Body positivity and the rise of TikTok

Stopping the cycle of body criticism while watching influencers

Ali Smith, Roundtable Editor

From a young age, young girls and boys are taught to overanalyze and overcritize themselves in an array of areas in their lives: school, home and even play. Although this teaches self-reflection and self-discipline, what does this mean for self-esteem?
Starting from this point of inflection, asking children to look inward and analyze themselves in relation to societal and familial norms, young girls, and boys, begin to question their bodies in comparison to their parents, and eventually in relationship to others in society.
But since self-esteem issues, mental health problems and eating disorders aren’t a new concept, why hasn’t this trend been brought to a halt? Why are children as young as toddlers associating body fat with low self-worth? Why are eating disorders and mental health issues on the rise?
Social media.
The very first social media site to be recognized was established in 1997, and it went by the name of “Six Degrees.”
Since this blossoming point, social media websites and apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and now TikTok have become a part of daily life for many and have arguably consumed us as a society.
Although social media, influencers and celebrities can promote unrealistic body image expectations to a high degree and negatively impact mental health, there is a force that is combating these demons, and it is currently budding: body positivity culture.
I first discovered the body positivity movement on my TikTok “For You” page. If you are unfamiliar with this aspect of TikTok, your “For You” page is personalized to you based on the posts you like, the people you follow and the content you interact with.
Rianna Kish, a TikToker who was the first person to promote this movement to me through her posts, is an average high school student from Canada who now has 324k followers on the app due to her content.
Kish is currently in recovery from bulimia and anorexia, and also suffers from depression, which she is really open about with her followers.
Through her own process, she has shared daily videos about what she eats in a day in recovery, as well as videos promoting body positivity. She does this by dancing in clothing that she feels insecure wearing because they show human flaws or excess skin and fat.
Rather than being insecure, however, she embraces the body she has found in recovery and aims to combat diet culture and the stigma surrounding body fat, which she argues does not correlate to poor health or less beauty.
Another TikTok influencer I have found in my journey with the body positivity side of TikTok is Brittani Lancaster. She is a coffee-loving recent college graduate who is also in recovery from two eating disorders: anorexia and subsequent binge eating disorder.
Lancaster consistently posts videos about what she eats in a day in recovery, and encourages her followers to listen to their cravings through the lifestyle of intuitive eating. This basically involves eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full and always honoring your cravings, as your body craves what it needs.
Another aspect of recovery and body positivity that Lancaster emphasizes is a healthy relationship with exercise and balance of food groups. Again, she urges viewers to listen to their bodies and not to push themselves beyond their limits as a form of physical punishment.
She also emphasizes balance between health and pleasure foods, as she often enjoys coffee and ice cream daily, and notes, “Balance is key!”
Each of these ladies, along with a slew of other body positivity influencers, has launched a movement, and they are aiming to change social media and societal culture surrounding body image and relationships with food. The body positivity community especially bashes diet culture and the effect it has on people of all ages.
“Sundays are always family days for my crew,” said Lancaster on her Instagram page. “Don’t let fear food or diet culture stop you from enjoying special days with your family. You don’t want to look back on your life & wish you could replay precious moments. Balance is key with everything in life.”
Although mental illnesses and eating disorders are disorders within the brain, and sometimes unpreventable, the negative influence of social media on young girls especially can not go unnoticed.
Synonymous with Kish and Lancaster, I aim to invest in a society where normal bodies are normalized, the culture surrounding food is unrestrictive and the deglorification of impossible body standards is the norm.
Being self-critical and self-conscious is a trend that I am sure is as old as time, so the issues enveloping body image and food will never truly go away. However, as a society, it is crucial that we aim to rectify this issue in order to save lives, and more broadly, improve the quality of life for all.
“I GOT MY LIFE BACK. That doesn’t mean I’m done fighting but I get to LIVE,” Kish said on her Instagram. “I get to do so much more now than I did when I was in the depths of my eating disorder. I got a free cheesecake from superstore. AND I ATE IT. That is a win.”
Through the mode of the TikTok and social media body positivity movement, many lives can be changed, and more lives can be steered in a different direction, preventing body image and eating-related issues from ever occurring.
By seeing this “normalize normal bodies” movement intermixed with posts from influencers such as Kylie Jenner and Charli D’Amelio, perhaps the mental health crisis in our country can be slowed, and even halted, with the help of influencers like Kish and Lancaster.

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