Where are the muscular women in the body positive movement?

All we see are women ranging from moderately overweight to morbidly obese. 

The body positive movement has excluded muscular women, creating the illusion that there’s just one continuum — one that begins with the bone thin or “anorexic” body and ends with the very obese body and everything in between.

On this continuum the dress size begins at zero and goes well past 26. There’s a glorification of bodies that are so overweight that mobility is impaired.

The body positive movement encourages overweight and obese women to love their bodies just as they are, rather than work them at the gym to get fitter and more toned (dare I say muscular?)

They encourage women to celebrate their plus size body; there is no mention of muscles or replacing jiggly legs with sculpted strong legs.

Instagram is full of muscular women in all sorts of attire including bikinis.

BUT … the “Every body is beautiful” campaign EXCLUDES muscular women. Is this because muscularity is a choice and obesity isn’t?


Though it’s a choice to overeat, it’s a safe bet that few women enjoy the outcome of too many calories.

I wonder how many obese women just went “Ughhh!” upon viewing the bodybuilder above.

Where do muscular women fit in on the continuum that’s been defined by the body positive movement?

“The ‘body positive movement’ focuses on women’s body sizes who have traditionally been marginalized in our society, such as those who are overweight,” explains Linda Centeno, PhD, clinical psychologist, and assistant director of the Koch Center in NJ that specializes in eating disorder treatment.

She continues, “Muscular women are not marginalized in the same way and, in fact, there has been a shift over the last 20 years, with sports companies (like Nike) marketing the concept that it is cool (and attractive) to be a strong female athlete.

“It would be ideal if our culture respected and welcomed all body types.”

Body positive influencers think in a one-dimensional fashion: A woman is either skinny, fat or somewhere in between (slender, medium, plump, pudgy, chubby, husky). 

Though the muscular body isn’t marginalized like the obese body is, many muscular women DO get unfavorable comments from the people in their lives, as well as from strangers.

We should see muscular women in all of those photos of women who are part of the body positive movement campaign. 

Dr. Centeno works with adolescents and adults. In her private practice her specific clinical expertise also includes anxiety and panic disorder, depression, relationship issues and sexual abuse.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 


Top image: Shutterstock/Artem Furman
Image 2 & 3: ShotPrime Studio; Dmitri Ma