Body positivity is a movement that has been around for decades. It first emerged in the US in the 60s to raise awareness of the barriers faced by “fat” people. In the social media era it was reignited to cover acceptance of all body types and you will see it talked about regularly in health magazines and in the media.
Body positivity means you should love your body, no matter the size, shape, colour, or ability. I couldn’t agree more.
But there is debate on whether this movement is helpful for women. Is it simply too much pressure for some women? And should we instead be using the term “body neutrality” – finding peace with your body – which feels more comfortable?
Whichever description you feel more comfortable with, it is clearly an important issue. We should not be made to feel shame about the way we look. Ever.
But what concerns me is that the focus is often on weight. On losing, or not losing weight. On being proud to be overweight, or vice versa. Of owning how you look. On aesthetics.
What is missing for me as a fitness professional, is the focus on our actual health. Yes be proud of your voluptuous figure, but not to the extent that you shirk opportunities to exercise and improve your heart health. Yes be proud of your slim figure as you slip into your size 8 skinny jeans but don’t dismiss having a strong body and healthy bones.
We shouldn’t be exercising because we feel embarrassed about the way we look and want to change that. Equally, we shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for wanting to fine-tune what we have, provided it is coming from a good place.
A larger woman can be healthier than a slimmer woman who is drinking too much alcohol, not working out and getting no sleep.
Don’t think if you are slim you don’t need to exercise because you have no weight to lose. It’s not about weight. And as a larger woman, don’t use the body positivity movement as an excuse to stay stuck and not focus on moving for your health.
Exercise isn’t and should never be just about weight loss or aesthetics. Yes you will see positive changes happening in your body if you exercise and eat well but I encourage you to focus on the most important benefit of exercise, which is our health, not just the way we look.
I’m acutely aware while writing this that ballet has it’s pre-conceived body type. But that is why I founded Breaking Ballet, a ballet-inspired fitness programme. I wanted to break down the barriers that exist preventing people from experiencing the benefits of a ballet fitness workout because of their pre-conceived ideas of who can do it. It’s for any shape or size. It makes you FEEL amazing, particularly as it is not just a form of exercise, but also an art form. A wonderful in-the-moment activity that pulls you away from the stresses of daily life.
And before you bite my head off, yes I do have programmes to help women lose belly fat and to tone their bodies. But this is a holistic approach that also helps them to understand the effects on their health and body of stress, poor sleep habits and unbalanced hormones. If you are happy with your body, great. But if you want to fine-tune it for vanity reasons or otherwise, you shouldn’t feel ashamed of that either. Ultimately, exercise will help you stay healthy (physically, mentally and emotionally) and happy; if you feel good in your body you are more likely to take care of it.
Remember healthy looks different on everyone, so don’t judge either yourself, or others. Just take action and start moving today. Your body will thank you for it.
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