How many times have you looked in the mirror and thought to yourself, I just need to lose 5 pounds, or why can’t I have smaller or larger thighs/butt/arms/boobs? We’ve all been there.
However, often our self-perception isn’t reality. Our body image is a mental representation of how we see ourselves, which can be distorted through childhood experiences, media, or other emotions. Your body image primarily reflects how you feel about your body, rather than what it actually looks like.
That said, it’s time you’re able to see the real you. We focus on stripping down socially constructed shame through body positivity, ultimately helping you reclaim your body, mind, and spirit. This toolkit will guide you through your body positivity journey. Hopefully, it helps you understand the basics of fostering and sustaining a healthy relationship with your body. Reading this toolkit will better equip you to start your body positivity journey and love the body you’re in.
Body Positivity—refers to the belief that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of cultural and social norms.
Body Image— your attitude towards your body, your perception of your body, and the way you act towards your body. Your body image is not necessarily tied to how you actually look- you can be 100 pounds and still have a negative body image.
Self-esteem—your evaluation of yourself. It’s the assessment of your internal qualities and attributes. The evaluation can be positive or negative.
Body appreciation—having a favorable opinion towards your body regardless of its appearance. The act of practicing gratitude for the functionality of your body instead of focusing on looks.
Reading & Resources on Understanding Body Positivity
There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to understanding why we feel and think the way we do about ourselves. **Perhaps mention the course here*** Though you may think you’ve come up with your perception of yourself all on your own, the odds are you’ve been heavily influenced to think the way you do about yourself. We’re not pointing fingers and saying this is your fault because it’s not. Our struggle with self-perception is something we all experience.
So how are our perceptions constructed? It comes from media, cultural and social norms, and relationships. While being skinny or fit might seem like the ultimate ideal right now, that hasn’t always been true. In Christy Harrison’s Anti-Diet, she explains how our body image ideals are a product of culture rather than something that comes from within us. She describes how, for most of history, “getting enough food was the main concern, and plumpness signified prosperity and well-being. Fat on the body meant higher social status, a better chance of weathering famine and disease, and a greater fertility likelihood. Thinness meant poverty, illness, and death” (17). Historically, having a body shape OKCupid would describe as ‘a little extra’ meant you were well-off, and having money and resources has traditionally been desirable.
This historical perspective- that we idolize the body shapes that mainly the rich can afford- explains our beauty ideals well. In a world where high-calorie high-fat food is more available than ever before, the rich aren’t the only ones who can afford to eat enough to gain weight. This high availability of food coupled with our increasingly sedentary lives (no more need to run from danger all the time, niceee) means most people can reach a level of plumpness never before available to people in the lower economic status.
Now, skinny or fit is the body type that signals wealth to other people. Skinniness requires money to afford fruits and vegetables (which are significantly more expensive than, say, a burger at McDonald’s), time to cook those low-fat, low-calorie foods, extra money to afford a gym or personal trainer, and energy to spend at the gym. We prize a slender body type now because it’s similar to valuing wealth.
Understanding the historical perspective helps us understand why and how our culture values a specific body type over others. However, to further drive home the point that we don’t have to associate thinness with sexiness, we can look to other cultures. Other cultures (especially those who remain largely outside of the influence of the west) prize larger body types for the way they symbolize beauty, wealth, and health. Anthropologist Rebecca Popenoe spent years studying cultures in the Sahara and found this fat ideal to be true of many groups in Niger and Mauritania. There, women sometimes go as far as force-feeding their daughters to try and fatten them up and achieve the ideal fat body. In this culture, fat heightens a woman’s sexuality. This means humans are not born thinking and agreeing that one specific type of body is sexy. We decide on what we deem sexy or ideal, and it’s something other people can influence.
Beauty and an ideal body image aren’t set in stone. We control the narrative and can change our perception of beauty. The resources below will provide you with everything you need to understand body positivity and change your self-perception.
Many of us spend our whole lives striving for perfection. However, in this BBXX podcast, Vitale Buford teaches us about the deeper issues that can cause perfectionism. He shares with us the dangers of living life to please others and the importance of our relationship with ourselves.
The fight against perfectionism is a battle both sexes are fighting. While it’s widely known that women face shame and judgment for their appearance, men are also battling against toxic masculinity and objectification. In this article, you meet the men standing together and fighting against the unrigged and unrealistic perfection standards.
Though widely thought of as a “gut” feeling, Intuition also involves our bodies, minds, and spirits. Many of us aren’t listening to what our bodies are telling us; instead, we listen to others’ opinions. When it comes to body positivity, it’s about accepting yourself rather than waiting for others’ acceptance. This article discusses how to connect back to these channels and bypass your influences and biases to regain control.
The WANTcast podcast helps listeners shift negative talk patterns, helping people navigate and discover who they are. In this episode, they speak with an intuitive eating coach and Reiki practitioner Helen Phelan. She discusses her approach to body image and diet culture and how to do away with privately bashing your body.
Internationally recognizes body activist and model Ashley Graham shares her experience in the fashion industry as a plus-size model. She talks about the importance of body diversity while including all the nitty-gritty details of her body acceptance struggle.
As humans, we vary in our beliefs, bodies, and principles. The systems in power thrive off our differences, ensuring we are in constant conflict with our bodies. The Body Is Not An Apology presents a solution to heal our wounds: self-love. Sonya Renee Taylor shares how to reconnect with our minds and bodies, freeing ourselves from shame.
While social media has helped the body positivity movement become international, it’s also done extreme damage propelling unhealthy beauty standards. This article discusses the paradox of the online body positivity movement as social media continues to be a hostile space for women and men struggling with body image.
Reading & Resources on Befriending Your Body
You’ve gained an understanding of how you developed the body image you have for yourself today and how it’s influenced your decision-making, whether it’s choosing what you wear or the quality of your relationships. Various studies illustrate the correlation between self-perception and relationship satisfaction. Thus, those with higher self-esteem have healthier interpersonal relationships with partners, family, and friends (Miller, 2002).
Your own self-evaluation is the foundation to living a healthy and authentic life. However, there’s more to it than simply understanding why you feel the way you do about your body. Now that you know the importance of body positivity, it’s time to apply what you learned to improve the relationship you have with your body.
Will it be easy? Of course not. You’ll be tackling years of cultural and societal systems that have oppressed you for years—it’s not going to happen overnight (would be nice, though, right?). It will be a challenge, but when you win, you’ll finally have control over your body, inside and out. The resources below will provide you with everything you need to know about becoming friends with your body and developing a solid foundation for self-worth and self-love.
In Christy Harrison’s The Anti-Diet book, she explores diet culture and the multi-billion industries that profit from it while exposing how it destroys people’s mental well-being. Harrison challenges the diet industry and helps readers reclaim their bodies, mental health, and lives so they can focus on the things that really matter. If you love this book, she also has a top-rated podcast called Food Psych that tackles the same topics of disordered eating, self-image, and size acceptance.
Sport fashion model and volleyball champion Gabrielle Reece struggled to satisfy everyone’s demands on her body image. Eventually, she realized she couldn’t find happiness by “perfecting” her body. In this article, Reece talks about what she’s learned through body acceptance and her best tips to help people love their reflections.
In Caroline Dooner’s The F*ck It Diet, the ex-diet junkie, and comedian discusses toxic diet culture while offering readers an alternative way to heal their emotional, mental, and physical relationship with food. The secret? Eat whatever you want. Dooner breaks down diet culture and exposes many commonly believed myths about calorie-restrictive diets- prepare to have your mind blown.
There’s so much pressure on us to look, act, and live a certain way, but why? In this BBXX podcast, we speak with health & wellness influencer Jo Encarnacion about the power of owning your feelings and not apologizing for being human. She shares her experiences on accepting her sexuality and how she’s learned to accept her whole self.
Eat the Rules is a podcast dedicated to empowering men and women to free themselves of societal standards and body shame, to live their authentic selves. Host and body image coach, Summer Innanen, interviews leading experts in body image, self-help, and the anti-diet movement, sharing practical advice and experiences to help you accept your body.
Author Rebecca Scritchfield went the extra mile to create a practical yet inspirational book to help readers understand how to connect and care for themselves. Body Kindness is based on four principles: what you do, how you feel, who you are, and where you belong. The exercises help you identify what you want and care about in your life. This book will help you relax your perfectionist standards and embrace yourself with love.
Tying It All Together
As humans, sometimes we try to push away the fact that we’re created uniquely. No two people are alike, and that’s the beauty of being human. However, the media, culture, and other social forces try to convince us that who we are is imperfect- and only they can give us what we need to achieve perfection.
This just isn’t true. New makeup or a fad diet isn’t going to make you sustainably happy (or healthy). Happiness comes from within. Accepting your body and all of its uniqueness, just as it is, is one way to start your journey to happiness. We must learn to accept who we are, the bodies we have. You are beautiful; you are imperfectly perfect; you are human.
We hope this toolkit gave you insight into understanding what body positivity is and how to work towards body acceptance. Whether you’re curious about the body positivity movement or want to take the steps towards body acceptance, these resources will give you the support and guidance you need along the way.
How do you feel about your body? How do you talk about your body?
Do you perceive yourself positively or negatively? Where do you think your self-perceptions come from?
Are there steps you’re purposely taking to obtain a specific body image? While doing these activities (dieting, exercising, plastic surgery), how does it make you feel?
Whether you’re working on becoming body positive or want to learn more about the movement, we hope you could take something from this toolkit to support you in your journey. If you have any questions or thoughts that weren’t addressed here, we’d love to hear from you at email@example.com or on IG at @bbxx.world.