What is Body Positive?

Published 5.16.2017
The so-called Body Positive or “BoPo” movement is having growing pains. Body positive is a fairly generic phrase. If the intent was, as the article asserts, for fat bodies to be positive, then it should be called it fat body positive, which I guess could be FaBoPo. Personally, I’m not a big fan of abbreviated words, though obviously I use acronyms in my writings here. Many times abbreviated terms and acronyms are used as a form of informal jargon. The purpose of jargon in most cases is to exclude outsiders or those “not in the know.” Not a fan. Say what you mean mean what you say, and use complete words— or at the very least define the acronyms that you use. Just one woman’s opinion.

And yes, brands and marketers now scan social media for trends that they can adopt or co-opt and the body positive movement was one such concept. I mean, who can argue that being positive about your body is a bad thing? However, fat bodies are still rare in advertising and other medium and super fat bodies are all but absent. I’m not counting shows where fat people have their digestive tract mangled to lose weight.

Thus the effort to "reclaim" the body positive movement for fat people. One exception to that rule used to be Gabourey Sidibe. However, Sidibe is currently making the media rounds flogging her memoir and discussing the bariatric surgery she had to lose weight. Why did she do it? She’d begun to experience health effects related to the excess weight she was carrying on her frame. She’s a wealthy adult who decided the way she wanted to deal with the weight was to have the surgery.

When I first saw the phrase “body positive,” my inferences was this simple concept: Everyone should like (be positive about) their own body, whatever its size or health. All humans have bodies, all humans should be positive about their bodies. Only when I started reading about BoPo did I realize how ignorant I was. Much like the health at every size (HAES) movement, which on its face makes a lot of good points, it’s in the details where BoPo goes wrong.

In the end, health matters, and weight is part of health. I make this point over and over here because while I support every human’s right to be whatever size they want, I do not not accept nor will I ignore the false narrative that weight is not part of health. Because I’ve been reading in the fat-o-sphere for a few years now, I’ve had a front row seat to several of the epiphanies that age and reality force on many HAES proponents.

The highlighted tale chronicles the experience of woman, Joni Edelman, who found herself adopted by the body positive movement after writing a story about how she was going to eat all the cake and be fat and happy. And so she was for a few years. Then she fell and couldn’t heal.

The reality was that her weight was destroying her joints. Once she lost weight she was able to start moving again. Her real crime, though, was writing about her weight loss positively and how she did it. She gave numbers and details and that was “triggering.”

After receiving significant backlash from former fans, Edelman quit the movement. She wanted to be able to talk about losing weight, which she now sees as part of being positive and loving her body. Because health is important and if losing some weight will make you healthier than you should do it. The best thing about it is that she did it naturally, by eating less and eventually moving more. In fact, she last the weight adhering to many of the principles HAES followers claim to support. But only if in doing so you don't lose weight— which is doubly ironic because Linda Bacon, patron HAES saint, lost 30 pounds herself by following HAES guidelines. Somehow though, she is afforded a pass— maybe because her mobility and health weren't affected? It is ridiculous that fat humans who lose a bit of weight and feel better can't celebrate that fact.

Here Edelman asks the question, if we can talk about being too thin, why can’t we talk about being too fat? My guess is the answer from the "FaBoPo" would revolve around safe spaces, etc. Edelman is bipolar, something else she writes honestly about, so she’s careful about what she adds to her life.

As it always seems to do when I discuss these topics, this turned into a bit more of a rant than I originally intended. The topic frustrates me because both movements, a belief in being more "Body Positive" and aiming for the best health at every size should be supportable. Instead, the need to avoid or discount inconvenient facts among followers of both movement leave me ranting at my keyboard every so often.

Ranting here is better than ranting in real life to friends and family, and was, as the About page notes, the reason this site came into existence.