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Body shaming and body positivity: The good and bad

Body shaming and body positivity: The good and bad

Have you ever felt self-conscious about your body size, shape, height, etc? Don’t worry, we all have at some point. In this world of social media and fake beauty standards, we often find ourselves criticizing our bodies for not being “perfect”.

We hear phrases like “you are too fat, you should diet” or “oh, you are so thin, you will disappear”, etc. being told to us or we sometimes joke about it too. This act of commenting on someone’s physical appearance or body image is called body shaming.

In an interview, Actress Vidya Balan was once asked, “ You look stunning, but when are you losing weight?”. Despite her success, people just look at her weight. She has been quite actively speaking against body shaming.

Body-shaming isn’t gender-specific. Even men experience it; mostly in terms of their masculinity. And it works both ways. That means, it’s not just the overweight people who get these comments, but people who are underweight as well.

The weight of words

Body shaming can affect our mental health in the long run. When we are body-shamed, it can lower our self-confidence and self-worth. It may compel us to start avoiding or isolating ourselves. It can make us feel lonely and can also lead to depression. Moreover, we might start following unhealthy eating behaviors. For example, an overweight person might starve himself to lose weight or a thin person might start binge eating to gain weight. This can also lead to eating disorders.

We need to understand that everyone has a different body structure. There is no perfect figure or body type. There are various factors like some people genetically have the wider or thinner body type. It does not necessarily mean that that they are unhealthy. However, the opposite is true as well. People who look in ‘perfect’ shape might not be healthy from the inside.

It is important to avoid body shaming ourselves and others. We can try to be mindful of what we speak to others. We might think that the person is okay with our jokes about anyone’s body image, but it may hurt the person.

But what if we are body-shamed by our friends and relatives? Here are a few things to deal with it:

  • We should not let anyone’s opinion of our body type affect our mind.
  • Accept our bodies the way they are but make sure we maintain our health.
  • Stop negative self-talk and thoughts, especially when looking in the mirror. Instead, focus on something we do like about ourselves
  • Try to limit ourselves to social media platforms. We are easily influenced by seeing models, actresses and believing that we are not good enough.

Body positivity

Body positivity means accepting and embracing our bodies the way they are. It also means to view our bodies as beautiful irrespective of their shape and size. The body positivity movement has been constantly growing. Nowadays, fashion magazines have shifted from ‘size zero and fair’ to ‘plus size and dark skinned’ models to support body positivity.

Are we becoming too body positive?

Nowadays, Instagram influencers, fashion, and beauty industries are promoting being obese or having acne as okay in the name of body positivity.

Obesity is a serious health problem. Indian statistics show that approximately 25% of the Indian population (15-49 years) are overweight or obese. Research shows, its prevalence is expected to triple by 2040. On the other end of the spectrum, approximately 18% of the Indian population (15-49 years) are underweight.

Both these conditions can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, blood pressure, etc. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to obesity.

In such a scenario, do you think it is okay to ignore being obese or underweight and say we are body positive? The answer is no.

No doubt, accepting our natural self is important but there needs to be a line between accepting the way we are and accepting a disease condition. This means that body positivity should not encourage being obese or any other medical condition. There can be medical causes of having too much acne as well. It is not okay to ignore disease conditions in the name of body positivity.

So what should we do to find a balance?

  • Work towards gaining better health for ourselves and not for others.
  • Try to follow a healthy balanced diet, exercise regularly, stay hydrated and maintain our mental health.
  • Focus on a number, be it on a weighing scale or XS size. It usually leads to being obsessive with eating and exercise and losing enjoyment.
  • Accepting our bodies is important, but, if need be, we should not shy away from asking for help from a professional.

In conclusion, we shouldn't be shaming our bodies, but we shouldn't be glorifying it either. Instead of not talking about weight loss at all, we must educate people on how it can be done safely and healthily.

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