Andrew | Male, Latino, He/Him

What does “body positivity” mean to you? How has your body image changed over time? How does your body image play a role in your identity or even in your daily life?

Body positivity means accepting one’s own body (and/or the bodies of others) in its present form. When I was younger, I felt extremely self-conscious of my body. My family would tease me about being overweight and I would not feel comfortable with my own presence. Over time, I developed a sense of body positivity through my friendships. My close friends aided in the acceptance of my body by making me realize that other things mattered besides my body. This has made my day-to-day life significantly easier.

How has body image affected your mental and emotional health? What’s something that helps you feel comfortable in your own skin?

My own body image has been very indicative of my mental health. I have had mental health struggles for a significant portion of my life and my body image has been a driving factor in this. Something that makes me feel comfortable in my own skin is going to the beach with friends. During this activity, I force myself to remove my shirt and I find this exposure to be anxiety-inducing at first but cathartic as I ease into being shirtless. This has helped me accept my body. Since accepting my body, I have learned that I care much more about my own body than others do.

How can we talk about our body image with our loved ones in a way that is supportive and helpful? How has the media influenced your body image?

I feel that people should speak about body image in a positive light if at all. Negative, coercive or demeaning messages do not aid anyone who holds a negative perception of their own body image. The media has influenced my perception of body image by overexposing me to body types naturally unavailable to most (for example, most of the Marvel superhero actors take steroids, and even if they don’t they have the time and resources to craft such a body type).

Is there a specific message that you’d like to convey by participating in this project?

I’ve lost weight before, but my perception of my body image did not change. This made me feel as though the weight loss was for nothing. I actually gained acceptance for my body as a heavier person, not as a thinner person. Accepting one’s own body begins by accepting it in its present form, not in a fantasized future body form.