Welcome to the first edition of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Hunter McGrady's monthly column, "Hello, Hunter". Through this platform, Hunter will take a long, hard look at some of the most frequently asked questions she receives in her DMs and answer them candidly. Body positivity? You bet we'll cover that. Dating, relationships, sex, finding confidence in a bikini — she'll take care of all of that, too.
So without further ado...
“How can I accept my body for what it is? How do I become body positive?”
This is a question I receive from both women and men daily. This particular question is a loaded one. What is body positivity? By definition, body positivity is “acceptance and appreciation of all human body types. It is a current social movement rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image, and be accepting of their own bodies as well as the bodies of others.”
I feel as though the term, body positivity is being used all too loosely by some people with the intent of appeasing their audience and fitting in with “the movement" — or worse yet, as a means for perpetrating insecurity in others.
The words we choose and the words we see in media have great meaning. Words can build up and edify, and words can tear down and destroy. Kingdoms have been toppled by the wrong choice of words.
The words, body positivity, do not just refer to plus-size women either. They refer to women who are thin, women who are short, tall, athletic, scarred, and yes, they refer to men, too. Since my introduction by Sports Illustrated as one of their swimsuit models, hence this column, I have had more men than I ever would have imagined reach out to me for advice regarding body positivity. Men and boys also struggle with accepting their own bodies.
Somewhere along the way, this topic got misconstrued...misinterpreted. All of us on this planet are exposed to unrealistic images and standards — the perfect body, the perfect family, the perfect car, the perfect house etc. And we are being told that unless we meet those standards of perfection, we are behind in the game. It’s a no-win game at the outset. Perfection is the goalpost that is constantly moving.
And as if It’s not enough that we feel bad about ourselves because we are not measuring up, we then feel the need to have to highlight and focus on the inadequacies of others in order to feel a little bit better about ourselves. It’s an age-old problem that this column certainly will not fix.
That said, I simply want this to be a reminder that we are all imperfect human beings struggling to survive and thrive in an imperfect world. It's time we lighten up on one another, give each other a break, and choose to use the right words. The good words, the building words, the enlightening words, the kind words, the thoughtful words — those are the words that truly matter.
We all feel like we are not seen, or heard, at times, which can make us feel lonely and alienated. We point fingers at our brothers and sisters over the way they look and believe the lie that our way is the better way...the only way. As a society we have lost compassion for one another. Instead of seeing possible weaknesses in others that are holding them back or keeping them down and reaching out to be that helping hand, we notice weaknesses and then choose to exploit them, often times simply as a means of feeling better about ourselves.
We are quick to shut down, shut out or shut up the “other” rather than to listen, empathize, have compassion and feel the urge to want to lift up, build up that which has been torn down.
BODY POSITIVITY. Each one of us has our own struggles with our bodies regardless of size or gender. The body positivity movement spans gender, race, sexuality, and economic status. All of us have the privilege and responsibility of choosing our attitudes, and the way we think about our bodies and the bodies of others, no matter what varying circumstances we find ourselves in.
Attitudes don’t just happen.They are products of our choices, and our choice are products of our attitudes. And it all begins with a thought. It is vital that we understand that we can choose our own thinking. Choose the thought, choose the attitude, choose the choice, choose the consequences of that choice.
Those of us that are body positivity advocates are not asking for a superficial change, but rather a monumental shift in the way we think about ourselves, others and how we engage one another. Here is a homework study for all of us — look up the words, thoughtfulness, empathy and compassion, and think on it.
See all of Hunter's beautiful photos from SI Swimsuit 2017: