The body positivity movement is in full swing and some of its most famous ambassadors, like singer Lizzo, make no apologies for loving the skin they are in.
However, many in the movement are at odds with medical and fitness professionals criticizing them for celebrating obesity.
Those who embrace body positivity say it rejects fat shaming and the idea that overweight people should be viewed as less beautiful than their slimmer counterparts.
Those who rail against the body positivity movement say it celebrates obesity, which leads to an array of health problems.
“The term body positive, technically, it only exists because of body shaming,” Lizzo said during an interview with The Washington Post. “I think that people should naturally be body positive. And body positivity should be something that is like built in our culture.”
“I had a song called ‘I’m In Love With Myself.’ I put that out in like 2015 and I was performing it onstage and it would shock people,” Lizzo said in a separate interview with Trevor Noah. “They would be like, ‘Oh my God!’ ‘How dare she?’ ‘Wow, she’s so brave!’ or ‘Is she serious? Does she really love herself?” And I’m like, ‘Why y’all asking all these damn questions?’”
However, in 2020, “Biggest Loser” fitness trainer Jillian Michaels criticized those who encouraged Lizzo to celebrate her size. “Denying that there are serious health ramifications when we are overweight is just not a lie I’m willing to tell,” Michaels said.
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“Why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter? Why aren’t we celebrating her music? ’Cause it isn’t gonna be awesome if she gets diabetes … I love her music. My kid loves her music. But there’s never a moment where I’m like, ‘And I’m so glad that she’s overweight,’” Michaels continued referencing Lizzo.
Michaels isn’t the only one who deems the body positivity movement hurtful. Many of the detractors are medical professionals.
“We know from research that weight bias is common in physicians and other health care providers,” Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, told U.S. News. “In fact, research shows that these biases are as common among medical professionals and doctors as they are in the general population.”
A blogger named “Your Fat Friend” said it is a stigma that harms overweight people more than it helps them. The 36-year-old said she has struggled with weight her entire life and many times, people’s bias “is thinly veiled by a purported ‘concern for our health,’ that is really “well-intended bullying that only ends up compounding the harms we face.”
“If so many are, as they claim, ‘just concerned about fat people’s health,’ the best way to express that concern is to address the overwhelming stigma facing fat people in doctor’s offices,” Your Fat Friend continued.
But what do others have to say about the body positivity movement? Here are some takes from other medical professionals and Black America on the body positivity movement.
Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and obesity specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. She said weight bias is more prevalent than racism in America.
“The biggest form of bias now present in the United States is weight bias, and shaming people if they carry excess weight,” Stanford said. “Weight bias has surpassed race bias. It is indeed OK if you go on TV and make fun of people because of their weight.”
“As a physician and as someone who has been obese or morbidly obese my adult life, I know firsthand what it’s like to hate my body and feel ashamed of it,” said Dr. Jenny Hartsock-Vandine, a hospitalist and family medicine practitioner. “Funny thing is, I am much more understanding of my obese patients than of myself, and I think my own struggles make me more empathetic.”
Not everyone is.
The responses to a tweet that reposted an overweight woman’s TikTok video highlighted how some scorn obese women who are confident despite their size.
“I feel like society will tell you because you have an apple, you’re not allowed to wear it, but as you can see, it covers the apple so it really is up to you and your confidence to wear it,” the woman says in the video while sporting a skin-tight, cutout blue leather dress.
“If you can imagine how difficult putting that on was, then imagine the production trying to get out of it!? It’s one thing to film yourself. What was the goal of posting/sharing it? #SweatBetweenSkinFolds,” Twitter user @KokopelliEnt responded.
“And her homegirls lying/hyping her up ad telling her telling her she looks good in that outfit. Smh,” @Bre_aun_na chimed in.
“As long as simps keep validating these women nothing will change lol,” @JPthaGOAT21 wrote.
Another user posted a GIF that said, “SHE NEEDS HELP FAST” in response.
Another Twitter user criticized high-profile people who encourage others to engage in “harmful behaviors” like celebrating obesity while seeking their best health outcomes.
“The hypocrisy of elites: They recommend average outcomes for everyone else, but seek the best for themselves,” @eriktorenberg tweeted, along with a link to an article on the topic. “They recommend harmful behaviors and counterproductive policies for non-elites while being the ones most insulated from the consequences.”
Author and body positivity ambassador Kelly DeVos said body positivity in itself isn’t necessarily toxic, but it’s all in the approach.
“The problem with today’s version of body positivity is that it refuses to acknowledge that no one approach is right for every person,” DeVos said. “I was the ‘wrong’ kind of body positive because I’d been forced to admit that there could be serious health consequences to fatness,” DeVos wrote. “I’ve come to feel that loving yourself and desiring to change yourself are two sentiments that should be able to peacefully coexist.”