Thin, thick, curvy. Lose a little weight. love yourself! Losing weight for the summer. Don’t say negative things about your body. Love the shoes you are in. Your shape doesn’t define you. Ten steps to a bikini figure! A bikini figure is anyone who wears a bikini.
Existing as a person with a body (and especially as a woman with a body) brings with it an endless flood of information about do’s and don’ts. How we should look, how we should think, how we should feel. Body shapes and sizes go in and out of fashion, but the narrative has always stayed the same: if you don’t look a certain way, then you don’t look right.
I don’t know about you, but everything feels worse than ever after the pandemic. Being locked up for two years, our everyday mobility restrictions and elastic waist bands seem to have had a resounding impact on our collective body image. Whatever we look like, our body feels so distinctly present when we’re putting it back in jeans, sweating it out on the subway, being seen and looked at by people other than ourselves.
And while a meal now means being prodded by calorie counts on menus, a quick scroll through social media has highlighted another beast: the “body neutrality” movement. Social media is full of stern admonitions to leave our bodies alone. To love her! Clearly! No bad days! Or even worse: never thinking about our bodies. Just switch off years of diet culture and exist in the skin we’re in: no love, no hate, no ifs and buts.
However, I’ve found that in intense chats with friends and casual conversations with acquaintances, people mention their body anxiety more than ever.
I took a selfie after my workout last week to document the moment because it really was the first time I’ve not even been sure how long I haven’t actively hated my body. I work in the food industry – a job that doesn’t contribute to being skinny, but being skinny is something I’ve been chasing for most of my adult life. I struggled with eating disorders on and off throughout my college years, and while effective therapy means I haven’t since, the thoughts that allowed this side of me to fester and develop never really went away .
The body positivity and body neutrality movements may scream and scream that I shouldn’t hate my body, but many years of struggling to reach a greatness I never will have taught me that my relationship with my body is in ups and downs. Sometimes I’ll love myself; I look in the mirror and am fascinated by what I see. Sometimes I loathe this reflection and grab my rolls and curves as if a hard tug would make them disappear entirely. The few days exist somewhere in the middle, that elusive “neutrality.”
I’ve made progress: I train based on my feelings – not to calculate how many calories I’ll burn. I try to allow myself to freely enjoy the benefits of my job without skipping a meal to make up for another. But last week my jeans were so uncomfortably tight I couldn’t wear them. I bought three new pairs and none of them fit. It was like removing a scab and opening a fresh wound.
And the other day I went to the gym and managed to use a heavier weight than I usually do. I did a full 30-second set of an exercise that usually left me slouching after 10. She reminded me that body image will fluctuate, but what matters is feeling strong and fit and putting love into my body even when my brain is full of vitriol.
Working in the food industry automatically puts consumption at the center of my life, and it feels ridiculous to pretend that as a woman in my 20s, it’s not a constant battle between what drives and excites me and the side of me who thinks I should try to take up as little space as possible. Body neutrality asks us to accept our bodies 24/7, and as someone whose entire job is the direct opposite of being skinny, I think it’s especially important not to pretend we can all the time reach.
We have to exist in our bodies, we have to look at them in the mirror, find clothes we like to adorn them with and move around in them, absorbing all their quirks. To pretend to be a joyful activity all the time—especially in a world that tells us how we should look—is an impossible feat.
When temperatures rise, festival season kicks in and we shed our clothes like fall leaves, it can be so easy to become our own biggest critics — and I guess that’s okay. It’s normal – it’s natural!
But it’s just as important to tell that voice to stray and wear the cropped shorts, the crop tops, and the tight tanks. It doesn’t have to be positivity, neutrality, or endless love – it just has to be.
https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/why-the-way-we-view-our-bodies-needs-to-change-41865485.html Why the way we see our bodies needs to change