Achieving a body positive society – by Doctor Shakira Choonara

Body positivity involves loving yourself and those around you regardless of physical appearance. Achieving a body positive society is about encouraging a culture of self-positivity, acceptance and health among the people in our lives. Unfortunately, we live in a society that encourages us to strive for perfection instead of reality on how we should actually look and feel.

My experience

These past few years have been particularly challenging for me behind the scenes, I have been struggling with a few health issues and have picked up weight. I try by all means to live a healthy life and exercise, but no matter what I do, I continue to gain weight.

Colleagues, family members, and friends, constantly comment on my social media feeds about this. Each time I bump into someone, they comment about the weight-gain. It has been tough and there have been days I feel extremely depressed, mostly because of the constant negative comments or when my clothes no longer fit. It is a slow journey, but I am finally on a path to paying no attention to the negativity and instead on a journey to body positivity and self-acceptance.

The reality

The truth is, we have all looked at ourselves and judged a specific area of our body as not being good enough, not realizing how harmful this is to our wellbeing. There is nothing more important than loving the body that you were given, by learning to accept and embrace our flaws. While models, influencers, and actresses may look flawless all the time, they face enormous pressures to look a certain way to stay in their industries. This involves the use of make-up, filters and even cosmetic surgeries to look a certain way.

What can we do to build body positivity

Others, like yourself may experience the same thing I experience around weight, either you’re too ‘chubby’ or too ‘thin’. If you are considered too thin, people start suspecting that you may be ill, which is wrong.  The constant negative comments about physical image and the expectation to look a certain way, affects our self-confidence and this behaviour needs to end.

There are so many of us who don’t reach out to our families or friends to speak about this. Some end up starving themselves, others suffer from illnesses such as bulimia and anorexia in silence, and some even attempt suicide from such negative comments, which is why we should all adopt these ways to achieve a body positive society:

  • Do not compare yourself to others, our differences make us unique, celebrate what makes you a Queen in your own right!
  • Find the right role models.  Don’t only follow traditional media, don’t accept the notion of beauty set, start for example by following more influencers or celebs who have realistic body types on social media. Life isn’t only about beauty, start to look at female chief executive officers (CEOs) and entrepreneurs on social media,.
  • Block out and don’t pay attention to negative comments; write one positive thought about why you love your body, each day in a journal.
  • If someone brings you down with a negative comment, gently let them know that their comment is hurtful; we need to educate others and call out inappropriate behaviour.
  • Be kinder to yourself and to others; offer your friends and family positive affirmations and don’t make unnecessary comments about physical appearances.
  • Start campaigns on body positivity. Talk to your friends, hold discussions in your school and communities or online, on how negative comments and negative expectations about your physical image make you and others feel.

Life is not all about our physical image, we have dreams to pursue and big things to do, so let’s keep the focus to what matters.

Remember, if you or a friend need help or advice, or have any questions for Doctor Shakira, you can speak to me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM or WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

About the author: Dr Shakira Choonara is an award-winning independent public health practitioner, 2017 Woman of the Year in Health in South Africa and a bold health activist, tweet @ChoonaraShakira. Thank you Dr Choonara for being a friend of Choma