Body Positivity generally means being loving and positive towards your body, no matter what it looks like or is capable of. The Body Positive Movement began as a Fat Positive Movement via Fat Activists. When folks first began using this term, they were calling for the end of Fatphobia, Ableism, Homophobia, Transphobia, Sexism, Racism, and other oppressions based on "differences" between bodies. When fitness instructors and personal trainers first started using this phrase, they meant that they were RADICALLY accepting of all bodies as well as inclusive and accessible to as many bodies as they could be.
Unfortunately, the meaning of Body Positivity has changed and gotten watered down as it has been used and co-opted by many companies and professionals who do not uphold the radical values of the phrase's inception. In fitness, yoga and dance, we often hear the phrase "Body Positivity" used even when the companies or professionals using the phrase make absolutely no attempt to embrace anything other than the thin body upheld by Diet Culture as "the standard" and "the norm." Body Positivity has become a buzz word that, in many situations, has completely lost its original meaning.
Still, "Body Positive" is so common these days that most people understand the basic gist of what we are referring to when we use it. So, many fitness, yoga and dance instructors and trainers still end up using the phrase because people "get it." Body Positive can still be a useful phrase to use for this reason. It can also feel "right" to us since the denotation of the phrase means "having a positive attitude towards one's body." Who doesn't WANT that?
But having a positive attitude towards one's body can be a very difficult task when we have been living in, steeped in and conditioned in Diet Culture since birth. Diet Culture has given us ONE IDEAL BODY. Statistically speaking, about 1-5% of the world actually has that ONE IDEAL BODY which leaves the rest of us feeling like there is SOMETHING wrong with us.
For many people, Body Acceptance is usually easier as it just means allowing our bodies to be what they are, as they are, each moment. Some days, our bodies feel great. Some days, they don't. No matter what, if we work on it, it is possible to just ACCEPT our body each moment. Body Acceptance is easier because it doesn't require a "positive attitude" and it doesn't require that we "love" our body all the time. For most people on the journey of Body Liberation from Diet Culture, Body Acceptance is an easier place to start than "Body Positivity."
Finally, Body Liberation is a much higher aspiration than either Body Positivity or Body Acceptance as it refers to actively seeking ways to free oneself -- and others -- from the constraints placed upon us by the dominant paradigms of our culture. Body Liberation is here to do the work that the original, radical work of Body Positivity promised to do. Many of us who are working toward Body Liberation are involved in the spiritual, environmental and political work related to this goal. This makes Body Liberation a bigger commitment than either Body Acceptance or Body Positivity and so it also often means that one has already been doing the work of Body Acceptance and/or Body Positivity for a while.
Does one of these sound better to you than another? Or, like so many of us, do you move between all three at different times, on different days, in different situations? When are you most comfortable with "Body Acceptance"? When are you most comfortable with "Body Positivity"? And when are you most comfortable with "Body Liberation"? Are you uncomfortable with any of these phrases? Why? Reflect privately on these questions and/or share your thoughts with us on the Facebook Member page or, better yet, at our first Coaching Call on Tuesday October 5th at 7pm!
is an NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer; an ACE-Certified Group Fitness Instructor; a certified Yoga Teacher; a Certified Intuitive Eating Professional; and a degree-holding Health, Fitness Specialist. She lives in Frankfort, Michigan and owns Every. Body. Fitness and Yoga Studio.