• Charlotte Woods ANutr

The Body Positive Movement

Welcome back to the Lottie Marie BLOG! I wanted to take a moment to talk about the body positive movement. Before I get started, I would like to state that this article, whilst backed up with evidenced based nutrition, is very much my own opinion. Please read with an open mind and take only positives from it.

The body positive movement is ‘a social movement rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image. The movement advocates the acceptance of all bodies no matter the form, size, or appearance … and are also working with racial justice, trans and queer inclusivity, and disability movements’ [2]. The Body Positive organisation aims to end the harmful consequences of negative body image, such as eating disorders, depression, substance abuse and further negative behaviours associated with these.

On a fundamental basis, I fully support this social movement. I have struggled with body image growing up and whilst there may be a lucky few out there, I would doubt that each person reading this hasn’t experienced this at least once in their lives. The truth is that we are born into our bodies, they grow, change and age and with some exceptions, there isn’t much we can do about it. Nor should we want to. Therefore, living in a society where there is a fixed template of the ideal body type and what it means to be good looking can put unnecessary pressures on individuals to look a certain way.

I have chosen to talk about the body positive movement because whilst it has many benefits to society in terms of positive body image, I have some concerns as a nutritionist and health professional, as to whether some campaigns are missing a crucial aspect. Physical health. I want to address the type of campaigns which I feel are holding this movement back. These campaigns are ones that promote being overweight and obese as something not only to be accepted by society, but glamorised. Being overweight or obese can significantly increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer [8]. The healthcare risks caused by obesity have been labelled an ‘pandemic’, putting strain on the whole healthcare system [6]. I fear that the unrealistic extremely thin models currently being used in the media are simply being replaced with glamorised overweight models that are equally, if not more at risk of serious health conditions in their forthcoming futures. It is my personal opinion that I don’t think it is possible to have a body positive movement that promotes people to allow their bodies to remain at risk of disease.

BMI was created to quantify a person’s risk of developing diseases due to their weight in comparison to their height [8]. The BMI model is not perfect, it does not always adequately measure children, nor does it with people who are particularly muscular, have different body types (e.g. lost a limb) or are pregnant [8] But for the majority of the population it provides at least a guideline of health risk that should not be ignored [4]. It has been argued that many ideas about fatness and health are wrong, and promotes the use of healthy lifestyles, eating habits, blood pressure, cholesterol and general wellness as measures of health [2]. I agree that the use of some of these clinical signs are a more effective measure of health than BMI alone. However, I want to address the fact that many people, overweight or not, are not regularly being tested for these clinical indicators [6]. Nor is this advice being made explicit when a member of the public walks past an overweight mannequin in the shopping mall. In addition, overweightness and obesity are strongly linked with poor lifestyle and eating habits, hypertension and high cholesterol levels and multiple other clinical indicators of disease [1]. Thus, these will often come hand in hand.

Inflammation, oxidative stress, nutritional deficiencies, the gut microbiome and epigenetic modifications are all potential influencers on mental health, particularly depression [5, 7]. All of which are related to nutrition and diet. In particular, the gut microbiome has been linked to autism and Parkinson’s disease [3]. This is evidenced in research in all age groups and across multiple population groups [5]. Additionally, nutritional supplementation has shown to be an effective treatment in some mental health disorders [7, 9]. A possible reason for this is the link between nutritional biochemical quality and its influence on the human genomic pathways [9]. Therefore, if the body positive moment is to help people to combat eating disorders, depression, anxiety poor body image, and to promote balanced and joyful lives. Then healthy eating becomes all the more important.

I have seen many body positive campaigns promoting the natural body, balance, health, positive mental health and joyful living [10]. They are not only challenging what it currently means to be beautiful, but providing insight into the vast diversity of the world population and acceptance of our differences. This is what we should be aiming for as a society. Whilst we shouldn’t be shaming those who are overweight, it should not be something that it glamorised and strived for. Society as a whole should be encouraging balance, aiming for a healthy weight, natural for that individual. A healthy weight can look different for different people and we can still embrace curvy within a healthy weight. Thus, people should be encouraged to listen to their bodies and get back in touch with what their bodies need. They need to follow diets that not only spark joy but fulfil them nutritiously whilst avoiding fad diets. Shape, colour and body image are all things to be celebrating, including a healthy weight.

It’s possible for people to agree that being healthy is more important than looking a certain way or being a certain shape. Good nutrition, in addition to exercise, is not only good for the body, but also for mental health. As I have addressed, some campaigns are already doing this, and it is a movement I fully support and respect. In this sense, I believe that health should not only be a component of the body positive movement, but a fundamental aspect of it.

Love Always,

Lottie x

[1] Alidu, H., Owiredu, W., Amidu, N., Gyasi-Sarpong, C., Dapare, P., Bawah, A., Obirikorang, C. and Luuse, A. (2018) ‘Hypertension and obesity comorbidities increases coronary risk, affects domains of sexual function and sexual quality of life’, International Journal of Impotence Research, 30 (1), pp. 8-13.

[2] Alptraum, L. (2017) A Short History of Body Positivity. Available at: 24 June 2019).

[3] Cenit, M., Sanz, Y. and Codoñer-Franch, P. (2017) ‘Influence of gut microbiota on neuropsychiatric disorders’, World Journal of Gastroenterology, 23 (30), pp 5486-5498.

[4] Engin, A. (2017) ‘The Definition and Prevalence of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome’, Advances in Experimental Medicine and biology, 960, pp. 1-17.

[5] Marx, W., Moseley ,G., Berk, M. and Jacka, F. (2017) ‘Nutritional psychiatry: the present state of the evidence’, The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 76 (4), pp. 427-436.

[6] Meldrum, D., Morris, M. and Gambone, J. (2017) ‘Obesity pandemic: causes, consequences, and solutions-but do we have the will?’, Fertility and Sterility, 107 (4), pp. 833-839.

[7] Molendijk, M., Molero, P., Ortuño Sánchez-Pedreño, F., Van der Does, W. and Angel Martínez-González, M. (2018) ‘Diet quality and depression risk: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies’, Journal of Affective Disorders, 226, pp. 346-354.

[8] NHS (2018) BMI Healthy Weight Calculator. Available at: 28 June 2019).

[9] Stevens, A., Rucklidge, J. and Kennedy, M. (2018) ‘Epigenetics, nutrition and mental health. Is there a relationship?’, Nutritional Neuroscience, 21 (9), pp. 602-613.

[10] The Body Positive (2018) What We Do. Available at: 24 June 2019).



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