The cultural conversation around body positivity has changed a lot in recent years thanks to a different breed of influencers stepping forth and celebrities like Lizzo and Serena Williams challenging society’s ideas of beauty. 

We’ve come a long way in a short space of time. The covers of publications like Vogue are no longer filled with images of thin, white bodies and companies like Nike, Victoria’s Secret and H&M have (sometimes begrudgingly) embraced plus size clothing and models.

Brands like Fenty and Skims have succeeded because of their focus on accessibility and a diverse range of skin tones and platitudes like ‘Love Yourself’ plaster our Instagram feeds and bedroom walls. 

But for all of this progress, some groups of people have felt left behind.

Body positivity sometimes feels like it can extend to famous trans people in our media, but not the trans person walking down our local high street. It rebels against fat-phobia and embraces larger bodies and yet seemingly excludes people perceived underweight. Google 'body positivity' and you'll be hard-pressed to see any photos of men appear.

And when it comes to those living with health issues - like cancer - it can really feel that the positivity movement has some catching up to do. 

'Loving yourself' can feel quite hard when you've lost or gained a lot of weight as a result of your cancer treatment, when you've been forced to preemptively shave your head ahead of chemotherapy or when your body's scars reflect the numerous surgeries you've had to undergo.

The changes may be temporary, and still alter how you view your body for a long time afterwards, or they may be permanent, leaving you wondering if you'll ever learn to accept them. 

Common visible changes after/during cancer treatment include the following:

  • Hair loss - you may lose some or all the hair from your head and sometimes your eyelashes, eyebrows and body hair too
  • Losing or putting on weight
  • Scarring
  • Losing a body part - for example, your breasts after a mastectomy
  • Skin and nail changes such as redness, infection and itching
  • An opening (stoma) in your neck or tummy

But it's not only physical changes that can impact your body image, it can be internal too - some examples of which include:

  • Infertility or experiencing early menopause
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in the ways your bladder or bowel works
  • Reduced sex drive or difficulties having sex
  • Changes in sensation - for example, numbness in part of your body after surgery, or in your hands and feet after chemotherapy
  • Changes to your speech

Perhaps it's hard to embrace body positivity when there are changes happening to your body which aren't visible to the outside world, and therefore can't be visibly 'embraced'. We struggle to talk about loving ourselves despite, or even because of, things like early menopause, fatigue and a reduced sex drive because they're not perceived as 'sexy'. It's not a love handle that you can grab with loving eyes - these are profound changes that alter the way your body works.

The phrase 'body positivity' can also feel jarring when we don't feel very positive about our internal goings-on. Facing infertility? Unable to run for as long as we used to? Struggling to feel pleasure in the same way? Yeah it doesn't all add up to wanting to scribble positive affirmations across our mirror with our fav lippy. It kinda makes us p****d off.

But even the physical effects of cancer treatment don't always make their way into the #LoveYourself movement. Loving your body when you live with a stoma, for example, can feel hard. Our community have told us that it feels isolating and de-humanizing - the exact opposite of 'loveable', and many people outside of the cancer community have no comprehension that a diagnosis can lead to one. Do we have to be the one to tell them?

Embracing self-love can feel difficult no matter who you are. If for too long society has been forcing us to compare ourselves to stick-thin Caucasian models in glossy magazines, it's now screaming at us to LOVE YOURSELF NO MATTER WHAT.

Well perhaps it's complicated? Perhaps we've internalised all of that previous b******t and perhaps on top of all of it, we're also living with a life-altering health condition.

Maybe the cancer community doesn't feel like challenging societal norms and embracing what makes them different - maybe we feel fatigued, out-of-step with our usual selves and unable to fall in love with a body that looks and feels markedly different to what it used to.

And you know what? That's OK. We're here to tell you that you don't need to feel a J-Lo level of confidence right now, you just need to listen to your body and do what makes you feel good. Give yourself the space to feel what you need to, and hopefully with time you'll feel at the very least, comfortable in yourself.

There are so many ways in which you can help yourself to get there, and so many ways in which Trekstock are here to help you with your physical and mental wellbeing. Whether it's giving you a helping hand when you need help figuring out what to eat, getting you moving again surrounded by a group of friendly faces or offering you group coaching sessions and a space to ask - hey, is everyone else struggling with this too? We've got it. Take a look at our 'Support For You' page and find out more.

So just until you're feeling Ms Lopez levels of confidence, we're reminded of a piece of advice a member of the Trekstock community recently gave us: "I know it might not feel like home now, but in time it will."