What exactly is ‘Body Positivity’, and why is the topic of ‘diet culture’ important to address in Yoga? Aisha Nash sheds light on this and advocates for the total removal of diet culture from the Yoga scene.
Hi, I’m Aisha, you know me as the person behind the scenes, plugging away, planning content for MFML. In another life, I’m a huge advocate for removing diet culture from Yoga. Hence fitting in so well at MFML, because Kat and I share similar values on this and MFML being a place free of diet culture.
It may seem odd to use the term diet culture. What does it mean? Because I’m not discussing people who are dieting, they are a separate issue from this entire world of diet culture. Yet they are also a cog in the machine of the diet industry.
And why is diet culture important when it comes to Yoga, or what is body positivity? Two terms that are not fully interchangeable.
Diet culture is in essence the world we live in. We live in a healthist society, in which over time, people have associated morality with their health status. We say things like “oh, I’m being good today, I won’t have that cookie”. For instance there is a dessert called Devil’s food cake, and many other examples that I know are running through your head right now.
The Diet Industry, at last estimate is a $470 billion dollar industry. This includes huge companies that constantly rebrand to make themselves seem less toxic, like Weight Watchers and Noom, Slimming World and MyFitnessPal. It’s all around us, and it’s become almost invisible to us. This is to the point where babies and children are being chastised for their size and we are watching tv shows where the main villains are always fat. This ensures from childhood everyone associates fatness as a moral failing.
Body Positivity, a highly misused and misunderstood phrase that came about in the 1960s when the NAAFA (National Association to Aid Fat Americans), started to campaign for equal rights for fat people. This came about because people were tired of being treated in such discriminatory ways because of their size. To the average size or thin person this might not seem like an issue, but how would you feel in a world where your size was constantly being judged and negatively affecting your life.
However, size is something that even British Scientists have discovered we have very little control over. The Foresight map and other studies done on twins and families show the heritability of fatness to be up to 70%. Yet, we live in a world in which you have to be wary of the chair you sit in, where you can travel to, the companies you can work for, the stores that sell clothes in your size. The list is never ending, and it gets worse with each intersection of oppressed categories of person you fall into.
Body Positivity at the end of the day is about creating more equality and equity in a world full of inequality and marginalization.
Body Positivity is about being treated the same as everyone else when visiting your doctor, it’s also about being able to find clothes in your size on the local high street. It’s about not being treated (at best) as invisible, or (at worst) as a moral failure of a human being because of your size.
The mis-use of ‘Body Positivity’
Currently, and throughout the past few years, the term has been incredibly co opted. When you think of Body Positivity, a slim person, showing you that they also have bad body days mght come to mind. They might show their bloated belly they feel insecure about, and share that this is not a moral failing, but in fact simply being human. We are shown TV ads where the size zero models have been replaced by models that are maybe a size 4, but still have a perfect hourglass shaped body. On the off chance that a model is actually plus size, they will still have a flat stomach and an hourglass shaped body. This still promotes a type of body, instead of representing all body types and shapes.
A celebrity that comes to mind when it comes to discussing Body Positivity, Diet Culture, and specifically the fatness is not a choice that people make, because they simpy can’t help themselves or like food too much, is Oprah Winfrey. This woman is a billionaire, she has every possible level of paid for help a human can afford, and I remember a lot of my teens and childhood full of her talk show being about her size. Her magazines were full of her newest diet, and yet now in 2023, she is still not a thin person. Oprah is a billionaire who can purchase the very best chefs, have a personal trainer, plus all the gym equipment in the world in her own home, yet she still can’t lose weight. If someone with this many resources still can’t be ‘thin’, how can we judge other people that are fat?
Should we now call it Fat Acceptance?
All of this is mostly to say, this term Body Positivity is so far removed now from its original meaning and context. So much so that fat liberationists are coining terms such as ‘body sovereignty’ and ‘fat acceptance’. However, it all boils down to the same thing, taking incredibly life changing concepts, such as equity for humans regardless of body size and instead using capitalism to sell us the idea that we as individuals need to change how we feel about ourselves.
The real problem is that ‘how we feel about ourselves’ was and never will be the point of Body Positivity.
Aisha is organisation, operations and marketing for MFML! She is also a Yoga teacher, used to be a Pastry Chef and finds absolute joy sharing that your life purpose can be more than being thin. Read more about Aisha here