Conversations around body image have become polarized. At one end are the influencers like Tess Holliday, who champions the plus-size platform through #effyourbeautystandards or @theeverymanproject, intent on abolishing indoctrinating standards for male behavior and muscularity that ingrain unhealthy body image and a deceptive sense of manhood. At the other end, the medical and public health communities present volumes of indisputable science-based evidence proving that obesity has a direct correlation to higher rates of heart disease and diabetes, our country's big killers. Is there beauty in destroying oneself or propagating higher risk behaviors that clearly produce often irreversible, negative health outcomes?
Here’s where social responsibility takes the podium. While being overweight does not have an absolute relationship to negative health, obesity does. Disordered eating patterns do. Fast food diets do. High sugar diets do. I believe the efforts to shift the pervasive damaging social norms around fat shaming and unreasonable beauty ideals are hugely necessary, but at what risk? What if this flock of liberationists, mostly teens and millennials, are using 'body positivity' to cover up eroded self-esteem or secret disordered eating behavior? Are they sacrificing positive self-concept to pacify broader cultural pleas of acceptance? What can we expect in terms of mental health status considering cognitive impairment is moderated by digestive health, relative BMI, and exercise. Humans have both an internal barometer for a sense of well-being and ceaseless exposure to external messages of what it means to be healthy and beautiful. But, this “beauty at any size” concept feels a bit superficial if its focus is limited to the 'body beautiful'.
Nutrition therapists, psychotherapists, and energy healers around the globe work to dispel generational beliefs (my family included) that lovability is directly proportionate to beauty and weight. Those twisted, ancestral roots strangle us, leaving weakened self-images and broken dreams of being good enough. I had to take a deep ethical dive on this issue and evaluate my convictions to serve in the best interest of my client communities. While most of us entangle appearance with self-image and worthiness, I don’t feel practitioners need to choose between the Self-Care and Body Positivity platforms. We don’t need to be divisive to be impactful. I rally behind body freedom to the degree that it promotes loving ourselves despite our size, but refuse to swallow razor blades dismissing the value of healthy eating, education, and respect for life in order to allow my clients the right to self-harm. Its a slippery slope.. at any size.