I’ve written before about my own turbulent journey with my body image since tween-hood and while I’m 100% more confident overall in every aspect of my life today as a 37 year old mum of two (age and experience will do that to you), self-acceptance doesn’t come easy to me if I’m honest (I’m a recovering perfectionist) which is why I was so intrigued to read about Body Neutrality in Women’s Health magazine recently, a movement which releases you from the pressures of Body Positivity-an unnatural default at best as no one can ever be completely happy about any facet of their lives 24/7-advocating you simply accept your body and how you feel day-to-day, knowing you are naturally flawed so can free yourself from the requirement to feel great or appear to, when you don’t. It’s an in between stage between self-loathing and self-acceptance. You are allowed to simply feel neutral. To take the onus off your body.
We are complex, our issues and journeys are complex and suddenly merging from years of fighting ourselves to loving our bodies is unrealistic, the pressure is palpable.
Like all, my body has undergone many transformations since childhood as I personally went from being a skinny kid to chubby tween, slim teen to yo-yo-ing adult thanks to PCOS diagnosed at 19, with my current wardrobe ranging from a UK size 8-12 (US 4-8) depending on the time of the month, with periods of body dysmorphia in between to boot. Gosh, I’m tired just writing that.
If I’m HONEST, I’m not sure how I actually look to others, and the camera adding approximately 10 pounds when it comes to TV appearances doesn’t help either. Not does the camera on the iPhone which morphs each and every one of us with it’s lollipop head style angled lens. We don’t even look in photos as we do in real life. No one does.
Now despite all that, there are times where I’m more carefree about my body and I’m certainly no longer worried about stretch marks on my tummy, but I’m not wholly positive about my figure either. I’m not filled with confidence every day, and if I wasn’t such a wimp, I’d opt to improve my figure surgically, but I AM A COMPLETE WIMP so that will never happen. Instead I own push-up bras and Spanx.
It’s not just having kids which has affected my weight either although they had a huge impact (being big and tall babies) as I dipped up and down prior to procreating, and tried every diet going during my uni years from the cabbage soup diet to Atkins and beyond, never finding anything which fed my body and mind (until now with a plant-based diet) and stopped me obsessing over food. I often wish I could go back and hug myself.
Having kids and the 3 and 2 stone weight gain respectively, proved to be the catalyst to me embracing regular exercise and I actually got to a lower weight post kids than pre thanks to regular runs and lots of power-walking.
So where am I now?
To bring you bang up to date, debilitating throat issues which started in January this year, firstly with several bouts of acute tonsillitis and then a recent thyroid op means I’ve spent a fair bit of time living on liquids.
I’ve been back on solids over the last few weeks however (oh hello bread, how I missed thee), and my move to a plant-based diet a few months back after reading How Not To Die, has made me calmer than ever with a focus on nourishing not weight loss BUT weight loss was inevitable and has been noticeable to others, and I’ve realised, not surprisingly, that being slimmer hasn’t made me any happier.
Chasing a smaller size in the past, the size I am now, hasn’t been this magical awakening of self-love I thought it would be. The bits I didn’t like before, I still don’t like. I’m not miraculously more content because my jean size is smaller and the pressure that comes with well meaning people telling me I’ve lost weight can feel stifling because I might well put it back on-and that’s OK too.
The focus on being slim culturally can be a lot to handle, and whilst health is my priority I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to LOOK healthy and toned too.
I recently started intermittent fasting (purely from a health/ cell regeneration/anti-ageing perspective) which I’ll write about in a more detailed post soon so combined with eating plants has for the first time in a long time put me in a good place when it comes to how I eat…I would just like to consistently feel more accepting of my body now.
My dream would be to not worry when my husband (who loves me whatever my size) takes a photo of me for my blog or social channels, to stop fretting if my arms look big in this dress or that top (my weak spot whatever my size) and to simply not waste any more time concerned if I’m jiggling when I should be giggling with my kids.
Body neutrality might just be the answer.
It seems pretty liberating in its acknowledgement that we all have our body issues and in an image-heavy world, we can’t escape comparison and self-doubt and that’s normal so let’s simply accept our flaws as well as the good bits without the pressure of focusing on our bodies and forcing happiness on how we look (even when we don’t feel it).
We’re inherently flawed as humans and whatever our size or shape, we’ll never be consistently happy because that’s just not the way we’re wired so perhaps Body Positivity is doomed to fail. Body Neutrality is also a stark reminder that we’re worth more than the number on the scales too. That our bodies shouldn’t be our main focus (for good or for bad) because we have so much more to offer.
BN urges us to accept that there will be bad days and good when it comes to self-esteem and we don’t need to be shouting from the rooftops that we love our bodies, that self-love doesn’t need to be that extreme, that actually being neutral might garner healthier results both emotionally and physically. It’s a more honest, reassuring approach towards body image and that’s certainly something I can fully get behind. Can you?
I write about body image, getting back to work and much more in my book Mumboss. You can order it here.