What it Means to Practice Body Positivity

Inspiring — and practical — tips for how to actively love yourself.

By Caitlin Kilgore
Woman sits on bed holding flowers against her thigh.

A few years back, there was a movement to banish the phrase “beach body” because it implied that you either had one or you didn’t. But just because the phrase is no longer politically correct to use, that doesn’t mean the fear of judgement it inspired has been cancelled too. 

It’s summer — and as warmer days creep in, so does the dread (for some of us) that our bodies are not ready to shed the layers of clothes. This is where “body positivity”— the mental commitment to love ourselves more fully and celebrate our individual bodies — is supposed to step in. 

But to be effective, body positivity needs to be more than a catchphrase — it needs to be a practice. To understand how to be actively body positive, THE WELL spoke to three body-positivity leaders to get their insights and tips. They will all be panelists at The BodCon TALKS: Beach Bodies, a virtual event happening June 27th.

What is “Body Positivity”?

Foundationally, body positivity means learning how to separate your worth from the body you are in and demanding representation and respect for all bodies,” says Alicia McCarvell, a body-confidence content creator.

It’s also about “accepting and loving who you are in this very moment — not a few years from now, not after a diet or a workout plan, but right now,” adds Zach Miko, an IMG model and the founder of Meekos men’s swimwear.

Putting it bluntly, Ella Halikas, curve model and body-positive activist, says: “Your worth lies far beyond just a number on a scale.”

Ella Halikas poses in a bathing suit on the beach.
Photo Credit: Roalyver Lopez

Ella Halikas

Ella Halikas is a curve model, body-positive content creator and self-love activist.
@ellahalikas

When you’re having a low day, how do you actively boost your self esteem?

“I try to exercise and move my body. That's the quickest way for me to feel better and truly appreciate everything that my body can do. I also like to journal and reflect on how far I've come, and list my accomplishments so that I can boost my self-esteem, and become proud of myself. Or hang around those who love and support me and make me feel good about myself.”

What makes you feel good in your skin?

“Wearing an outfit or bikini that complements and flatters my body. I always feel beautiful when I'm wearing something that I love and that radiates my confidence. Also, eating healthy meals and exercising daily makes me feel strong and so good in my skin!”

What is one self-care ritual that you can’t live without?

“Hyping myself up in the mirror before I leave the house. I love to look in the mirror and give myself daily self-love affirmations so that I can stay confident throughout my day!”

Any stand-out moments that made you question the social norm of what is considered "beautiful"?

"Seeing the Kardashian family and other beautiful celebrities photoshop their photos and videos online. If people are dying to look like these celebrities, and these celebrities don't even look like themselves, then what is that really doing to our self-esteem and self-image?"

Summer can be a really triggering time. What is your advice for celebrating the body you have this summer?

Put the damn bikini on!! We only have one life to live, so don't waste one more year or second feeling insecure or bad about yourself.”

Social media can be a comparathon nightmare. What are some tips for healthy social media consumption?

“Follow all the creators that make you feel beautiful and represented and unfollow anyone who doesn't! I love @mel.dlgn@sydneylbell and @alvaclaire."

What tips do you have for embracing your body right now?

This past year was not easy on anyone. We need to remember that our bodies are always changing, and we need to give ourselves some grace during this challenging time. If you wish to change your body in any way, do it for yourself — and only you! But remember to always come from a place of love and gratitude towards your body. Look at everything that your body can do and how amazing it is — that way you can have more appreciation of yourself.”

Alicia McCarvell poses in a bathing suit on the beach, smiling at the camera.
Photo Credit: Sharlie Faye

Alicia McCarvell

Alicia McCarvell is a content creator focused on self-love and body confidence.
@aliciamccarvell

When you’re having a low day, how do you actively boost your self esteem?

“What's really important to understand is that everyone has low days — you're not alone. To boost my self-love in those moments, I try to pinpoint why I'm feeling the way I'm feeling. Ninety-nine percent of the time I'm not actually mad at my body — my body is just the easiest thing to take it out on. Most of the time I'm having a rough day because I didn't eat properly the day before, I didn't get enough sleep, I saw or heard something that left me feeling triggered.

Once I know why I'm feeling that way, I address it by doing something to counteract it. If I didn't eat properly the day before, I'll grab myself my favorite lunch. If I didn't sleep properly, I'll make time for a nap. Or if I'm feeling triggered by someone else's words, I'll do some type of self-care action — a face mask, a bath, a walk, a girls’ night out."

Any suggestions for how to start conversations around body positivity with friends/family/loved ones?

“Allow the conversations to happen naturally and remember that it's about calling people into the conversation not calling people out. Body positivity is about education, growth, acceptance and respect. It's important that we treat those who require that extra help with the same respect. However, if you set boundaries and those around you aren't respecting them, you need to find the people who will.”

Zach Miko poses in a bathing suit, sitting on a stool.
Photo Credit: Zach Miko

Zach Miko 

Zach Miko is an IMG model and the founder of Meekos men’s swimwear.
@zachmiko

What do you say or do to give yourself a lift?

“No matter how far along in learning to love yourself, we all have low days. I respond very viscerally and emotionally to music, so I actually created a Spotify playlist I call "Pump Up" that I listen to when I feel myself slipping. The playlist is full of songs that inspire me, make me feel excited and hopeful, and maybe even a little bit defiant. Works like a charm.”

What makes you feel good in your skin?

“Being in a swimsuit makes me feel good in my skin. It didn't always, it used to be the scariest thing in the world to show my body to other people. Now being in a swimsuit is like exposure therapy [to help confront fear], and I feel great. It's why I created Meekos, my big and tall swim line. I want big guys everywhere to find the freedom and confidence I found.”

What is one self-care ritual that you can’t live without?

“Audio books. I was never able to meditate or anything like that — my mind would never stop racing. With audio books I find myself immersed in the story, my mind quiets and my anxieties fade away.”

Summer can be a really triggering time. What is your advice for celebrating the body you have this summer?

“Do something that scares you. For a lot of people, just being in a swimsuit in front of other people scares them. But what is the worst that could happen? Others might judge you? Their judgment is about them and their internalized biases and insecurities. If their judgments keep them from learning what a fun, kind and incredible person you are, that is their consequence, not yours.”

What are some tips for healthy social media consumption?

“Don't make it so easy for yourself to go down the rabbit hole. Turn off your notifications. Delete apps you use too much from your phone. Make social media consumption a conscious choice rather than an unconscious one. Then when you find yourself using social media, it’s with some sort of purpose or because you want to.”

What tips do you have for loving your body right now?

“Be gentle with yourself. We all have just experienced a massive collective trauma, and your body experienced every second of that trauma with you. If your body is bigger, or smaller, slower, faster, different shaped, or textured or any other difference you love or hate, remember that that is how your body helped you survive and get through this trauma."

If someone is new to the body positivity movement, what are some resources you’d recommend as a good starting point?

“There are so many incredible accounts on social media that helped me through my journey. @TheBodCon, @Chubstr, @thepowerofplus.co are incredible starting points. 

If you are a book nerd like me, Body Talk by Katie Sturino is incredible. Podcasts I'd check out Fierce Fatty by Victoria Welsby or my old podcast Big Things with Zach Miko.”

Any suggestions for how to start conversations around body positivity with friends and family?

“Sometimes family and friends are too close to you to see your advice objectively. In this case, lead by example. Be the best person you can be and learn to love yourself the best you can. Your actions will be a better example to those who love you than your words will ever be.”

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