• Factivists

The Hypocrisy of Modern-Day Body Positivity

Updated: Feb 14

Nayantara Chandrasekhar shares her thoughts on body positivity, peer pressure and self love through her unique, slightly unconventional perspective.

It’s so easy to get caught up in a wave of positive energy on the internet, with Instagram telling you that drinking water and applying face masks will solve all your problems. But when teens see only slim people advertising this, the lack of representation of all body types in our media subconsciously reiterates the narrative that being fat is a problem.


When I was in fourth grade, I was best friends with two people, both of whom were fatter than me. At that time, I didn’t notice, let alone care. Our biggest concerns were whether our parents would let us go swimming that afternoon or play in someone’s house. And wearing a bathing suit at that time wasn’t something that would stress us out, it would bring us joy.


Then came fifth grade. We watched an awful lot of YouTube videos. They would be full of 20-year-olds telling us “30 easy ways to lose weight!” or “How to avoid the freshman fifteen!”, which, quite frankly, I didn’t know was a thing until the internet told me. We started obsessing over our diets; one of my friends stopped eating lunch entirely and I followed suit soon after. We were barely 11 years old. Our parents didn’t allow us to go to the gym, rightfully so, but we began swimming as much as we could in the hopes of losing a few kilograms. My pudgy stomach and lack of a thigh gap caused me so much grief that it was worrying. It still does to some extent.


I’m in high school now. I can tell you firsthand that it is a complete nightmare. Not just because of the ridiculous amount of work we have, and not just because there are such rigid friend groups in my class, but because there is so much fatphobia circulated among the girls in my class. The boys too.


People will repost things on Instagram that are written in pretty calligraphy saying, “all bodies are good bodies” or “your body doesn’t define you” or “beauty standards are full of shit”. Which, theoretically, they believe in. We all do. And I repost some of these things as well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. But the issue arises when our understanding of these posts is superficial. When the same people who preach about loving our natural selves then subconsciously comment on their own and people’s bodies.


I was on a week-long school trip with my class, and since we weren’t in school, we didn’t have to wear our school uniform. Which to many people was exciting! But caused ridiculous amounts of stress to others.


There were girls wearing crop tops going up to each other saying “feel my stomach, it’s so flat” and asking each other “do you have a thigh gap?” And there were maybe about 7 girls who did this, but the others, who weren’t as skinny as them, stopped eating. Because these were such sensitive topics to them. One of my friends didn’t eat anything for two days and ate again after that only because they almost passed out in the middle of the desert.

One naturally stick-thin girl was sharing a room with one of my friends and was talking to her at night. She mentioned a dress someone had been wearing at the school dance a week earlier and said, “I didn’t think fat people could be hot.” I was horrified.


We are some of the most educated children in the country making statements like this. And what bothers me more is that on Instagram we’re feminists and activists and we stand up against what we think is wrong – but in reality, we’re guilty of shaming others for the same things that we supposedly stand against.


Fat has become synonymous with ugly, something which it never was before. I can be fat and beautiful. I am both fat and beautiful. I personally am not nearly as fat at so many millions of people in the world, and even I have to remind myself when I am looking in the mirror that it’s okay to not have a thigh gap. It’s okay for your stomach to not be flat. It’s okay to have love handles. I have to remind myself not to make lists of everything that I put in my mouth, not to make promises to myself to eat less tomorrow.


But I still go to school and watch students in my class feed on each other’s insecurities; belittle each other because of their weight. I watch my classmates post online that they love their body and then starve themselves in real life.


It’s so easy to get caught up in a wave of positive energy on the internet, with Instagram telling you that drinking water and applying face masks will solve all your problems. But when teens see only slim people advertising this, the lack of representation of all body types in our media subconsciously reiterates the narrative that being fat is a problem.


Everyone says that our generation is the one that’s going to bring a change. And interacting with certain social media fronts often gives me hope that we can, but I also see, in my privileged bubble of a life, that we are dragging each other down on the basis of societal norms that we supposedly stand against. It’s a toxic cycle. And if it continues, then our generations will never break through the barrier of superficiality and our body positivity will die as nothing but another online trend.