The fine line between body positivity and body shaming

Hey guys! Ugh, I need to do a mini rant. Please bear with me.

In the age of Internet rage, sometimes it feels like I can’t say anything without someone being upset or misunderstanding my intentions. We all jump to conclusions. We throw our pitchforks and comment “UNFOLLOWING!” or assess someone’s entire personhood based on one thing they said or did. It can be frustrating, but I try to remember we’re all human and all perceive things differently. Maybe the internet has just made it easier to be angry faster.

As you probably know, I’m in the process of wedding planning and BOY OH BOY, it’s a lot! It’s exciting and I am so truly happy, but ya’ll, it can be really exhausting too. I’ve been sharing a lot about my wedding and the whole process with all of you, and it’s honestly been really fun getting a little more personal!! But as always, opening up comes with an occasional price.

Last month, I posted a photo in a wedding dress with a caption about maybe doing a “Bridal Bootcamp” workout series and the specific muscle groups I wanted to focus on. Immediately, I saw a comment that said I wasn’t being very “body positive.”

I’m gonna be honest with you guys, it made me sad. I know I shouldn’t let one comment really get to me, but it did! I mean here I am a month later and it’s still something that gnaws at me. And I think the reason is because I DO promote body positivity! Anyone who follows me knows I focus on getting stronger, both physically and mentally.

In the fitness world, I’ve felt inadequate BECAUSE my body doesn’t look like other bodies I see online. I don’t have a six pack. I don’t have a big booty. And I’ve been publicly body shamed for it. But you know what? I am strong. And I work hard. And I make sure to take care of my mind too. To me, that’s fitness. It’s not about looking a certain way. It’s gaining confidence and feeling good in your own skin.

The body positivity movement is a great thing. In its origin, it was about encouraging people to be more forgiving towards their bodies. It’s about positive affirmations. It’s learning to love yourself wherever you are in your fitness journey. And guess what?! Fitness journey doesn’t mean the end goal is be a size zero. EVERYONE has a different journey. We have different goals we set for ourselves. Being healthy does not look a certain way.

But have we started using the term “body positivity” as a way to shame people too?

If I talk about fitness, am I not body positive? If I share healthy meal recipes, am I not body positive? If I release workouts and moves to target certain areas and help people achieve whatever goal they’ve set, am I not body positive?

I want people to love their bodies. I want people to nourish their bodies. I want people to wake up PROUD of their bodies. Those things have nothing to do with size.

So hey, I’m still going to do a Bridal Bootcamp series anyway. Because I wanna feel good on my wedding day and I think you should too! But as always, it will be focused on strength. On feeling fierce.

And yeah, there will be videos targeting arms, videos focused on booty, videos made for whatever area you want to work. This doesn’t make me body negative, it makes me body positive because I believe in what our bodies can do. That’s enough for me. I hope that’s enough for you too.

What do you guys think of body positivity? Have you ever felt shamed by a movement that’s whole purpose is meant to be uplifting?

  • Jennifer

    That sounds frustrating, especially because I do see how body positive you are and strive to be! I started doing (attempting) your workout videos and my husband would peek in and ask what I was doing so I shared your site. One day he shared that he had tried a workout and said it was one of the hardest workouts and that you are crazy strong! That’s one of the reasons I love and follow your work because, as you said, “I don’t have a six pack. I don’t have a big booty.” and I am so inspired because I see a strong person who is a great role model to loving your body and accepting what “strong” looks, and what it looks like on me. It might not be the six pack…but the day I can do the work-outs AND talk throughout the whole thing…that’s my goal because I don’t know how you do it! And also, I worked harder than I ever had/have the year before my wedding and was SO proud of the work I put it and how strong I felt the day of my wedding. I look back at that time with no regrets and felt great – it wasn’t motivated by fitting into a certain size, trying to lose weight, or due to any expectations from my fiance – I did it for me and that’s what mattered. So, go get it girl – I’ll follow along your Bridal Bootcamp and cheer you and your strong body on!

  • ↠ ᴊᴇɴɴɪғᴇʀ ↞

    It makes me so sad to read a lot of the comments on here stating that people aren’t worthy of love, respect, help and support just because of their outward appearance. I’ve commented a couple times on this but I can’t even be bothered to comment on all the hatred. I deal with it enough in my real life that I don’t need to get the same crap from strangers online. I’ve said what I’ve had to say, I still love your workouts Cassey and I’ll continue to do them.. this is a community that I’ve grown to love, but seeing these comments is heartbreaking.

  • lanieforth

    I really hope you do the Bridal Bootcamp. My cousin is getting married next year in the fall. I have been doing your tapes since last July and love them. I was thinking it would be so fun to have my cousins and family do the bootcamp together and talk about it or share our results; not just physically but mentally too. Weddings are stressful, and I really do think that working out has helped me reduce stress which then in return helps you to slim down naturally. I don’t really think it is body shaming. Honestly, people can take it or leave it. If they’ve ever watched your videos, you are always positive and realistic. Most people watching your tapes are looking for a workout, trying to feel better, and most likely trying to keep or gain a figure.

    Thanks for everything!

  • Ducky Dame

    I have had strange experiences with the body positivity movement.

    I do blogilates, hula hooping and I have added old 80s and 90s workouts to the mix too. (don’t judge, they make me laugh and I have a lot of fun doing them lol). I thought that I would get a lot of support from my friends when i started to openly talk about the working out that I do. But sadly, the only person who supports me is my sister. My friends have accused me of not having any self confidence that I should love my body the way it is and why would I want to change because I’m already beautiful. blah blah blah. It’s hard trying to explain to them that it’s because of my self confidence and love myself that I am doing this. I’m confident no matter how my body looks because I am still me. Despite the changes I’ve had with my body, it’s still mine and I still love it. I just want to be fit and strong again. Back to what I consider my best. Cripes its hard to explain even here. Does that make sense? I hope so.

    A lot your videos have really helped me with this because I’ve realized that I am on my own fitness journey, quirky and odd as it may be. It is slow goings, i have my ups and my downs but I am taking my time and putting in the effort to make lasting positive changes.

  • PopstarLKH

    You are such an inspiration Cassey! Not only do you promote body positivity and a healthy mind, but you teach us popstars what it means to open up and be vulnerable to ultimately receive the advice and guidance you need. Keep doing what your doing! Plus, I’m getting married in April 2018, and I would absolutely LOVE a Bridal Bootcamp. So BRING IT ON!

  • Ruth Roose

    I just found your videos on YouTube two weeks ago and am so thankful for you. You are so encouraging and every time you say, “you are looking so great!” I just smile as I’m working out. To me, being body positive is not putting down other people’s body and especially not your own. I am four months post partum and sometimes, feel very critical of how certain parts of my body look. I try to replace every mean thought with, “I created a life in my body and I am so strong and awesome because of it!” Two weeks ago, I decided to stop complaining and start working on getting toned and strong. Thanks for all of your videos! They have helped so much!

  • MarkandSarah McConkie

    YES this!!! I’ve felt this same pressure: taking care to eat well and hit my workouts has made some people critical of me for being “obsessive” or whatever when the reality is that it’s a good thing to take care of yourself. You are amazing and I’m sorry you’ve been at the receiving end of so much lameness.

  • Julz Amidala

    Fitness is not a shape, it’s about being healthy and having the confidence that comes from working to accomplish your goals. That’s why I admire and respect you so much Cassey. And that wedding dress looks stunning on you too!

  • Ana

    OMG seriously? Since when did being happy with yourself by excercising and eating well became body negative? Fine, there’s a lot of people who are happy being overweight, I get it… but why shame people who choose a healthy lifestyle to be happy, isn’t that the same thing? Everyone has the right to excercise or not, but if someone feels unhappy with who they are, whether they are skinny or overweight, they need to change something in their life, maybe it’s not excercising or maybe it is, everyone needs different things to feel confident and happy in their own skin!

  • Emma

    I agree with you! It feels like we’re living in an era of outrage. Everyone is poised to attack, to snap back, to defend, I think because everyone is afraid of being attacked or shamed or called out themselves. Instead of taking a moment to try and understand one another, we’d rather put people into categories, sort the “good” from the “bad” and not interact with people who might have differing opinions and view points.

    Body positivity is very strong right now as a backlash to years and years of fat shaming. So, people who’ve embraced it really are investing a large chunk of their sense of self and power in it, and when that idea is threatened they feel threatened. I think the same can be said about anything though. You’ve talked about food as a religion, I think body positivity is it’s own religion as well.

    I have seen one instance where body positivity was used in a non-positive way: one time my roommate requested joining a body positive FB group because she was looking for a sense of community and acceptance from people who struggled with the same body image issues as her, but she was denied b/c she wasn’t large enough. I’m not sure what the size requirement was, but she didn’t meet it so they denied her access to their body positive group.

    (For the record, I’m pro body positive, pro women of all sizes loving their bodies with no pressure to change their size or weight to fit society’s expectations.)

  • Emma Manley

    Oh FFS. You really can’t please all the people all the time and of course every bride wants to look their best on their big day. It doesn’t matter what size you are it’s how YOU feel about your body that is important. I just recently did an 8 week fitness challenge and so many people said they would have been happy to look like my before photos, but how I felt then didn’t make me happy so I did something about it. Roll out that Bridal Boot Camp because I’ll be following right along even though I’m already married!!

  • Beatriz Mingol

    From my point of view, sharing healthy recipes and fitness is one of the most body positive things you can do! Accepting your body is body positive but… taking care of it with food and exercise too!!! And wanting to lose weight and/or shape you arms, glutes, legs… does not have to be negative!! It can be the most loving thing you can do with you body (for example, I am losing weight because I liked to run but my knees could not keep up with my weight… so, because I love my knees, I am making their job easier… does that make sense? it does to me haha). Take care of your body, exercise and shape it if you want, treat it with care and respect, don’t do harm to it and accept it -you can change a little, but don’t have unrealistic expectations-… that’s body positivity for me.
    And I’m waiting for that bridal bootcamp!!!! Yay!!!

  • Dani B

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Cassey! I totally agree with you, and it saddens me to hear that people do not think you were/are being body positive! You always lift me up through your positivity, in your videos, your instagrams, your podcasts, and I always appreciate it! If only we could all be like you and work together to see the good in others! Thanks for everything you do! Keep being you!

  • Gabby

    You’re wonderful, Cassey! It’s so easy to get yourself down when hurtful things are said. Just know you have an entire community of POPsters behind you! It’d be cool if there was a couples’ workout video with Sam for the bridal bootcamp!

  • Lillan

    Thank you so much for this statement. I think you are completely right. And honestly – you look beautiful and you are so strong and there is noone who should try to convince you of the opposite. And I mean, you are just getting married once, so please, do everything to feel your best. And by the way – I won´t getting married in the next time, but I will though love this series, so I´m looking forward to it ;-)

  • Gabriella

    YOU GO CASSEY!!! Let the haters hate. Just keep going and doing exactly what you’ve been doing. You have inspired and helped so many people (me included). You have nothing to be ashamed of.

  • Gabi

    The overwhelming consensus doesn’t surprise me. This is a place where people that have internalized fat-phobia WOULD congregate, obviously. It is inherently NOT body positive to promote weight loss in the same way that a person that say “I don’t care that you’re fat/skinny/whatever weight but I could never allow myself to be fat”. It’s clear that many of you don’t understand what the body positivity movement is all about. It isn’t about giving people an excuse to ‘stop caring’, it’s about dismantling all the bullshit ideas that diet culture has brainwashed you to believe about what you should look like. People hate to think that maybe they aren’t fully autonomous beings, that maybe they have internalized ideas and bias that are not uniquely their own. Someone isn’t inherently unhealthy if they are overweight/fat/obese just like people aren’t inherently healthy if they are skinny/slender. It’s easy not to understand the struggle of someone who is overweight/obese, and from some of these comments it sounds like some folks think that naturally slender people get the privilege to live their lives as is while fat people have to struggle to keep their weight down where it DOES NOT want to be just to please the masses and make them think they are ‘healthy’. The movement is so much more complicated than anyone is capable of describing here. The reality is that dieting (this includes calorie counting) is a predictor of overweight/obesity so what exactly do you propose for the folks that are already eating well, are healthy mentally, and exercise regularly? I’m sorry to say Cassey, you inherently support something that ISN’T body positive. Yes I think anyone has a right to want to tone up or lose weight, that’s their agenda. But you are doing the body positivity movement a disservice by trying to use the term and ideas for your benefit. I think most people need to take a good long look in the mirror and ask themselves why they want to change their bodies. Our culture has for a long time tried to stifle women’s voices and keep them busy worrying about shit that doesn’t matter (like weight loss). It’s a waste of our amazing brains and talents. Talking about and encouraging people to change their bodies inherently tells people (especially young people) that they aren’t good enough as they are and they should want to “slim” their thighs or whatever. Anyway, like I said, it’s your agenda what you want to do, but what you promote isn’t body positive. I’m overweight. I use your videos because I enjoy them and I just ignore all the ‘slimming’ and ‘weight loss’ talk and I’m fine with that. If someone is seeing their health decline and they choose to engage in exercise and eat more vegetables and fruits because they’d like to be off of medication, great, more power to them… but it is also their right not to do that if they choose, without judgement, without bias. As long as diet culture exist, weight bias will also exist. I hope you all go out and educate yourself about the movement and recognize that many of you have thin privilege. Try to put yourself in the shoes of those that don’t have that privilege.

  • Kathryn St John-Shin

    I am SO GLAD you said something, Cassey! I consider myself to be very positive about people’s bodies. I want to love my body as it is and I try my best to point out the positives to myself all the time. I do the same with other people. I don’t care what people look like or what people eat etc so long as they’re happy. If they’re happy with themselves then I don’t see the problem. Except I’m not blind. If a person is fat then they’re fat. There’s NOTHING wrong with that. If they’re happy with themselves, then I’m happy with them. But God forbid you say the “f” word. [FAT] If you do you get attacked by Body Positivity Nazis. I’m fat and I’m happy. Do I want to change how I look? Yes. Is it at the top of my priority list? No. I’m more interested in gaining muscular power and endurance. My body will change as I work toward this goal. I don’t like the direction the Body Positivity movement has taken and I don’t usually speak up about it on social media anymore simply because there’s bound to be one hater who’s happy to attack.

  • Dear Ashley Mayo,

    Can you please post a complete list of names of these fat people; that you know personally; who have told you face to face 1. They never work out, and 2. don’t eat ever eat healthy and 3. have personally told you; the body positive movement is their persobal reason to be unhealthy. Please post a complete list of these people names online.