Weight and Body Inclusivity

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2023

In a world where unrealistic beauty standards run rampant, body inclusivity has emerged. This powerful concept promotes self-acceptance and challenges societal norms around body image.1

What is body inclusivity?

Body inclusivity is the recognition and celebration of diverse body types. It advocates for the acceptance of all shapes, sizes, and appearances.2

Why is body inclusivity important?

For too long, the media and fashion industries in America have portrayed a warped idea of beauty. This idea often centers around extreme (and often unhealthy) thinness, as seen in the modeling world. This has led to many harmful effects on people’s self-esteem and mental health.1,2

Young people, in particular, are prone to negative body image issues. These can lead to:3,4

  • Disordered eating
  • Feeling insecure about their bodies
  • Mental health challenges
  • Obsessing about their body and weight (body dysmorphia)
  • Unhealthy relationship with food

Body inclusivity serves as an important contrast to these ideas. It reminds people that their worth is not determined by their appearance. It declares that beauty exists in many forms.1,2,5

Why is body diversity important?

A key aspect of body inclusivity is recognizing body diversity. Every person is unique. Their body shape, size, and features all differ. These features are all parts of their identity.5

Embracing body diversity is about removing harmful stereotypes and embracing the full range of human bodies. It also means recognizing that everyone's body will change throughout their life.5

The body positivity movement

The body positivity movement has been a driving force behind body inclusivity. While the 2 terms are similar, they have distinct origins and goals.6

The body positivity movement emerged in the 1960s as a reaction to thin beauty standards. Its goal was to challenge these norms. It advocated for accepting all bodies, no matter their size, color, or ability.6

As the movement gained followers, it faced criticism for ignoring the experiences of underserved people, like those with disabilities or people of color. In more recent years, the concept of body inclusivity has emerged. It seeks to recognize the combination of identities and experiences that shape body image.6

In the last decade or so, social media has played a role in this movement as well. Search #bodypositive, and you will see thousands of posts that advocate for a more inclusive world.2

How does body inclusivity affect people with larger bodies?

For people with larger bodies, the impact of body inclusivity is profound. Society often associates larger bodies with laziness, lack of discipline, and poor health. This leads to weight stigma and discrimination.5

This prejudice can have effects in many aspects of life, like:5,6

  • Fewer employment opportunities
  • Emotional distress and isolation
  • Harmful behaviors such as disordered eating or taking unsafe diet pills
  • Negative healthcare experiences

Body inclusivity strives to combat this prejudice. It claims that people's worth and abilities should never be determined by their body size.5,6

How to advocate for body inclusivity

Being more inclusive of larger bodies starts with challenging our own beliefs. The first step is educating yourself about weight stigma. A person’s weight – whether high or low – does not always predict their overall health.5,6

Language plays a key role in promoting body inclusivity. You can be mindful of the words you use. Choose neutral or positive language when discussing bodies. Even better, let people define and describe their bodies in their own words.6

You also can advocate for equal access to products and services, such as inclusive clothing options. This is another way to foster a more accepting society.6

When it comes to kids, the best thing you can do is to lead by example. Model a healthy attitude about your body. Make food fun and not something to limit or restrict. Teach them about healthy foods and how to eat mindfully.3

Embracing body diversity and being more inclusive of larger bodies are vital to challenging societal norms. We can create a world where everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of their appearance.

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