By Cassandra Andruchow
Body positivity is a broad term that encompasses a lot of things. A quick Google search will provide you with scores of definitions explaining what body positivity is and what it is not, based on various different factors and opinions. Body positivity means something a little different to everyone. At its essence, body positivity is the acceptance of all bodies, regardless of size, shape, gender identity, colour, ability, etc. All bodies matter. All bodies are worthy.
I’m a self-professed body positivity cheerleader.
Aside from accepting and celebrating all bodies, and believing that all bodies deserve access to fitness and wellness services, what body positivity means to me is recognizing your own self-worth and not defining it by a number on a scale. It means rejecting ideals and pressures that society has imposed. It means being true to yourself. It means celebrating your body, honouring and nurturing it, and practicing self-care.
People often ask me how I came to be so body positive. I can tell you that I did not wake up one morning, look into the mirror and say, “I love myself and I’m perfect!”. Admittedly, I still don’t do that even if I do think I’m pretty awesome (and modest too!).
Self-criticism and self-loathing are a veritable epidemic in our society. We are constantly bombarded with images of so-called ideal bodies on television and on social media. In the age of photo manipulation, we are literally comparing ourselves to bodies that don’t actually exist.
It took me a good 30 years to learn to toss those ideals aside and to stop criticizing every aspect of myself. I think in a way, I became tired of hating myself because frankly, it was exhausting.
A major turning point for me was having a daughter of my own and realizing that not only did she look up to me, she mirrored my every behaviour. If I criticized myself based on my perceived flaws, she would begin to do the same to herself. Perhaps she would even begin to judge and criticize others. The very idea of that broke my heart. It was enough for me to really work on centering myself and working towards a healthier body image.
So how can you be more body positive, in terms of learning to love your whole self?
Firstly, the “positive” part is a bit of a misnomer. There’s a misconception that being a body positive person means you feel awesome about yourself all the time. I honestly think that’s impossible. We all have insecurities; we all have bad days. But recognizing your worth as a human being is paramount.
Loving yourself fully and completely will not happen overnight, but I wanted to offer a few gentle suggestions that might help you towards that goal.
Eliminate negative body talk
When you catch yourself making a negative comment about yourself, pause and come up with two positive things. It can be something as simple as “I like the way my hair looks today” or “I felt really good after my workout this morning”. Recognize negative self-talk and condition yourself out of the habit.
Unfollow social media accounts that promote unrealistic body ideals and/or make you feel bad about yourself.
I personally follow a lot of fit pros and celebrities on social media, and I regularly unfollow a handful every week. My rule of thumb is if someone makes me feel like I need to change myself in order to be a worthier person, I unfollow. If they are not promoting body positive messaging, I do not need to see that.
Discover your own joyful movement
Movement should be joyful and should not be something you dread doing. Find what brings you joy and embrace it. You don’t enjoy running? Then don’t run. Crank up the music and have a dance party in your living room. Go for a walk. Sign up for a bootcamp class. If deadlifts and squats are your thing, crush it. I think we all know how important maintaining an active lifestyle is for our physical health, but it is also so important for our mental health. Move your body the way you want to move it, and your body and mind will feel better for it.
Be kind to yourself
We often focus so hard on making other people happy and our own happiness falls by the wayside. It’s easy to get caught up asking other people in our lives what they need whilst forgetting to ask ourselves that same question. Try to make it a daily habit to ask yourself what your body and your mind needs. This may include sleep, movement, quiet meditation, a massage, a hug. Recognizing what you need and acting on it is a great way to practice kindness for yourself.
Being body positive doesn’t mean loving every part of yourself all the time. It means practicing radical self-love and learning to not only accept yourself for the beautiful person you are, but also adopting the philosophy that all bodies are good bodies, and that we are all worthy of love, kindness and compassion. Making peace with your body is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Spreading the body positive philosophy is a gift you can share with others.
“Loving yourself is the greatest revolution.” ~ Unknown
Cassandra is a fitness enthusiast and an advocate for body positivity. She is passionate about body positivity and fostering inclusivity in the fitness community. She is certified with the Body Positive Fitness Alliance (BPFA) and plans to pursue her personal training certification early next year. When she’s not swinging kettlebells at the gym, she can be found eating delicious things, as cooking and food are one of her greatest passions in life.Give her a follow at @cassinprogress on Instagram.