Body positivity has become a huge movement today. Social media influencers tout the benefits of having a positive body image to their followers. Body positivity campaigns by numerous advertisers fill the airwaves. Celebrities talk about body acceptance and why it’s so important for self esteem.
What is Body Positivity?
Body positivity is the concept that all people deserve to have a positive body image regardless of societal norms and expectations. This is not a new thought nor is the movement it spawned a new one.
The first wave of body positivity began around 1967. It sought to end fat-shaming and discrimination of people based on their body weight. This movement led to the creation of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance in 1969 that still works tirelessly to end fat-shaming and discrimination against overweight people.
The current body positivity movement began around 2012, and though it initially focused on changing societal expectations of feminine beauty, especially regarding weight, it now promotes the message that “all bodies are beautiful”.
Current Body Positivity Movement and Fat Acceptance
Though body acceptance for everyone is a great message, critics believe that the movement disregards the unique body image challenges and fat-shaming faced by many overweight people.
Recently, famed rapper Lizzo condemned the current body positivity movement for in essence creating more fat shaming and discrimination of obese people. By changing its message to “all bodies are beautiful,” Lizzo said, the movement spurred a trend of “celebrating medium and small girls and people who occasionally get rolls.”(1)
Overweight people are still being fat-shamed, she said, “but no one cares anymore.”(2)
Does the Current Body Positivity Movement Increase Fat-Shaming?
It may seem preposterous, but the current body positivity movement may have even inadvertently increased fat-shaming. For example, the current movement has been criticized for glorifying obesity, and overweight people who say they’re happy with their bodies on social media or on talk shows are invariably fat-shamed and condemned.
This does nothing to give them a positive body image nor does it increase their self esteem. All it really does is to throw them into shame-based yo-yo dieting, trying to obtain society’s ideal but unrealistic and often unhealthy body weight standards.
It can also spur eating disorders like binge eating, anorexia, and bulimia.
Evidence-Based Body Positivity
To be sure, the original fat acceptance message of the current body positivity movement was a healthier alternative to the shame-based starvation dieting mentioned above. But it did not give overweight people the tools to bridge the gap between body shaming and obtaining a healthier body.
Evidence-based body positivity bridges this gap. The best medical minds in the country have now proven that we can do BETTER, that we can solve unhealthy body weight issues and the body shaming that may have helped create the diabesity epidemic.
The Diabesity Epidemic
Diabesity is a term that refers to the close association between diabetes and obesity. That is, obesity is strongly associated with 2 diabetes.(3) One of the reasons for this is that obesity and type 2 diabetes share the same underlying cause — insulin resistance.
Obesity is a disease characterized by an excessive amount of body fat sufficient to increase the risk of other diseases and health conditions. It is the leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Research suggests that even “modest and typical” adult weight gain can substantially increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.(4) In fact, an estimated 90% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.(5)
Diabesity has become an epidemic and a health crisis. Consider these statistics: over 70% of American adults are overweight or obese,(6) and more than 100 million U.S. adults have diabetes or prediabetes.(7)
The high rate of diabesity is not a minor concern. Diabesity significantly increases the risk of several serious health conditions and diseases, reduces quality of life, and lowers life expectancy.
Here are some of the health risks of obesity and diabetes:(8), (9)
Health Risks of Obesity
- Type 2 diabetes (of course)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart disease
- Sleep apnea
- Metabolic syndrome
- Fatty liver diseases
- Gallbladder diseases
- Some cancers
- Kidney disease
Health Risk of Diabetes
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Skin infections and skin disorders
- Eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy . (Diabetic retinopathy may lead to blindness if not treated.)
- Kidney disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
As you can see, many of the health risks of obesity and diabetes are the same due to the close relationship between these two diseases.
What Caused the Diabesity Epidemic?
There are many factors that led to the diabesity epidemic. Certainly, poor quality diets due to the advent, popularity, and convenience of ultra-processed foods and fast foods plays a major role.
A study published in 2016 estimates that more than 50% of all calories consumed in America came from ultra-processed foods, (10) and in 2021, research revealed that children and teens in the U.S. get more than two-thirds of their calories from ultra-processed foods! (10a)
These foods are harmful to your health and can destroy your efforts to maintain a healthy weight because they are not real food but “food-like” products, created in a lab with artificial flavorings, preservatives, and other chemicals. Thus, they have been stripped of their fiber, resulting in quicker digestion and absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.
Ultra-processed foods also contain added sugars and trans fats, both of which have been shown to increase inflammation in the body, (11, 12) promoting weight gain and other medical conditions. They are also higher in calories than unprocessed or minimally processed foods.
In addition, lack of physical exercise, chronic stress, and sleep deprivation contributes to the diabesity epidemic.
Obesity is a Hormonal Issue, Not a Character Flaw
Ultra-processed foods also affect your body’s hormonal response to a meal. For example, they interfere with the hormone Leptin’s ability to know when you’re full and to signal your brain accordingly. (Leptin is also important for fat metabolism.)
Leptin is excreted by fat cells and thus obese individuals have been shown to have high levels of circulating leptin (13). This means that most obese people are “leptin resistant,” meaning leptin’s satiety signals cannot get to the brain to turn off hunger. It also slows your metabolism, making weight loss very difficult and frustrating.
Research has also found that those eating highly processed foods had higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, meaning that these foods encourage overeating. (14)
So, those who fat-shame others, believing that overweight people are gluttons who sit on the couch and eat bon bons all day, don’t understand the reality. In fact, due to dysregulation of their hormones, obese people often eat fewer calories than thin people and still gain weight!
And contrary to popular belief, eating less and exercising more is NOT the solution for weight gain or obesity.
The Blame Game: Just Eat Less and Exercise More?
Experts have long known that weight, like every other bodily system, is regulated by hormones and your brain. When you eat a meal, your hormones take the steps necessary to keep your weight within a certain health range. This is known as your set point weight.(15)
Thus, if you eat too many calories, your body is designed to burn more calories. If you eat too few calories, your body is designed to burn fewer calories. But if this hormonal response is impaired due to years of eating a poor quality diet and other lifestyle factors, the body loses its ability to regulate your weight at a healthy level. Instead, it increases your set point weight.
The science is clear that eating less and exercising more does not result in permanent weight loss. On the contrary, it results in yo-yo dieting that not only further increases your set point weight, but also promotes frustration, shame, and depression. And diets fail over 95% of the time.
Do you know what else doesn’t work? Body shaming.
Why Body Shaming is NOT a Diet Plan
Fat shaming is one of the last socially acceptable biases. This is because rather than seeing obesity as the disease that it is, many people consider it a character flaw and blame overweight people for their condition.
This not only causes a great deal of emotional pain to the victims, but being body shamed often worsens their condition.
In fact, multiple research studies show that being fat shamed causes stress to the victim, leading them to eat more food and calories. One reason for this is that stress causes an increase of the stress hormone cortisol that not only increases hunger, but also increases cravings for sugar, fast foods, and other unhealthy foods.(16)
Additionally, excess cortisol increases the risk of depression and anxiety, both of which are known to contribute to unhealthy eating habits.
And here’s another fact that absolutely proves body shaming makes the problem worse. In a recent study published in Pediatric Obesity, researchers linked fat-shaming in childhood with increased weight gain in adulthood — and how much weight they gain may depend upon how much teasing they experienced, ie, the more teasing they experienced, the more weight they may gain.(17)
A BETTER WAY: Evidence-Based Body Positivity
The only thing that DOES work for obtaining a healthy weight is to improve the quality of your diet. Research shows that when it comes to weight loss and weight management, the quality of calories are more important than the quantity. Improving the quality of your diet by eating more whole foods and reducing or eliminating ultra-processed foods, processed carbs, and sugars helps heal your hormones and lower your set point weight.
Getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night, reducing stress, and getting regular physical activity will also help lower set point weight.
But you’re not likely to do ANY of these things if you don’t believe yourself worthy of it. This is why the new Evidence-Based Body Positivity is so important.
This sane solution to BOTH the diabesity epidemic AND body shaming is all about loving yourself so much that you choose to live BETTER through proven science, practical habits, and powerful love… you eat, think, live and move BETTER, no shame or starvation ever.
You don’t “eat less to lose weight” you “eat SANEly to live BETTER”
1- Moniuszko SM. Lizzo criticized body positivity. Here’s what you need to know about body neutrality. USA Today. Apr 22, 2021. Accessed Aug 17, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/health-wellness/2021/04/22/lizzo-criticized-body-positivity-what-body-neutrality/7317015002/
2- Moniuszko SM. Lizzo criticized body positivity. Here’s what you need to know about body neutrality. USA Today. Apr 22, 2021. Accessed Aug 17, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/health-wellness/2021/04/22/lizzo-criticized-body-positivity-what-body-neutrality/7317015002/
3- Leitner DR, Frühbeck G, Yumuk V, et al. Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes: Two Diseases with a Need for Combined Treatment Strategies – EASO Can Lead the Way. Obes Facts. 2017;10(5):483-492. doi:10.1159/000480525
4- Colditz GA, Willett WC, Rotnitzky A, Manson JE. Weight gain as a risk factor for clinical diabetes mellitus in women. Ann Intern Med. 1995 Apr 1;122(7):481-6. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-122-7-199504010-00001. PMID: 7872581.
5- Whitmore C. Type 2 diabetes and obesity in adults. Br J Nurs. 2010 Jul 22-Aug 11;19(14):880, 882-6. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2010.19.14.49041. PMID: 20647979.
6- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity and Overweight. CDC. Page last reviewed: Mar 1, 2021. Accessed Aug 17, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm
7- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New CDC report: More than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. CDC. Jul 18, 2017. Accessed Aug 17, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0718-diabetes-report.html
8- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Health Risks of Overweight & Obesity. NIH. Last Reviewed Feb 2018. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/adult-overweight-obesity/health-risks
9- American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Overview. ADA. Accessed Aug 17, 2021. https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/complications
10- Welch A. “Ultra-processed” foods a huge chunk of American diet. CBS News. Mar 10, 2016. Accessed Aug 17, 2021.
10a – Hunt K. Ultra-processed foods now account for two-thirds of calories in the diets of children and teens. CNN Health. Aug 10, 2021. Accessed Aug 17, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/10/health/ultra-processed-food-kids-teens-diet-wellness/index.html
11- Mozaffarian D, Pischon T, Hankinson SE, Rifai N, Joshipura K, Willett WC, Rimm EB. Dietary intake of trans fatty acids and systemic inflammation in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Apr;79(4):606-12. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/79.4.606. PMID: 15051604; PMCID: PMC1282449.
12- Aeberli I, Gerber PA, Hochuli M, Kohler S, Haile SR, Gouni-Berthold I, Berthold HK, Spinas GA, Berneis K. Low to moderate sugar-sweetened beverage consumption impairs glucose and lipid metabolism and promotes inflammation in healthy young men: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Aug;94(2):479-85. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.013540. Epub 2011 Jun 15. PMID: 21677052.
13- Izquierdo AG, Crujeiras AB, Casanueva FF, Carreira MC. Leptin, Obesity, and Leptin Resistance: Where Are We 25 Years Later? Nutrients. 2019 Nov 8;11(11):2704. doi: 10.3390/nu11112704. PMID: 31717265; PMCID: PMC6893721.
14- Venuto T. What Ultra-Processed Food Does To Your Body (Fat) And Your Health. Burn the Fat Blog. Accessed Aug 17, 2021. https://www.burnthefatblog.com/ultra-processed-food-body-fat-and-health/
15- Müller MJ, Bosy-Westphal A, Heymsfield SB. Is there evidence for a set point that regulates human body weight?. F1000 Med Rep. 2010;2:59. Published 2010 Aug 9. doi:10.3410/M2-59
16- Ramirez D. Stress Can Make You Crave Unhealthy Foods, Study Finds. Stillness in the Storm. Jan 30, 2021. Accessed Aug 17, 2021. https://stillnessinthestorm.com/2021/01/stress-can-make-you-crave-unhealthy-foods-study-finds/
17- St. Vincent Charity Medical Center. Obesity Expert Explains Why Body-Shaming is Harmful, Not Helpful.