Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. This means I may earn a commission should you chose to sign up for a program or make a purchase using my link. You will not be charged extra and I will be able to fund my caffeine and writing addiction.
If you are a traveler like me, you know that one of the perks of traveling is being able to discover new places, people and culture. It’s like entering a different world from yours. But more than that, you also discover and learn more about yourself. I was all for body positivity for a long time that fizzled the more I traveled. It got hard. I started questioning the concept and what it stands for.
The Body Positive Movement aka #BOPO
If you are a traveler like me, you know that one of the perks of traveling is being able to discover new places, people and culture. It’s like entering a different world from yours. But more than that, you also discover and learn more about yourself. I had a body positive mindset for a long time that fizzled the more I traveled. I started questioning the concept and what it stands for.
When I started reading about the #bopomovement, I felt empowered and included. Finally, we are challenging society’s standard of beauty. It has come a long way since it started. Big brands were also supporting the movement, celebrities were passionate advocates, Instagram beauty was finally changing.
And then it backfired. Well at least for me.
I started getting conflicted with talking about body positivity. I started feeling pressure to love my body – with all its curves and flaws. While traveling, I realized how out of shape I am. Not just because I kept seeing other women in bikinis with amazing bodies, but the ability to do a lot of activities was out of question for me as well.
So I wanted to get fit and healthy. But I started feeling guilty that I want to change some aspects of my appearance. I feel like a fraud for advocating for health. I am all for inclusivity and I truly believe that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, BUT was I going to support an unhealthy lifestyle? And I don’t just mean the weight and measurements, but with mental health and overall wellness. If we truly love our body, aren’t we supposed to take care of it?
What are my problems with it and why am I conflicted? Now I’m not claiming to be an expert on body image topics. But I’ve got my fair share of struggles on body image and acceptance. I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum – being thin and being fat. And I can tell you right now that I did not feel good in any of them. Not because I thought I was ugly or that I keep comparing myself with others. It was mostly because I felt unhealthy – both physically and mentally.
The following are my opinions and struggles on understanding more and hopefully educating myself in the long run. I want to be my best version, not in anyone else’s standards but mine. MY PHYSICAL APPEARANCE IS NOT ALL OF
Problem: Body positivity sometimes fail to focus on health
The #bopomovement can be extreme and overlook health. I am not fat-shaming or body shaming at all. The movement doesn’t touch on obesity or eating disorders. I see some campaigns even normalizing unhealthy eating habits with the caption “I will eat whatever I want whenever I want”. While this seems empowering, as a person who is almost 30, I will tell you that health is indeed wealth. And demonizing healthy habits like being active or eating clean will not do any benefit.
The movement was supposed to center around inclusivity of ALL bodies – color, shapes, imperfection, disability. Not just weight wise. It wasn’t supposed to take health for granted. It was supposed to tell us that the end game was to become a healthy, beautiful and peaceful body – no matter what your shape is.
I stand at 144cm and even at that height I was underweight at 85lbs until I was 25 years old. Then I started gaining weight. It started slowly and then fast. People were so used to me looking skinny that I got really insulting comments even though I think I looked better with more weight. However, by the time I was 28 I started gaining more. It was due to a number of factors. But no matter what weight I was in, I was generally unhealthy.
I feel sluggish, I have little endurance, I get sick at least 10 times a year, my immune system isn’t the best. Whenever I travel, I see old people climb mountains faster and better than I do. I get easily tired, I have so little endurance. I remember staying at a hostel where you would have to climb a steep road to get to the entrance and another three flights of stairs to get to my room. It was exhausting and to be honest irritating. I felt irritable most of the time.
My point being is we shouldn’t take health for granted. Body positivity should encourage us to take care of ourselves, physically and mentally. It doesn’t mean you should have wash-board abs or 365 days 24/7 positive mental state. Being healthy is more than just having a beach body. A healthy body looks and feels different for everyone. You can be heavier or lighter and still be healthy. Be kind to yourself.
Problem: Commercialization and “Inclusivity”
It has become highly commercialized and we didn’t stop asking validation from outside. A lot of brands from the fashion and beauty industries are making profit off of our insecurities. The BOPO movement started because women of all sizes wanted a representation in the beauty industry. And while that kind of happened, honestly I don’t think people who started this movement feel involved anymore. At the end of the day, brands still want to feature beautiful, flawless women. As someone who is at the middle of the spectrum, tiny but with a big belly, thighs and arms, and with hip dips, I don’t think I can fit in on any beauty standards
Shopping swimsuits was a nightmare. Whenever I travel, I really move a lot, especially in waters. So picking the right swimsuit was essential for me because I don’t want my boobs to be popping out while I am island hopping hahaha however, a lot of brands don’t understand that your upper body can be different from your lower body. I have to size up when it comes to one piece bikinis or find a brand that sells mix sizes for bras and bottoms.
This was enough to tell me that I don’t generally fit standards. Most brands in the Philippines only have S, M, L and if they have larger options, they were limited and very basic in design.
I am certainly not hating on these industries, they are after all, businesses. I still love these industries and love making myself beautiful appearance-wise. It makes me feel good about myself and I think that’s what’s important. BUT, I think we should try to stop seeking validation from society and the media.
If they don’t have a plus-size range, would we hate them? No. If they do have a plus-size range but it’s only up to size 14, would we hate them? No. Because their ranges and products are not the standard. I am sick of standards. We should try to look good because it makes us feel good. Not because we’re trying to fit in a certain range.
You can argue that in 2017 we get to define what’s beautiful and what’s not — but, at the end of the day, we’re still fighting for the right to be seen as more than just pretty things.Lisa Fogarty, RedBookMag
Problem: You HAVE to love your body no matter what
The BoPo movement has pressured us to love our body no matter what. I was taking care of myself for the wrong reasons. I was doing things for myself for aesthetic reasons and for outside validation. The movement honestly empowered me to accept myself and really learn that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
But it also took a toll on my mental health. It was short-lived and it backfired.
I felt pressured to love myself so I could feel validated by others. I felt pressured to accept my physical image just so I could be one of these “empowered” women. So that I can tell the world to fvck themselves because I am beautiful despite all my curves and flaws.
The thing is, loving yourself is harder than it seems. To some people, it can be downright impossible.
It’s easy to say “love yourself because no one will”, “love yourself”, “take care of yourself”, “you have to be proud of yourself”. But people often forget to take into account that our brains have been conditioned for decades. We were always told that there is something wrong about how we look – too big or too small. So there is no simple lightbulb switch from “hating your body” to “love your body”. It’s a very long and uphill battle for a lot of people.
After months (actually years) of struggling with my body image, I’ve gotten to a point where I am sick of all the standards. Why are there beauty standards anyway? Why am I so preoccupied with my appearance rather than focusing on my mental and physical health and being the ideal person I’ve dreamt of being. This is when I familiarized myself with the concept of body neutrality. I started gaining my confidence back. My mental state has improved a lot and this made me decide I am going to start taking care of myself again.
I am still long from accepting my body because I want to improve and change it. I want to be healthier and I want to live longer. And I believe that’s okay. I’m not gonna have some movement tell me to love my body even though I don’t feel comfortable in it anymore. This is why I started my overall wellness journey – physical fitness, mental state and road to accepting my body.
This is the first time I’ve actually been consistent with my exercises and not feeling guilty with what I eat. As long as I eat in moderation. I am having a better relationship with food, with my depression and anxiety and with my fats. Loving yourself correlates with taking care of yourself. I am not saying fat or mental illness is ugly. I am saying that your physical appearance is not all you.
And if you truly love yourself, you will take care of it and respect it. You will strive to be healthier and better and feel comfortable. This means you will learn to be kind and respectful to yourself no matter what it looks like and it’s okay if you hate it on other days. As long as you’re trying to feel better and healthier you are one step closer to self acceptance. Always remember that you are more than your body.