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Why I’m Striving for Body Neutrality

Most of us are familiar with the term “body positivity”. Originally a movement to emphasise the acceptance of all bodies and raise awareness of the unique barriers fat people face, in the social media era body positivity has become a popular buzzword reserved to fitness gurus and white women who are “acceptably” fat – think hourglass curves up to a size 16. Body positivity has distorted in meaning: what was an important force of body politics is now solely understood as body confidence and self-love.

A quick search on Google confirms my reservations. What you’ll find is an abundance of pink illustrations and quotes: “Love yourself”, “Be your own kind of beautiful”, colourfully painted stretch marks turned into art, and an endless supply of smiling, hugging ladies. Almost all white, cisgender and able-bodied. None of them bigger than a size 18. It is easy for me to find these photos inspirational. On all of them I will see a reflection of myself, and I feel reassured: you can be a little fat if you are still pretty, smiling, and in a bikini!

Apart from being exclusive, this distorted type of body positivity makes me feel guilty. Clearly, I should be loving myself, celebrating every stretch mark (correction: tiger stripes. No, lightning tattoos!), worshiping every roll and piece of hair and freckle and imperfection. And some days I do, I really do. But other days I will stand in front of the mirror and hate that what I see differs from what my brain tells me I should look like. Because let’s be real – loving yourself, really loving every aspect of your body is really f*cking hard.

For me, the downside of body positivity is that it still focuses on the body. Whether you love your rolls or hate them, you will be obsessing on the way you look. We would be so much happier if instead of forcing people of all sizes to find beauty in the way they look, we just left weight and looks out of the conversation. This is where body neutrality comes in: it is the idea that instead of loving our looks, we should simply just accept them. Instead of loving your thick thighs, you can appreciate that they let you cycle to work or run a 5K. By obsessing less about your body, you free up valuable mental space to think about other things. Self-criticizing and silently judging ourselves takes up a lot of mental energy and stops us from truly enjoying ourselves and being fully present in our lives.

Following an Instagram post on the weight of each member of the Kardashian family, Jameela Jamil posted an Instagram story of what she “weighs”, listing positive characteristics and achievements such as “great friends”, “I am financially independent” or “I speak out for women’s rights”. The success of her post led to her starting the Instagram account @i_weigh (https://www.instagram.com/i_weigh/), a platform to “see how amazing we are, and look beyond the flesh on our bones”. This “looking beyond the flesh on our bones” is what body neutrality means to me – completely separating body and self-worth.

If you find inspiration in body positivity, if you find unconditional love for yourself – that is amazing. But if you feel that it’s out of reach, I don’t blame you. Just know, it is enough if you don’t hate yourself. It is okay to just accept your body; it is not your qualifier, it is merely a vessel for your mind. As long as it can take you to places and help you do what you want to do, it works just fine.



All photos from Google Images

Lover of sunsets and coffee, queen of procrastination and a real granny at heart. 
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