Even though it comes across as healthy, the truth is, the body positivity movement can be toxic.

“Love your body the way it is.”

This is a great message. Frankly, no one should hate themselves and the way they look. That is an exhausting way to live, and I hope that you do not hate what you see in the mirror. You are more than the way you look. The person inside you matters much more than that.

However, while the body positivity movement has its pros, it is not without its flaws either. In fact, it can become toxic when left unchecked. Much like everything else, “body positivity” is interpreted differently by people from different walks of life, and some interpretations can be toxic.

Image: Pexels/ Roberto Hund

Here are 3 toxic traits related to the body positive movement to watch out for: 

1) Thin-shaming slimmer people

One of the easiest tell-tale signs that the body positivity movement has become toxic is when people feel comfortable shaming thinner people.

“Are you sure you’re eating?”

“Men like real women with curves.”

“Eat some pasta or something.”

Yes, one can argue that slimmer people are treated better in society, or that thin-shaming have fewer negative connotations than fat-shaming. They are definitely not the same.

Still, engaging in this kind of behaviour is ugly either way. 

We don’t know what is going on in another person’s life, or their relationship with their body. Perhaps they have a medical condition, a naturally high metabolism, or body image issues which are still none of our business, except theirs with their healthcare professionals.

The body positivity movement is to celebrate bodies at every size. Making it to only represent women of a certain size is toxic behaviour for sure.

2) Getting irrationally angry at formerly fat people who lost weight

There are few women on the heavier side in the limelight. They deserve more representation, but this is a topic for another day. 

Meanwhile, other women who share similar body types embrace women who they deem represent them. Take, for example, Adele in the early-to-mid 2010s.

 

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As a singing powerhouse who was on the slightly bigger side, women who saw themselves in her rejoiced that someone their size was making waves in the music industry.

Then, Adele gradually lost weight and her transformation took everyone by surprise.

 

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One of the interesting ways that people have responded to Adele’s weight loss was how they felt betrayed or angered by it. In her interview with Vogue US, Adele said: 

“The most brutal conversations were being had by other women about my body. I was very f**king disappointed with that. That hurt my feelings.”

Through all the hoo-ha, it seems that people have forgotten a key fundamental fact: Adele is a fully grown adult woman. She is the one who gets to decide what she wants to do with her body, not stay a certain shape to please people.

Demanding that someone stays a certain size to make you feel “body positive” so that your size is represented in the media, is in itself toxic behaviour. Ironically, that is the exact opposite of what body positivity should mean – if you were truly positive about your own body, you would not mind if someone who was your visual representation suddenly looked different.

Just as you wish other people would respect your body, you should not try to dictate, decide, or regulate what other people think and do with their bodies too.

3) “Body positivity” is a superficial buzzword and marketing trend

Companies are taking note of what their consumers want, and many have hopped on the “body positivity” trend by featuring people who would not have been on covers in the 90s. They are also doing less retouching and edits on pictures.

They want to relate to their consumers, rather than show aspirational images. 

That is all well and great, but a deeper look will show that these brands still choose people who are on the conventionally attractive side, with convention being expanded past the “thin is beautiful” narrative. Naomi Watanabe of Japan is gorgeous, but one will quickly realise that she is one of the very few – if not the only one – of plus-size people well-known in Japan.

In short, the current body positivity movement is not actually inclusive – it just broke past a barrier or two. It is also one that makes us still focused on our bodies, which can be a toxic endeavour. How we look like should arguably be one of the least interesting things about us.

In the end, while it’s better to love your body than to hate it, your relationship with your body does not have to be just in two camps – either hating it or loving it. It is okay to just be neutral about it, too – all the toxicity is exhausting.