Spring has arrived, and with it the inevitable stream “get your bikini body” ads all over my social media feeds. But these programs, which often mischievously claim to be about “health”, do nothing but perpetuate damaging ideas about bodies and about women.
They are designed to make women feel worse about themselves (to help prop up the diet industry, which is is worth almost $313 Billion globally) and they tell us that what we look like in a bikini is integral to our value. Both of these messages have zero to do with our wellbeing.
Surely ‘love’ like ‘hate’ is too strong a word for how we are supposed to feel about our bodies. How about neutral?Credit:Shutterstock
And we have already absorbed the message that our body's appearance equals our "worth". A survey by the Butterfly Foundation in 2017 found that 73% of respondents wished they could alter their appearance, and 60% had restricted eating because of how they felt about how they look. Women have been sold the idea that our bodies will never be “good” enough. And that it matters.
Even so, I am not completely on board with the body positivity and body love movement, either. It’s been great at broadening our definitions of beauty and interrogating rigid ideas of who gets to be happy with their body, but by saying “all bodies are beautiful” is still agreeing that being "beautiful" is actually important.
Surely the word “love”, like “hate”, is far too strong an emotion to attach to our bodies. And, with 16% of Aussies experiencing an eating disorder or disordered eating, this hyper focus on what our bodies look like is just exhausting.
Enter body neutrality, described by eating disorder recovery coach, Butterfly Foundation ambassador and YouTuber Mia Findlay as “the safe harbour between body hatred and body love.” Body neutrality doesn’t care whether you’re beautiful or not. Your body is not what makes you who you are, it is what helps you do the things that make you who you are. How it looks neither adds to, nor detracts from, your value as a person.
Nothing is a more boring topic of conversation than how much or little a person is eating or exercising.
Findlay, who runs workshops on body neutrality, says it is about “reducing the preoccupation with what you look like and channelling that identity and sense of who you are into things that actually give you a payoff and give you purpose and a true sense of who you are as a person … it just makes sense.”
And she’s right. It just makes sense. Ask any woman “Does how you look make you more or less valuable as a person?” and most will answer “no” pretty firmly. So then why on earth are we spending so much of our time, effort, and money on something we readily acknowledge has no value?!
I have never liked any of my friends more because they were slim or because they were beautiful. I like them when they say smart things, when they’re kids and when they’re fun. In fact, I probably like them less when they are preoccupied with how they look. Nothing is a more boring topic of conversation than how much or little a person is eating or exercising.
Who we are has little to do with how we look. And that’s the message of The Good Place actor and advocate Jameela Jamil’s “I Weigh” movement, which encourages people on social media to post selfies accompanied with what they “weigh” in terms of their true value.
Jamil’s first post is a selfie with the words “I weigh: Lovely relationship. Great friends. I laugh every day. I love my job. I make an honest living. I’m financially independent. I speak out for women’s rights. I like myself in spite of EVERYTHING I’ve been taught by the media to hate myself about. F***ING KG”. Seems like a far better way to measure your “weight” to me.
I have never felt better about myself than I do now that I have adopted body neutrality. As Findlay says, “it saves you money, it saves you time, it saves you the belief that you are defined by what you look like or that you need to spend any time or energy changing what you look like to increase your self-worth or self-esteem”.
It doesn’t mean that I never have days where I feel insecure about my stretch marks or cellulite, but it means that when I have those moments, I can remind myself that those things are irrelevant. I ask myself if I want my kids to see me so focused on my appearance and on “beauty”.
I don’t want to watch my kids pull at their stomachs or scratch at their thighs. I don’t want to see them spend thousands of dollars when they grow up injecting stuff into their faces to fit someone’s idea of “beauty”.
And I don’t want them to ever think a person’s value lies in how they look. I want my kids to spend their time, their money, and their effort on the things that make them who they are. Because if the most interesting part of who you are is how you look, you’ll be extraordinarily dull.
Source: Read Full Article