The term “body positivity” can understandably lead to some confusion. It’s a phrase that is somewhat open to interpretation, and you'll see different people use it differently (just like many political terms). For some people, body positivity can be about a very personal choice to do the hard work of orienting their relationship to their body toward positive regard and emotion. For some people that is both meaningful and feels accessible. For others, that work may feel misaligned with their values or it may just feel inaccessible.
Regardless of how you feel about your body, however, you can absolutely believe that our culture needs to massively change around how it treats bodies and you can believe that every body - regardless of size, shape, health status, ability level, gender, age, or color - deserves to be regarded positively (rather than negatively, which is the status quo). That belief is the foundation of body positivity. A belief you hold about how you want to the world to look is separate from how you feel about yourself on a day-to-day basis.
Speaking of the day-to-day, I was recently doing a Q&A at an event and someone asked about whether I had hard body image days and, if I did, whether those days threatened my identity as body positive. I basically told them what I’ve outlined above, but their question created an opportunity to think more deeply about how our values can stay consistent even when our mood or self-regard shifts.
Again, body positivity - as well as body acceptance, body neutrality, and fat positivity - are about values, politics, and worldview. Unlike emotions, which can change radically throughout the month, year or even day, values tend to be stable.
Of course, our values can shift over time as our minds or hearts change. However, in general, values don’t tend to shift rapidly from one day to the next. It can feel destabilizing to have a great - or even OK - body image day on Monday and then wake up on Tuesday with the sense that something is very wrong with your body or how you look.
Hello, I know this story well!
To go back to the question that was posed during the Q&A: Yes, I am still body positive and fat positive even on days when I don’t feel positive about my body because those things are part of my unshakeable and evidence-based view/value that it is immoral to create a culture that promotes disordered eating, discrimination and body dysmorphia.
My body positive and fat positive values are part of my identity. The same way that I am still Latinx even on days when I’m not eating culturally relevant foods or speaking the language I grew up hearing at home. The same way that I am still a feminist even in the moments when I really don’t like the way another feminine person is acting. The same way that I am still a San Franciscan or a Californian even when I’m not in San Francisco or California.
It’s important to understand that we live in a culture that is consistently giving us a reason to hate our bodies. We are bombarded daily by ads and content that poke at our insecurities, push us to believe we’re not good enough, and set off our brain’s tendency to compare ourselves to others.
The social movements around reframing bodies - including body positivity, fat positivity, body acceptance, and body neutrality - are asking the culture to stop giving us reasons to find fault in not just our bodies, but all bodies.