When “Body Positivity” Turns Negative

Tolerance and acceptance are important, but how far is too far?

It’s a GREAT thing to teach girls and boys and women and men about tolerance, acceptance, and overall body positivity.

But at what point does “body positivity” become a negative thing?

This is a very interesting thing to consider. I really like looking at things like this and examining the point from different views.

For me, I definitely agree that it is important to be happy in your own skin, comfortable with who you are, and be able to expect others to be tolerant and accepting of you.

But when someone is unhealthy or in crisis (morbidly obese causing health problems or disordered eating causing health issues), is it really okay to be telling them that they are perfect the way they are and everyone should be more accepting?

I don’t mean this as offensive at ALL. I myself am overweight, and while I am confident in myself and strive for being comfortable in my skin, I also work out and try to make healthier food choices because I know my extra weight will cause more problems with my overall health (and my poor knees).

I’m also not saying that fat people can’t be healthy. They can and many are — those people are not the ones I am referring to.

Again, positivity, acceptance, tolerance, and kindness are incredibly important and are great things!

Crossing the line

It’s when it crosses the line into unhealthy and unsustainable and then we hide behind the “body positivity shield” as a crutch and an excuse to not make changes.

I’ve done it. I have absolutely done it. 20 pounds ago, I was chubby and a little overweight but NOT unhealthy. I worked out regularly, had a good diet, and was fairly active. I went through some medical stuff and put on 20 pounds, became more sedentary, and stopped going to the gym.

And at first, I demurred. I had excuses. It wasn’t that bad, I’ve always been pretty healthy, my blood work is fine…

I thought to myself, “I have to accept this new body, find a way to be comfortable in it, I just need to be more positive and accepting of it!”

But you know what? I get winded on stairs now. My knees hurt. There is a long history of diabetes and heart disease in my family.

I was deluding myself with body positivity in an attempt to ignore the truth — that I put on weight and it is affecting me negatively.

In this way, the constant crow of “body positivity” was keeping me from admitting that I really wasn’t ok with my current body — and neither was my health.

It’s not fat-shaming to say that I am fat and I want to be less fat.


It seems to always be one extreme or another. A pendulum that never bothers to stop and rest in the middle ground.

Either ALL fat is bad or ALL fat is okay. All or nothing of anything is usually not okay, just in general.

And it’s also not about fat people — body positivity is supposed to be about ALL body types, and yet I have heard people make extremely snide and sarcastic remarks to skinny people to “just eat a hamburger” or making fun of how much they “eat like a bird.”

Why is it EVER okay to talk about someone else’s body (regardless of size)?

If people were less focused on “body positivity” and more on widespread acceptance and tolerance, I think there would also be less focus on the body and more on HEALTH.

I’ll ask again

When you clicked on this, did you have an immediate reaction to the idea that body positivity may not be all positive?

Has reading this and examining it from another angle changed your view? Why or why not?

I am not saying I have all the answers here. I truly just think this is an interesting and important thing to be thinking about and examining if we are allowing body positivity to be co-opted to only mean “being fat is okay” and not “being any size is okay.” That some are using it as a shield and a crutch — even me. I admit that in this, I have failed. Not just with the meaning of it, but I have failed myself by doing so.

I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this.

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Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.” jyssicaschwartz.com

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