The body positivity movement has really hit its stride over the last few years. You can find the traces of the body positive message in just about every industry—health and fitness, fashion, makeup and skincare, entertainment, etc.
When you consume body positivity content, you probably have a certain image in your head of who is writing it. I can almost guarantee you this image is incorrect.
My Experience with Media Companies and the Body Positivity Movement
I worked in the world of media as a writer and an editor. Body positivity was a popular topic at every one of the companies I worked for. We were required to fill a certain quota of body positive articles each month in order to continue conveying the message that we were supportive of the movement.
We were required to fill a certain quota of body positive articles each month.
There was a time in my life when I was a proponent of body positivity. I believed in the message and turned to these body positive accounts to feel better about myself when I was struggling with my health. I looked at the incredibly overweight body positivity models who proudly wore lingerie, and I tried to use their content as an excuse not to lose the excess 50 pounds I had on me.
During this period, I was also writing body positivity content for women’s media. However, I came to a realization that made me rethink my ties to the body positivity movement. I had to ask myself some tough questions: Is this movement really about health and wellness for all kinds of women? Did our company really care about empowering women of all sizes?
Why I Abandoned Body Positivity
I’ve always been an athletic person who loved to be outside, workout, and be active in general. But I’ve been through rough periods in my life. I’ve been hospitalized, I’ve had a near-death experience, I’ve abused substances, I’ve struggled with binge eating. So the body positivity movement initially sounded great to me—I didn’t like exclusively seeing rail-thin, size-0 models in the advertisements and magazines. I wanted to see more natural-looking women.
I wanted to see normal, healthy women featured, but I didn’t want to glorify obesity.
But the more I saw body positivity grow, the more I realized that the movement was going in a direction I didn’t agree with. Of course I wanted to see normal, healthy women featured in the public eye rather than impossibly skinny models who look like they’re about to tip over from iron deficiency, but I most certainly didn’t want to glorify obesity and advocate for fat acceptance.
Part of being a good writer and editor is regularly reading, researching, and learning so you can understand more about the topics you produce content about. The more I wrote health and fitness content, the more I learned about the phenomenon of obesity in America today. In 2017-2018, the obesity rate was over 42%. That number has increased 12% since 2000. In 2008, the annual medical cost of obesity in the US was $147 billion—and the medical cost for obese individuals was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
The CDC and many other health organizations regularly remind us that clinical obesity is strongly linked to most leading causes of death, including, but not limited to, heart disease, many cancers, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. An even more disturbing fact is that obesity disproportionately affects minority communities. Half of black Americans and Hispanic Americans suffer from obesity, compared to 40% of white Americans. Additionally, obesity is a much more prevalent issue in low-income communities than any other socioeconomic class.
Half of black Americans and Hispanic Americans suffer from obesity.
I could no longer support body positivity or produce body positivity content in good conscience. I could no longer encourage women to embrace their obese figure—when their clinical obesity was the very thing holding them back from living a healthy, happy life. The only ones hurt by this message were our female readers struggling with their health.
Why Media Companies Produce Body Positivity Content
Many people have asked me, “Well, then why do media companies produce so much body positivity content?” The answer is quite simple — money. First of all, it’s important to understand how these media companies make money. Their primary source of revenue is advertisements. Companies purchase ads on the websites in order to push their brand and their products for readers to purchase. And the more people view these ads, the more money these companies pay for the ads.
Additionally, a major priority of these media companies is to make the advertisers happy. If the advertisers don’t like content on their website, they won’t purchase ads, so editors and writers aren’t producing content that’s objectively based on truth—they’re producing content that perfectly aligns with the desires of their advertisers.
Media companies produce content that perfectly aligns with the desires of their advertisers.
Most of these advertisers are companies that launch major body positivity campaigns to sell certain products or attract more customers (think Nike, Under Armour, etc.). Therefore, they want to advertise on websites that produce a lot of body positivity content in order for their message to be consistent. This is why many media companies require their writers and editors to fill a certain quota of body positivity content on their site each month.
Who Writes Body Positivity Content
I’ve worked at a few different media companies and freelanced at several others. I’ve seen who produces the content most women consume. And there’s a very common denominator at each place: the people writing about body positivity and encouraging you to embrace your obesity rather than improve your health are the very people who do everything they can to stay slim and fit.
Hypocrisy is a disappointing thing to witness. Believe me when I tell you that mainstream media is rife with hypocrisy. The women in media who write about body positivity, discourage you from losing weight, and tell you that there’s nothing wrong with being obese are the ones who go to SoulCycle regularly, eat organic kale salads, count their calories, and portion control.
The people writing about body positivity are the very people who do everything they can to stay slim and fit.
Out of all the body positivity writers I have encountered during my time in media, only one of them was overweight and truly followed the body positivity message. These body positivity writers don’t even practice what they preach—and this is one of the main reasons that I could no longer support body positivity in good conscience.
As I said earlier, I support the presence of healthy, normal-looking women being at the forefront of ad campaigns and magazine covers. But the current state of body positivity—celebrating rather than helping to treat the dangerous medical condition that is obesity—is not something I want to be a part of. Add on top of that the hypocrisy you find in the newsrooms that produce body positivity content, and you can guarantee it’s no longer something I want to be a part of.