5 Days of Body Positivity: Day Three


"You define beauty yourself. Society doesn’t define your beauty." ~ Lady Gaga

Body Positivity and Others 

The Story

It was my first semester at Old Dominion University (ODU). I was on my way back to my dorm after having a wonderful night with my friends at their apartment. My dorm was a good 10–15-minute walk away but I didn’t mind because it was the weekend and students were roaming all over. About halfway to my destination a group of 4 or 5 guys stopped me, all of which were extremely handsome. One proceeded to ask for my number, and I politely declined. He then asked if he could come back to my dorm with me or I to his and I politely declined again, letting him know that I was a lesbian (true at the time). I wished them all a good night and continued walking toward my dorm. As I walked away, I heard something that would stick with me for the rest of my life. This young man decided that in response to my rejection he would “moo” as he walked away. Yes, that’s right, he decided to MOO like a COW! I was instantly filled with anger and when I turned around to address him, he decided to gaslight me, promising that it was not him. His friends sat back and watched as they filmed our altercation. He would do this once more as I decided to walk away but this time, a group of peers would drag me away and provide me with reassurance and support. Shoutout to them! When I arrived at my dorm, I remember crying hysterically on the phone with my mother. I decided to leave ODU at the end of the school year and transfer to Radford University. While I enjoyed my classes at ODU, the social climate there was one that was not welcoming or empathetic. At the age of 28 years old, that degrading incident still haunts me and of course, it would be the first of last time I would encounter people just like him.

The Problem

Societal body image ideals are nothing new to us. They’ve been around for as long as we can remember and whenever we don’t meet that ideal, we are faced with ridicule, judgement, and mistreatment. Since I identify as fat person, or a SSBBW in the fetish world and morbidly obese in the medical world, that’s what I’m going to focus on in this blog. Keep in mind that body positivity isn’t something that only fat people struggle with. The tips I’m going to mention below apply to every person, all body types, and all backgrounds so make sure you stick around. You read something that could be useful to you and that you can share with others!

In graduate school at Arizona State University (ASU), I had the pleasure of doing a research project on weight stigma. It was called “The War on Obesity…Fat People” which focused on us as a society giving voice to and learning from the “other.” Here are 5 of the many facts I learned while doing this project:

  • Anti-fat bias is often rooted in healthism which comes in the form of microaggressions. These comments can not only distort one's relationship with food but also promote the idea that what we eat is a sole predictor of our weight/health (Munro 507).
  • "Nine out of 10 women say they will actually not eat and risk putting their health at stake when they feel bad about their body image" (qtd. in NEDA).
  • "Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives" (qtd. in NEDA).
  •  "Weight stigma plays a role in everyday life, including work, school and healthcare settings" (OAC).
  •   “Perceptions about the causes of obesity may contribute to weight stigma and bias. Assumptions that obesity can be prevented by self-control, that individual non-compliance explains failure at weight-loss, and that obesity is caused by emotional problems, are all examples of attitudes that contribute to negative bias” (OAC)

If these are just a few facts about how our distorted perception of body image is affecting those who are bigger than the ideal size, what types of statistics are out there about other populations of people (i.e., those who are too thin)? We know that this is detrimental so how do we go about fixing it?

The Solution

The simplest way to answer this question is two break it into two parts, the first being how we as individuals can help reduce stigma and start encouraging more body positivity. So how can you help

  • STOP BEING A BYSTANDER - When you see someone engaging in bad behavior or a loved one talking negatively to themselves, call it out.
  •  TALK ABOUT IT - The way we think, act, and feel won’t change unless we reflect on our thought patterns and address our behaviors so start the conversation.
  • SET BOUNDARIES - People won’t stop making inappropriate comments or giving their unsolicited opinions unless we make it clear that its unacceptable to do so. Don’t allow degrading / judgmental conversations, comments, or body language in your presence

In addition to sticking up for others, we also have to advocated for ourselves. Check out some of these self-advocacy tips from the Obesity Action Coalition:

  • SOCIAL SUPPORT - Obtain social support from others who are struggling with weight stigma, or from friends and family members who are supportive.
  •  ASSERTIVENESS - Be vocal about individual needs and positively assert these to appropriate individuals (e.g., requesting larger-sized medical gowns from a healthcare provider).
  • BOUNDARIES - Communicate to the perpetrator of bias that his or her comments were inappropriate and hurtful, and that nobody deserves such unkind remarks, regardless of their weight.

Need help? I offer a variety of coaching services, including a 3 Month 1-on-1 Coaching Program that can help you identify effective ways to replace self-defeating thoughts or self-blame with healthier, more positive thinking so you can cope with societal ideals and increase body positivity. If you aren’t sure what service is the right fit for you, book a 45 minute Chemistry Call with me to ask me anything! Don’t forget to check out the  My Healthy Sexual Self Workbook, a guide that helps you to increase your confidence, gain coping skills, and incorporate daily practices into your schedule so that you can start fostering self-love and care!

The Challenge

Think back to a situation where you were a Bystander. What would you have said or done differently? If you were the one being judged, how would you want to ideally address the situation? What is one thing you can do in either role to help decrease body image stigma? Once you’ve figured that out, go out and do it!

Let me know how it goes in the comments!

Until Next Time,

~ Nijeria J. 

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*All sources used in today’s blog can be found on the references list here.*


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