Body positivity not for all

Body positivity is a glorious thing. It has made numerous women feel good in their skin, whatever the shape and size of their bodies.

  • Published 13.09.18
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Body positivity is a glorious thing. It has made numerous women feel good in their skin, whatever the shape and size of their bodies.

But the movement should not stop women from wanting to lose weight when they need to, says writer Kelly DeVos in The New York Times. DeVos has written a book called ‘Fat Girl on a Plane’.

She said she had embraced her body and accepted its size, on the assumption that all bodies could be healthy irrespective of weight, till her doctor told her that she had to lose weight as she was suffering from Type 2 diabetes. He added that if she did not make some major changes, she would only have about 10 years left to live.

She was 41.

“Many people in the body positivity movement — which I’d like to count myself a member of — believe that the desire to lose weight is never legitimate, because it is an expression of the psychological toll of fat shaming,” writes DeVos. “So any public discussion of personal health or body size constitutes fat shaming.”

DeVos mentions that this recently prompted the founder of Greatist, a health and fitness site, to write: “It’s O.K. to want to lose weight,” in response to criticism.

The fat acceptance movement was pioneered in the 1960s by black and queer women to fight discrimination in public spaces, the workplace and doctors’ offices, says DeVos. Fat positivity, which is more of a reaction to fat shaming, and body positivity, which is a more commercial self-esteem movement, came later.

But the problem with body positivity today is that it refuses to acknowledge that no one approach is right for every person, says DeVos. “One teenager might grow up to be healthy at any weight, and another might end up in the hospital.”

Body positivity left her own daughter afraid to approach DeVos about a topic on which she had both personal experience and expertise. It left her feeling that she couldn’t voice the rational concerns she had about diabetes.

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