My body has always been a difficult thing to navigate for me. It has only been within the last year that I have been on a journey of kindness and neutrality regarding my body, and I really wish I started sooner. But I bet that you, like me, have probably struggled a long while with your body image, and that's okay because unfortunately, we live in a society that benefits, profits off of, and encourages our poor body image thoughts. Here's my journey so far...
TW: Disordered Eating
It all started in the late Spring of 2021. I had recovered from having Covid and was coming out of a period of time in which I was starving myself. After cathing Covid and slowly recovering from that, I realised that I needed to show my body more love, kindness, and nourishment. If my body could get me through Covid, then it deserved so much more than what I was (or in this case wasn't, because I was starving myself) giving it. I started eating foods that I enjoyed because I do enjoy food - I have always enjoyed food, and I started to try and pry out of all of the negative and derogatory body talk that I told myself every day.
It was difficult. I had been starving myself for three months, and have been telling myself that I look disgusting, horrid, fat, and unlovable for even longer. But one way that I started to get rid of all of that negative self-talk was by just being neutral towards my body - looking at my body with no thoughts, just looking at it and accepting it as it is.
Very Well Mind have a great quote explaining what body neutrality is :
'Body neutrality means taking a neutral perspective towards your body, meaning that you do not have to cultivate a love for your body or feel that you have to love your body every day. You may not always love your body, but you may still live happily and appreciate everything your body can do.
Whilst I love body positivity, I feel like I really have to work for it and put extra energy into it for it to work. If body positivity works for you, then that's amazing, I'm so happy for you, but for me, I just want to exist with the body that I have right now, nourish it with food I love to eat and eat food that nourishes me. I want to move my body with intentional and slow movement, like yoga, and give it experiences like going for a hike.
I have been so happy ever since I made the decision to move my mindset to body neutrality. And don't get me wrong, there are days where I do really love my body and how it looks, but I don't ever want to feel like I have to force it - almost like toxic positivity - I think it's not all good to be happy all of the time, we need to cry and feel our feelings, and the same goes for our body. Let it do what it's got to do.
I would love to think that if everyone adopted this mindset that the world would be a better place, but there are still so many biases and assumptions, and downright hatred when it comes to other people's bodies, especially larger and fat bodies. I have had a few people sending me DM's on my Instagram that I am promoting obesity, and that I am obese myself. I find this very worrying, because if they think I'm obese, then what do they think about people with larger and fatter bodies than mine? How do they act towards those people? And don't even get me started if the person they are targeting is a fat person of colour. You can read my blog post How Loving My Body Has Made Me Learn About Race, Class, The Environment And Reproductive Health on how all of that intersects because body image and race DEFINITELY do.
We all really need to do some serious unlearning when it comes to body image. Why would you think it's okay to comment on someone's body in the first place? Is it upsetting you? If it is, then you need to ask yourself why - look inwards and think why you have these emotions about someone you have never met.
I hope if you are currently not where you want to be with how you feel towards your body that this could offer a guide on taking those first steps to body neutrality - because who knows, in a few years I might really be in a fantastic place with my body and be body positive and really really confident. But for now, I'm focussing on body neutrality, and that's good enough for me.