It’s Perfectly Okay and Normal Not to Love Your Body

One thing we’re used to hearing, and even spreading, is the idea of “body positivity”. It sounds like a great and helpful mindset to have and it truly is for a lot of people. I know I personally find myself saying:

“You don’t really like the way you look today, but you do look good. You do. Keep going. Put on some mascara and fill in your eyebrows and you’re good to go.” (Even if I don’t believe myself.)

A major flaw with this mindset, and something that we have been conditioned to sweep under the rug, is exactly what was previously stated: when we try to tell ourselves that we do look beautiful or handsome, and don’t really believe it, we tend to make ourselves feel even worse because of the negative feelings regarding our bodies. 

There is a concept that I hadn’t heard of before, and thanks to @chicksforclimate on Instagram, I now know about “body neutrality”. The concept is in fact very similar to that of “body positivity”; however, it targets a deeper and more widespread ideology that we could all benefit from: “Body neutrality is a movement to help us steer away from self-hate without the pressure of having to love our bodies. Instead, it’s about working towards a place where we respect our bodies, but don’t give too much energy to positive or negative thoughts about it.” (As stated by @chicksforclimate)

We see advertisements and the idea of excessive dieting, supplements, and “miracle” shakes diminishing. Yet, that aim of having a perfect figure is still there in society. I have personally seen many people in life, and media creators, persist with the point that it is perfectly okay to have curves and rolls, to be super skinny, to be pretty much fit but still have some stomach fat, to be extremely tall or very very short- and it is. That is a valid message to be spreading; we all have the right to exist and the right to be respected regardless of how our body looks. 

Something to give more thought to, is to stop giving so much thought to the appearance of our bodies. 

I know that sounds a little hard, and if you’re seriously going to try this whole “body neutrality” thing out it’s going to take some time to adjust. Of course, when you go shopping or try on your outfit for the day, you’re going to make comments about your body and make a decision about the article of clothing or the outfit itself. First off, think not only of how it looks on you but also how it makes you feel. And then, move on. Don’t constantly focus on your appearance. 

Instead of saying things resembling, “I don’t really like the way my arms look in this…” say “my arms are strong, they open doors for me, carry things I need, let me hug the ones I love.”

It shifts the focus from appearance to ability.

Don’t say:

“My thighs or legs are so big/small ughh :(“ 

Instead, say:

“My legs support me, help me get from place to place, allow me to run and see things that I may miss while driving a car.” 

 

In this day and age, even when focusing on “body positivity”, we are just constantly thinking about how we look. Our appearance is the way we can express ourselves, make ourselves feel good, and how we attract certain people, whether that be romantically or in the case of an “omg I LOVE your top!!” comment that ignites a friendship. But, we shouldn’t let our appearance and definition of beauty control our lives as much as it does now... and we think about it so often that we don’t even realize. 

Through “body neutrality”, we are giving necessary attention to our appearance but we are redirecting most of our energy to all of the things that our bodies do for us but also other aspects of life. We need to give ourselves credit. We all have days where we say, “I don’t like the way I look today,” but that should be followed with, “and that’s perfectly okay.” We should never make ourselves feel bad for feeling bad. 

 

@chicksforclimate gave 3 super helpful tips on how to transition to the “body neutrality” mindset:

1. Change the conversation

   With yourself:

     - Try to rephrase your self-talk by using more neutral terms and observations

   With friends and family:

     - Shift the focus of conversations away from the body, shape, weight, and calories.

   On social media:

     - Choose your influencers and sources wisely and read publications that don’t trigger body image issues.

 

2. Change how you approach food

     Choose food based on how you feel, rather than how you think you should eat. This means considering what you really want and making a conscious eating decision. The key here is that you are not eating (or restricting) with the intention of manipulating your weight

 

3. Change the way you exercise

    - Engage in an activity that you truly enjoy. (Walking your dog, or maybe dancing to a song that pumps you up.)

    - Try not to judge the quality of your exercise based upon the calories you burn, but whether it makes you feel good.

    - Listen to your body and skip days if you don't feel up to it. 

 

On a personal note, I have struggled with my weight since about 7th grade. I was always slightly bigger than what I wanted to look like and I had genetics to thank for that (Thank you ancestors!!!). I felt insecure when many of my friends and people around school were super skinny and sharing clothes, and I couldn’t do that. I felt insecure when I did cheerleading and I wasn’t super flexible and I was one of the biggest girls in the room. Once I hit high school, I thankfully stopped being as insecure as I was in middle school. I worked on my mindset, although all of the insecurities didn’t completely go away. 

In the summer going into my senior year of high school, I started going to the gym. Admittedly, I was going to try and lose weight, however, that truly wasn’t the only main reason. I was going because I wanted to feel good. Not that I didn’t feel good in my body, but I wanted to do something to benefit it, something proactive. I was doing exercises that I didn’t dread, and in terms of dieting, I didn’t. I ate what I wanted to, and I exercised how I wanted to. Just because I made one of the goals to lose a few pounds, I didn’t let that take control of my gym experience- I made it enjoyable and fun. 

I ultimately did end up losing some weight, and I felt good. I know that even if I hadn’t lost weight, or if I lost ¼ of what I did, I would’ve still been proud of myself. I put in work, and I felt good. I stopped going to the gym about a month or so into the school year so I could focus on my grades. I was still in good shape and I always tried to be active in my gym class. Then COVID came. A couple months into it, I realized that I gained some weight back. In my stomach, my legs, my arms, and my face. But to my surprise, I rarely had negative thoughts about that. I knew that so much was going on and that it was completely okay for my body to change in such a strange time, and I also knew that so many other people were going through the same thing. That’s not to say I didn’t have my moments of self-doubt regarding my body, but I didn’t make myself feel even worse for having those thoughts. And after learning about “body neutrality”, I now realize that I started to do little things that align with that mentality a long time ago. 

Now, when I get ready, I think about the outfit, but I really think about how I'll feel in it and if I think it's cute on its own, not fully taking my body into consideration. It’s just a fact that when you stare at yourself for too long you’ll find things you’re dissatisfied with. If you put on your outfit, look in the mirror, say, “Damn!! I look good!!”, do a little spin, and start your day, you’ll just be a whole lot happier. 

And remember- your body does not define your worth.