Over the last decade, there’s been a pendulum swing in how society views the female body. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the slender body type of Victoria’s Secret model Kate Moss was seen as ideal for women across the country, but in recent years, we’ve seen overweight celebrities like Lizzo become the face of what it means to be “body positive.”
Let’s be clear here: Difficulties with weight and body image are very real struggles for women across the globe. This critique of the body positivity movement is not equivalent to critiquing what is a real, sometimes lifelong hardship for women. Rather, it is to draw attention to a dangerous school of thought that has robbed struggling women of their dignity by encouraging them to ignore their struggles and put on a facade of “positivity,” instead.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, body positivity is defined as “the fact of feeling good about your body and the way it looks.”
The author of The Body Positive Approach to Healthy Embodiment: Review of Embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and Quiet That Critical Voice!) describes five “core competencies” of body positivity:
While the sentiment is intended to invoke a love of self and divert women away from feeling like they must resort to carb-cutting diets, eating disorders, and size 2 clothing to achieve the “ideal” body type and change societal norms surrounding health, body positivity is actually the offspring of a Marxist, radical feminist effort known as the Fat Liberation Movement that gained ground in the 1970s.
For the first time, being fat was publicly defended by feminist activists who sought to destroy the diet culture and the supposed oppression of fat people. In their “Fat Liberation Manifesto,” a group of Los Angeles women said this:
“We believe that fat people are fully entitled to human respect and recognition. We are angry at the mistreatment by commercial and sexist interests. These have exploited our bodies as objects of ridicule, thereby creating an immensely profitable market selling the false promise of avoidance of, or relief from, that ridicule. We see our struggle as allied with the struggle of other oppressed groups, against classism, racism, sexism, ageism, capitalism, imperialism, and the like.”
On the one hand, body positivity attempts to reduce any negative feelings or insecurities surrounding overweight status. On the other hand, body positivity outwardly denies both objective reality and medical evidence and views obesity as an oppressive and discriminatory social construct in need of destruction. Despite any perceived good intention, the body positivity movement has roots in feminist, anti-patriarchal, anti-capitalist activism, and it serves as a Trojan horse for health risks, social pressure via Critical Theory, and self-worship.
The most brazen effort to shift the public’s perspective on body image in recent years came in January 2021 when Cosmopolitan celebrated overweight models on its cover with the text, “This is Healthy!”
In the corresponding article, 11 different women were interviewed about their weight and how they viewed their bodies. According to them, all standards of health have been thrown out the window. Being healthy is simply about what you feel and how much you love the body that you’re in.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. With obesity come mounting health risks as recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the vast majority of doctors, and a plethora of scientists across the globe.
According to the WHO’s Obesity Fact Sheet, the health consequences of obesity include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders like osteoarthritis, which is a “highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints,” and some cancers, including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon. Obesity is also linked to a higher risk of depression, infertility, low libido and sexual function, respiratory diseases like asthma and sleep apnea, cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, and higher mortality rates.
Connie Sobczak from The Body Positive wrote a blog post called “‘Tis the Season to Be Squishy!” in which she makes the argument that if she doesn’t want to exercise, she shouldn’t have to. She adds:
“I also honor the days when I don’t have the energy to move, and do so without guilt. I allow myself to naturally put on winter weight without feeling anxious. Let’s not make life harder by criticizing our bodies and beating ourselves up for indulging in the flavors and sensations of the season.”
While Connie isn’t entirely wrong that sometimes it is good to let our bodies rest, her sentiment about feeling guilt-free for not moving her body is being argued under the guise of “body positivity.” The latter movement, combined with Cosmopolitan’s fat is “healthy” campaign and failure to suggest any objectively healthy lifestyle practices, has caused our culture to embrace a toxic, deadly mentality in the name of being “body positive.”
The bottom line is that “body positivity” is anything but positive. It promotes a lifestyle that decreases the quality and length of life, increases healthcare costs, and breeds a society of lazy, miserable, unhealthy people.
Where the pendulum once may have encouraged eating disorders, anorexia, and extreme weight loss in young women, it has now swung the other way to encourage binge eating, idleness, and neglect of the female body.
Ironically, our culture discourages girls from engaging in fad diets, bulimic habits, and eating disorders, even though they may think their size 2 body is healthy. Yet it has become culturally acceptable to lie to obese and overweight women by telling them that they are healthy, simply because they think that they are.
Why is it that the body positivity movement recognizes an objective health standard when it comes to eating disorders, but not when it comes to obesity?
Obesity affects 42.4 percent of the U.S. population, and it is the leading cause of death in the United States alongside heart disease. If it were truly concerned about women dying at the hands of insecurity and body dysmorphia, the body positivity movement would encourage regular exercise, healthy eating habits, and an objectively healthy lifestyle, rather than feigning outrage over the 0.4 percent of young women who suffer from anorexia nervosa.
The truth is that the body positivity movement is not actually concerned with girls starving themselves to death at all. The authors of Cosmopolitan and the feminist activists preaching self-love may tell you that, but they are actually using eating disorders as a catalyst to promote, justify, and encourage unhealthy lifestyles — all in the name of self-love and ending oppression.
In order for the public to view fat people as an oppressed class, body positivity activists must rely on their “truth” that obesity is a social construct “that is used to create an unjust power dynamic that discriminates against and oppresses fat people.” Anyone who disagrees is simply “fatphobic.” This is the way of Critical Theory. Big Academia often refers to it as “fat studies” or “fat activism.”
According to this view, if a person prefers a thin romantic partner instead of a fat one that person is fatphobic. If a person can easily and comfortably fit in their seat on an airplane, they have thin privilege, and the airline is fatphobic for not designing their seats in a way that accommodates a fat person. If a doctor diagnoses a person with obesity and links any medical information or advice to their body weight, they are spreading a “fatphobic medicalizing narrative” that generates the oppression of fat people.
No one is safe from being labeled fatphobic, either. In fact, body positive icon and pop singer Lizzo was accused by activists of promoting “toxic diet culture” after she posted about her 10-day smoothie detox.
“Fat studies” and “fat activism” paired with body positivity is a road to radically transforming society for the worst. Body positivity lowers health standards and seeks to shift society’s understanding of health. After a person is convinced of being “body positive,” the next step is to become a fat activist — to recognize thin privilege where you have it, to advocate for arbitrary or nonexistent health measures, and to dismantle capitalism and the patriarchy to achieve a more equitable, less oppressive society.
In addition to all of this, Christians must be especially wary of the messaging that surrounds the body positivity movement. If you’ve read this far and you still believe that it’s possible to be “body positive” without indulging in the whims of social justice or denying objective health standards, I’d like to challenge you a bit more.
According to chef and author Sky Hanka, “the term body positivity can also refer to radical acceptance of yourself and others, cultivating confidence and self-love, appreciating your body regardless of perceived flaws for all it can do, and the social movement of inclusivity and acceptance of all traits.”
Notice here that she, like many other activists in the body positive movement, has equated body positivity with love of self. The problem with self-love is that a true follower of Christ who has been saved by His grace has no room to love herself. In fact, self-love and Christianity are polar opposites.
Self-love says, “I am perfect, I am whole, I am complete as I am.”
Christianity says, “I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I am wicked and undeserving of anything good but for the saving grace of Christ.”
Self-love says, “Be yourself, and love yourself as you are.”
Christianity says, “Deny yourself, and sacrifice yourself.”
Self-love causes us to focus so much on ourselves and figuring out how to love ourselves as we are that we idolize, glorify, and — dare I say — worship ourselves above the God who created us.
Self-love replaces thankfulness to God with worship of the self. Rather than thanking God for the body He gave us, the body He indwells, the body He bought with His own blood, those of us who strive to love ourselves actually deny God of His glory, His creativity, and His sovereignty. It calls Him a liar when He created man in His image and said it is “very good.”
This doesn’t mean that we should loathe ourselves, either. In fact, to self-deprecate is still to put all of the focus on the self. Whether we love our bodies or hate our bodies, we are idolizing either what we are or what we desire to be. Both of these things are antithetical to what it means to follow Christ.
There is nothing in Scripture that tells us to love ourselves because we already do! We are already full of self — selfish and sinful. That’s why Jesus’ greatest commandments to us are to love God and love each other.
In order to be comfortable in our bodies, we must recognize that the body we have is the body God gave us. It’s the one He purposefully and intricately knitted together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-14). It wasn’t created by accident or with mistakes. It was created exactly how God designed it and intended it to be.
What’s more, your body does not belong to you nor was it created for your glory. As 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us, “…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
We have the privilege of being good stewards of this body that He gave us. That means that by eating well, exercising, and taking care of our bodies, we can honor and glorify Him. By keeping ourselves healthy, we can serve others well. We can have the energy to steward our children well, to care for our elderly parents, and to serve the temporal and eternal good of others in the body of Christ.
Our body image should be neither “positive” nor “negative.” It should be dedicated to the glory of God. When we humble ourselves and strive to glorify our Creator, we can have true confidence and even pleasure in our physical appearance.
As Isaiah 45:9 warns us:
“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’”
Follow Reagan on Twitter! @thereaganscott