One of the most puzzling paradoxes in our society today is the coexistence of the body positivity movement and Instagram influencer culture.
It seems that women are presented with two options: accept and glorify an unhealthy, overweight body, or go to extreme lengths to alter one’s body into a Barbie-like figure. Where’s the middle ground?
Body Positivity Celebrates Obesity
Many public figures like singer Lizzo and actress Lena Dunham have been working to promote body positivity — or body “normativity.” Such movements insist that all bodies are good bodies and worthy of praise. They’re not entirely wrong in asserting that all bodies are good bodies, for every human person possesses an innate dignity and worth.
However, not all body types are physically healthy. Obesity is associated with the leading causes of death worldwide, such as heart disease and stroke. It also negatively impacts one’s mental health. So, rather than affirming people in habits that are ultimately not beneficial to their wellbeing, would it not be better to support the pursuit of true health?
Influencer Culture Promotes Unnatural Bodies
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who believe that they are encouraging others to pursue true health. In reality, these Instagram influencers are showcasing figures that are mostly unattainable for the average woman, perfectly done hair and makeup (even while working out), and, oftentimes, unnatural enhancements. Their “what I eat in a day” videos contribute to the rise of eating disorders among young women. Their photoshopped photos perpetuate false standards of beauty. They exist to sell unhealthy diet and exercise programs and expensive apparel and beauty products to women who feel the pressure to look and live as they claim to.
Many of these woman have had plastic surgery or other "enhancements." From something as benign as eyelash or hair extensions (too expensive for the average woman to maintain) to something as extravagant as butt and breast implants, their bodies are fake but made to look real.
We Need a True Health Movement
Women desperately need the bold emergence of a true health movement — one that advocates for normalcy and balance in a real and honest way. There certainly are those who are working towards this, such as RD Caitlyn Elf, fitness guru Julie Ledbetter, and baker fiend and mom of two Lex Daddio.
These are just a few of the voices in this quieter trend towards truly healthy fitness and nutrition for women. They, along with others, are spreading the truths that women can and should enjoy both salads and cake, can and should work out and take rest days, and can and should love their body by treating it with respect.
True health is found in the happy middle that’s too often ignored in our culture of extremes. Let’s pull away from the far ends of the spectrum and move towards the center where it‘s normal to exercise and rest because your body and mind need both; where it’s normal to love your feminine curves, but desire to continue fitting into your jeans; where it’s normal to eat whole foods most of the time, but occasionally indulge in a slice of chocolate cake; where it’s normal to wear makeup sometimes and not wear it at other times; where it’s normal to be normal.
We don’t need to be told that we’re perfect when we’re not. We don’t need to be told that we need to be perfect, because no one is. What women truly need is to be lifted up in the pursuit of healthy minds, bodies, and souls.