when one would only find slim/socially acceptable bodies on television and social media. It was also rare to see any representation of varied ethnicities.

"The concept of having an aesthetically pleasing body has gained a lot of significance in the beauty industry and as a marketing strategy. However, it undermines the average population often leading to self-esteem and negative body image issues in those who do not fit the 'ideal beauty standards'," said Dr Amaey Parekh, Mental Health Practitioner at Humm Care, a platform that delivers healthcare solutions to families. In recent years, shows and movies like Empire, Dumpling, Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Euphoria included plus-size stars and gave them roles beyond stereotypical 'fat character' stereotypes. This is just a small yet bold step in the direction of building a society that does not dictate unrealistic narratives about human bodies. The goals of the body positivity movement can be divided into four simple points.

1. Challenging how Society views human bodies

We as a society failed when we made sizes as compliments and diggs, comments like, 'nice and slim' or 'model-like figure' which does not include the majority of body types were meant as compliments. Further damage was done when insults were made along the lines of 'looking fat' and 'has put on a few'. This dialogue not only affects the people subjected to them but the image of what a good body looks like in general making it clear that people with larger bodies are not beautiful or good looking. Despite having not learned this in any textbook, unconsciously through media consumption the world looked at slim and tall bodies as beautiful and degraded other sizes.

2. Correct body-positive representatives

Social media has had a huge hand in the boost of the body-positive movement although due to the lack of regularization on the internet, it has become more commodified. Body positivity at times has been monetised and politicised by brands and public figures. This lead to an alternate beauty standard, 'acceptably fat' where campaigns glorify bodies of plus-size women with extreme hourglass figures to come across as body inclusive which in reality excludes several bodies. Even social media took a beating when it came to Body-positive influencers which can be split into two types, the first are qualified and are advocating for a more inclusive and diverse representation of body types in the media and society. The second type is indirectly promoting obesity simply because they lack the actual education in this field. "Obesity is a real medical issue with physical and mental health complications. Hence, discernment of who one follows is equally essential. Enough research on the background of the "influencer" can help one make better-informed decisions," added Dr Parekh.

3. Helping people with their body image

Hena Kanakia, Nutritionist at Humm Care shared, "I won't deny but have tons of people who come to me because they want to see a certain figure on the scale. Rather I teach them how to appreciate qualitative progress in terms of inch loss, energy levels, good quality sleep and feeling good internally." It is not uncommon for gym trainers and fitness experts to be shown images of models and famous personalities as a goal individuals want to reach after their training in short time spans. This makes a healthy habit unhealthy by adding pressure to lose kilos together and maintain a body size that in reality takes hours and days to generally attain. These 'goals' are also not advisable for everyone as they do not take into consideration medical conditions and individual limitations. The concept of what is healthy is butchered most of the time in health-centric spaces when there is a lack of trained professionals.

4. Reducing the problems of a poor body image

At times past experiences such as bullying, trauma, or negative comments from loved ones can contribute to a negative self-image and mental constraints related to physical appearance. Many worry about how they will be perceived by others based on their physical appearance, leading to anxiety and self-consciousness. Social media platforms can exacerbate this fear, as people are constantly comparing themselves to others and seeking validation through likes and comments. According to research women often experience depression at much higher rates than men do, and some researchers believe that body dissatisfaction plays an important role. This is often a link to disordered eating, particularly among adolescent girls. Eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, Bulimia and Binge eating disorders that have started rising in number in countries like ours as a consequence of not feeling good looking enough.

In conclusion, mental constraints related to physical appearance are complex and multifaceted. They can arise from a variety of sources, including societal pressures, fear of judgment, past experiences, and the need to maintain a certain image. It is important to address these constraints compassionately and holistically, focusing on self-love, acceptance, and prioritizing mental and emotional well-being.

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