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What Is Body Positivity (and What Does It Really Mean)?

club member giving a thumbs up while on the treadmill
Adopting a judgment-free mindset, not only toward yourself but also others, is what body positivity is all about.

by Lindsay Tigar

As a term that's been touted a lot lately, you've probably wondered "what is body positivity?" once or twice. More importantly, you're probably curious about what it really means.

Body positivity is a growing movement that challenges women and men to celebrate the unique qualities that make them special. When countless magazines and advertisements edit away all imperfections (and scrolling through curated Instagram posts becomes a daily, mindless habit), you might struggle to accept the skin you're in. While there may be some things you want to change, it's important that you feel comfortable being yourself.

People may define "body positivity" differently, but here are a few fitness-forward tips for adopting this mentality.

Focus on Your Strengths

It's true that working out regularly can help you build strength, endurance and improve your overall mental and physical health. It's also true that the more you lift, run or cycle, you can become more acutely aware of the ways your body excels. This information can help build your confidence, according to a Gallup study that found those who exercised consistently reported higher self-esteem.

So, what is body positivity through this lens? It's a narrowing of your focus to concentrate on your awesome skills and accomplishments. Maybe you have a really strong upper body or can jog without stopping for 15 minutes. Whatever the area, the idea is that you celebrate your talents instead of dwelling on any perceived shortcomings.

Don't Compare Yourself to Others

It's normal to struggle with aspects of your fitness journey — whether you wish you could run a 10-minute mile or master the pull-up once and for all. However, the more you focus on your own progress (instead of comparing yourself to the person on the treadmill next to you, your ex-best friend from college or even your sibling) the happier you'll be. And of course, the more body-positive your mindset will be.

For many people, comparison is a major cause of unhappiness. Analyzing how you measure up to another person takes away your power and is bound to leave you disappointed, as Live Science notes. Instead of falling victim to the trap of comparison, adopt a judgement-free mindset — not only toward others but also toward yourself.

Remember It's a Journey, Not a Race

Sure, the adage may feel a bit stale, but it's still accurate: Many people battle feelings of negative self-worth when they expect overnight, instantaneous results with their fitness goals. Although cutting back on sugar and carbs for a week while also making it to a few gym sessions can make you feel healthier, it's the long-term, sustainable habits that ultimately change your life for the better.

When you set unrealistic expectations, your perspective toward your body can suffer; when you create digestible, achievable goals, you build your mojo. Remember to be kind to yourself and celebrate the fact that you made it to the gym at all.

Don't Put Yourself Down

Here's a new word to add to your vocabulary: "yet." What do we mean? Instead of saying you "can't run a mile in under 10 minutes," add "yet" to the end of that sentence. The same applies to trying out a new machine in the gym.

This helps you understand and visualize the daily progression you're making, rather than committing yourself to failure before you begin. Asresearchers have found, it's your own perspective of your capabilities that makes a difference in how successful you are — regardless if that's earning a promotion at work or crossing the finish line of a road race.

The tenets of body positivity are simple, really. Take care of yourself and those around you. Be kind to yourself and those around you. Celebrate yourself and those around you. And know that every step you take toward a healthier, happier you is a step in the right direction.