Body Positivity | Where We Stand on the Controversy

Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
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Chances are, you’ve probably heard at least something or other about the body positivity movement. You've likely also heard more people talking about issues like fat acceptance, diversity, and inclusivity.

If you’re wondering how we feel about it, we want to make this loud and clear: we’re all for body positivity! At the same time, we understand that not everyone can be expected to feel body-positive overnight—it’s a process that takes time and practice. And if the idea of positivity seems forced, at the very least, we promote body acceptance, which means coming to terms with your body, no matter the situation.

But what is body positivity? Body positivity is the idea that we should all take pride in our bodies even if they don't fit into the societal ideal. It's not just about your body’s size or shape—it also has to do with rejecting body-shaming that stems from racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, or sexism.

The origins of the body positivity movement

Body positivity became what it is today thanks to the fat acceptance movement. It sought to protest against the anti-fat bias that was (and frankly still is) prevalent in the West. In 1969, activist Bill Fabrey founded the establishment of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance to give further legitimacy to the movement. Through grassroots efforts and campaigning, this organization fought against size-based discrimination.

The fat acceptance movement began to grow, attracting some pushback from some public figures and the medical community. Pushback might be an understatement—outrage is probably more appropriate. The idea of treating overweight folks as equals, let alone individuals worthy of love and acceptance, was met with scorn and disgust from people who were in no way affected by another person’s weight.

The myth of “the perfect body”

So, where does body positivity fit into all of this? Well, if it weren’t for the groundwork that the fat acceptance movement laid, the body positivity movement may not be where it is today. There’s still work to do, but it’s important to remember the accomplishments of the trailblazers who were there first. After all, basic human decency is the bare minimum a person deserves.

While the fat acceptance movement had a more specific target group, the body-positive movement is less defined. It welcomes bodies of all types, whether they fit society's mythological idea of a "perfect body" or not. It allows space for all bodies regardless of their abilities, age, ethnicities, clothing, body, and sexual orientations, because let’s face it: all bodies are different, and there is no “right” way to look, dress, or present yourself. 

Books like The Body is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor and Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe offer great insight and offer powerful advice for anyone looking to learn how to free themselves from the myth of perfection. Now it’s even possible to gain inspiration from the place you’d least expect it: social media. Activists like yoga teacher Jessamyn Stanley are spreading their message to a younger generation of people who are tired  of feeling body shamed and pressured to be thin. This all sounds good, but is everything about the body positivity movement as good as it seems?

A critical look at the body positivity movement

Of course, no movement is without its issues. Just recently, the body positive movement garnered criticism from people who’ve become disenchanted with some aspects of the scene. They’ve called out bigotry and have reported feeling unwelcome due to the very thing the movement is against: judgment based on appearance.

Critics have noted that the body positivity movement isn’t positive for everyone, stating that some people (like thin, white, cisgender people) seem to be more welcomed than other groups. They feel that the movement has been hijacked by people who already fit the mainstream ideal of what a body should look like, capitalizing on the movement to enhance their online personas or even capitalize on brand partnerships.

In an article published in Metro UK, Stephanie Yeboah, blogger, writer, and activist, asserts that the body positivity movement has lost its original—and more radical—aim, which was to fight oppression against fat people. Yeboah writes, “The body positivity movement that we all recognise today does not centre fat people anymore. It has become simply another safe space for slimmer people to feel good about their bodies in a society that already does that for them.” 

We get the frustration that comes with seeing someone who looks like they could’ve been plucked out of a romantic comedy being celebrated for coming to terms with their appearance. What’s important to understand is that everyone is on their own journey, and just because someone may look like the magazine ideal doesn’t mean they feel that way. Still, there’s no denying that people with larger bodies are subjected to open discrimination more often than those on the smaller side. That’s why it’s important to recognize that thin privilege exists. It’s important to have that awareness when dealing with such a sensitive issue. But at the end of the day, all bodies are welcome at 8fit.

A lot of the skepticism comes from brands dipping into the body positivity movement in hopes of making a profit. They want to come off as genuine, but they’re not honest about why they suddenly care so much about diversity. Vox writer Amanda Mull asserts in her article “Body Positivity is a Scam” that body positivity is a convenient marketing tool that began with Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty in 2004. She writes, “Now body positivity has shed its radical, practical goals in favor of an advocacy that’s entirely aesthetic and a problem that can be wholly solved by those looking to sell you something.”  

We know what you’re thinking, so let’s get real for a second. 8fit is also a business, but we'd never kid ourselves to think we could solve all of your problems. Just as much as we fight against the notion of there being a perfect body, we're just as loud about the fact that the fitness industry, 8fit included, will not have the solution to all of your problems–aesthetic, mental health, or otherwise. We are a tool. A resource. We're the B-List actor in a comedy, the character who's there to help the star of the show as much as they can. Because that’s the thing––we genuinely are here to help people. We don’t blame you for being skeptical and you can choose not to believe us. But we’re going to continue doing our best and doing what we can to help people.

We're certainly not perfect, and we’re evolving ourselves constantly. That also means that we're routinely cleaning up old content that no longer fits with the ethics of our brand—we'll do our best to continue moving our older messaging in the right direction.

Our stance on body positivity

Let's clear something up—when we say we’re body positive, we mean we want people to feel happy in their bodies, no matter what shape or form they take. Nobody should feel excluded, no matter their size, fitness level, skin color, gender, or abilities.

We may be a fitness app, but we don’t subscribe to the idea that "healthy" should look a certain way. Fit can come in all shapes and sizes—the important thing is that you feel good in your skin. We want 8fitters to know that they can take up space without having to apologize for it. All of us should be able to work out wearing comfortable clothes—sports bras and tights are made for all bodies. The same goes for men who might feel the pressure to look like Chris Hemsworth––a multi-millionaire who can afford a personal trainer and nutritionist––as a starting point for exercising in public. You do you!

Ideally, we’d live in a world where the fitness industry cared more about people feeling good and taking care of themselves rather than pressuring followers to have “washboard abs,” a “flat tummy,” or a “bikini body."

By the way, if you want a “bikini body,”’ here’s 8fit’s incredible, amazing three-step process for getting a beach-ready bikini body that you won’t believe! 

  1. Purchase a bikini. 

  2. Wear a bikini. 

  3. Go to the beach.


Our message to you

Instead of cutting people down, we want to lift people up. We don’t want to promote detox teas, perfect-body talk, or crash diets. We’re nowhere near perfect, but we’ll continue doing our best to make our app more inclusive over the coming years. There’s work to be done, but we’re making an honest effort to improve our content so that anyone who's struggled with body positivity or with their journey in health and fitness can see themselves in our app.

Some fitness apps make fitness look like something reserved exclusively for people who already look like Marvel superheroes. Even the imagery of shirtless men grinding out handstand push-ups or women with abs harder than asphalt would make you think they hired Christopher Nolan to shoot them. Then you have a slew of fitness publications, many of which claim to celebrate body positivity, but then fill subscriber inboxes with newsletters celebrating the latest celebrity to don a six-pack.

Our message to you is that no matter what your body is like, you are worthy. You’re worthy enough to be accepted and to come as you are. You’re worthy enough to take your wellbeing into your own hands and progress towards the life that you want to have.

We’re all a work in progress

We encourage you to take the time to learn to love your body. It takes work—after all, you can’t simply snap your fingers and expect to feel better about yourself overnight. When you nourish yourself with healthy foods that make you feel good and break a sweat doing a workout, you'll get your feel-good endorphins pumping. And, as you feel yourself getting stronger and realize the amazing things that your body can do, the confidence will follow. It's a journey, but one that all of us are on together. 

We know that making a lifestyle change can be overwhelming, so there’s no rush to jump into it. Take some time to reflect and digest your thoughts. Maybe you’re satisfied with where you’re at and don’t need us. That’s fine, too.

But if you are looking to make a healthy lifestyle change and want to get moving on this journey, then scroll on.

Struggle with a negative self-image? Try these 5 positive body image tips.

How 8fit can help

8fit is a workout and meal plan app full of workouts and different recipes catered toward your health and fitness goals. Our exercise methodology keeps workouts under 20 minutes because we know you’ve got other things to do. We focus on high-intensity interval training or HIIT.

You can get a select number of workouts and recipes on the app for free before deciding if you want to sign up for a pro membership. We’re also frequently giving 8fitters a taste of what’s new on our blog, covering everything from the basics of HIIT to offering up more advanced workouts. If you’re ready, feel free to dive in! HIIT Training | At-Home Workouts | Yoga | Self-Care | Healthy Eating | Meal Plans | Nutrition | Recipes

Feature photo courtesy of Matheus Frade on Unsplash

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