Michelle Elman talks: Body positivity

Michelle Elman is a body confidence coach and an award-winning body positive activist.

She created her campaign #ScarredNotScared in 2015 after she noticed there wasn’t enough representation for scars.

We asked Michelle what body positivity and confidence mean to her, and what she sees as the challenges and future of the movement. Her answers are below:

Michelle Elman: Fighting for inclusion in mainstream beauty representation.

What does body positivity mean to you?

Body positivity is all about making sure all body types are represented, inclusivity and diversity.

What is the difference between body positivity and body confidence?

Body positivity is a political movement, addressing the marginalisation of certain body types. Body confidence is about you and your individual relationship with your own body.

What is the biggest misconception about body positivity?

That you need to be healthy in order to belong in it. No matter what your health is, you’re deserving of love and respect.

What has been a recent big win for the body positivity movement?

One of the biggest milestones for body positivity recently was Tess Holiday’s Cosmo front cover. For a size 26 woman to be on a front cover is pretty monumental.

How would you like to see mainstream beauty standards shift in the future?

What I would love to see is that we abolish all beauty ideals. It’s not about fat being more beautiful than thin, it’s about not having any standard.

How can we start to change the negative perception around the word ‘fat’?

I use 'fat' as a neutral and empowering word. ‘Fat’ is just the descriptor, the same as the word ‘tall’. You wouldn’t tell someone they weren’t tall if they were, so it’s not really the word that’s the problem.

What are your thoughts on fat shaming vs thin shaming?

All body shaming is bad. But what we also have to remember is that fat shaming is a systemic problem. Thin shaming is largely the other person’s insecurity.

We all have good days and bad days – how do you suggest we deal with the bad days?

I sometimes just let myself have that bad day. We all have bad days, I call it a duvet day, put my favourite show on, then I’m good to go for the next day.

What’s a good first step to becoming body positive when you’re very overweight?

You are not your body. The more you refer to your body as a medical diagnosis, the less you’re actually using ‘your body’, so stop thinking about your body and spend more time in it.

Do you still have struggles when it comes to body positivity?

Any time I think there’s a problem with my body, I know there’s something bigger going on in my life. My body’s just the quick fix. It’s my automatic pattern to jump to something being wrong with my body. It’s not actually about that.

It’s not about fat being more beautiful than thin, it’s about not having any standard.

Michelle Elman

Where to find support

If you have concerns about your body image and feel it may be affecting your physical or mental health, speak to your GP or a health professional who can put you in contact with the right people to help. The support can be life-changing.

You can also find help on a range of issues at Young Minds or the NHS

It is always good to speak to someone you trust about the issues you might be facing, no matter how big or small. Although it can be hard talking about mental health, everyone finds it challenging at times. If you are experiencing difficulties, don’t feel ashamed or different, and don’t feel you have to hide away from it.

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