What are the Links between Body Positivity and Health?

‘Body Positivity’ is a term that has become more prevalent in the last couple of years with the continued rise of social media and the constant bombardment of health and beauty ‘advice’. This largely comes from celebrities and social media influencers, with their unattainable standards of beauty as portrayed by the media. 

The Body Positive Movement promotes normalisation and acceptance of all bodies regardless of size, skin tone, gender, shape, physical abilities, and appearance. The movement is centred on focusing less on the physical appearance of a person and fostering more widespread acceptance to boost self-esteem and body image. Primarily, body positivity is linked to a positive body self image.


What exactly is body image?

Body image is the collection of thoughts, feelings and attitudes we have about our bodies. It can encompass our size, shape, skin colour and complexion, physical features, physical abilities, and appearance. 

Having a healthy or ‘positive’ body image means being comfortable with and accepting your body and its limitations, appreciating your body and knowing that there is more to you than just your physical appearance. A person with a healthy body image will tend to focus on the things their body can do or has done for them, such as playing sport, being able to move independently, or growing and birthing a child, rather than focusing on how their body looks. This doesn’t mean a person with a healthy body image will love their body at every minute of the day, but overall, they are accepting and thankful for the body they have and what it can do.

On the contrary, an unhealthy, or ‘negative’ body image involves constantly critiquing your body and finding your body unattractive. This dissatisfaction with the body is driven by our internal processes (thoughts and feelings) but can also be influenced by social and cultural factors. Body image has become such a topic of concern that it is listed as one of the top three concerns for young people in Australia. 


How can Body Image affect Health?

Having an unhealthy body image decreases a person’s feeling of self-worth and increases their risk of engaging in unhealthy lifestyle behaviours. This can include restrictive eating, over exercising, compulsive calorie counting, disordered eating, and other weight control measures. These patterns of behaviour then put people at risk for more serious body related mental health conditions such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and body dysmorphic disorder

A positive body image is essential to physical and mental wellbeing and has been shown to reduce the risk of developing eating disorders. In fact, building a positive body image (along with a balanced approach to nutrition and exercise) is one of the key factors in prevention and rehabilitation programs for disordered eating treatments. An improvement in body image is linked with an increase in self-esteem and self acceptance, decreasing a person’s risk for developing depression and associated anxiety.


How can I be #BodyPositive?

  • Focus on what your body can do.  You have skills and qualities that make you more than just how you look.
  • Question what you see in the media. Is that ‘ideal’ body realistic? Or is it airbrushed and photoshopped?
  • Unfollow people who make you feel bad about yourself. There’s no room in your life for their bad vibes especially if they are family or ‘friends’, instead focus on following people you admire.
  • Say thank you. Next time you receive a compliment, don’t shrug it off or come back with negative self-talk. Appreciate the compliment and value it.
  • Focus on the good in other people. Concentrate on the positive vibes and good energy, it will help you recognise your own strengths.
  • Hang with positive people. Surround yourself with people who get you, encourage you and who lift you up.


Keep in Mind

Issues with body image don’t discriminate and can affect people of any age, gender, social class, religion, race, political belief system, etc. There really is no way to be completely free of the inner critic and the external influences that can lead to a negative body image, but just remember, it’s OK to have a bad day. But if those bad days start to become more frequent and the negative self-talk is more common than the positive feelings, reach out to someone. Talk to a friend or family member and make an appointment with your GP.

While the #BodyPositive Movement is a fantastic and much needed initiative in a world where we are constantly bombarded with ads for skinny teas, exercise programs, diets, and cosmetic procedures to ‘fix’ ourselves, this information has been provided for general purposes only and should never be used in lieu of professional advice and intervention.

If you, or someone you know is engaging in at risk behaviours please contact The Butterfly Foundation, ReachOut, Beyond Blue, or Headspace for resources and access to professional intervention. 

If the Body Positivity Movement is of interest to you, a career as a Nutritional Coach might be for you. You’ll gain insight and understanding of a range of nutritional concepts and learn how to educate and support clients in getting the most out of their nutrition and exercise! 

Head to our course page here, or contact our team to ask any questions and further discuss your study and career options.