OPINION: Body positivity is not cringe


Megan Koch, Opinion Writer

Being a hater is one of the finest luxuries of being a human. Bonding with the girlies over a mutual dislike builds strong relationships and can bring together groups of people. There is a fine line separating what is corrective and what is bullying. It comes down to what is changeable. A person can change their attitude, they can change their behavior but a person cannot change their body. National eating disorder week ran from Feb. 27 through March 5 and as people spend the week opening up about their struggles, it would be foolish to overlook the common denominator. Being weight shamed has a direct correlation to dangerous eating habits.

At least 9% of the U.S. population will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their life; that is 28.8 million Americans. Not only is it highly prevalent, but it is also deadly. Approximately one person dies every 52 minutes making it the most fatal mental illness, second only to opioid overdoses. For such a severe problem, it is shocking to see the continuation of body shaming, but at the same time, shaming is a classic American response to difference. Obesity has been and continues to be an epidemic. If anything is to be learned from our most recent epidemic, pretending it is not real will not fix anything. Shaming is synonymous with pretending it is not real. Making fun of someone instead of working to reform a flawed food system is counterintuitive and completely invalidates someone’s struggles. 

Being the victim of weight shaming is linked to poor metabolic health; the shame triggers stress that raises cortisol, lowers self-control and increases the risk of binge eating. A recent study found that people who have an internalized weight bias were three times more likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome. Body shaming has been associated with low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. It is no secret that physical health is intertwined with emotional health, which makes up the mind-body connection. Feeling bad about oneself has a direct connection to health and well-being. When someone is made to feel bad about their bodies they may fall into patterns of disordered eating. 

There are 28.2 million sufferers and as the number of victims increases people’s ability to empathize decreases.  It will always be easier to blame issues on a person rather than address the system. There is a constant onslaught of diet fads, edited photos and negative body language. The prevalence of eating disorders has gone from 3.4% to 7.8% between 2000 to 2018. Technology and our access to media have also increased during that time, especially among adolescents. The more children are exposed to unrealistic ideals, the worse this epidemic is getting; hence the new trend: body positivity. 

Whenever there is a dramatic change in culture, it is typically met with intense opposition. The idea of loving one’s body how it is goes against centuries of established cultural norms. Many people have spent years micro-managing their bodies and the realization that it was not worth it can be hard especially when there are plenty of miserable people projecting their own insecurities. Weight has always been used as a tool to repress, without that power, the social hierarchy loses sustenance. Men are losing control of the definition of attractive. Seeing happy people is triggering for some and there have been recent efforts to even bring back body shaming as if it is statistically beneficial. 

People often associate body positivity with giving up, a classic example of projection.  Change is scary but necessary. Obviously, the system is not working; it is time to start being nice to everyone, including oneself. Body positivity leads to a healthier mind, body and relationships. The concept is simple and can be accepted in a variety of different ways. For some it may look like wearing an outfit they were previously self-conscious in; for others, it could be as simple as saying kinder things about themselves, especially when young ears are listening. National eating disorder week may be over, but the body positivity movement has just begun.