Every body is different. And yet I know I’m not alone in having this image of how my body should look. For years I’ve worked to love my body. For years I’ve worked to shape it, mold it, change it. I’m more than kinda over it. And then I found body neutrality and all of a sudden radical acceptance and compassionate love came rushing in.
When You Can’t Be Lifted
My husband and I finally took a night away without the kids after seven years of parenting. We had had date nights before, but this was our first night away. Where we truly got to be alone and wake up in the morning just us. On the drive up to the mountains my husband looked over and said sincerely, “you look nice.” I had on a new top, recently showered, skincare glow. But after a short silence I replied, “thank you, but I don’t feel like I look nice.”
I explained that I just wasn’t happy with my body. After our third baby was born, stress of a pandemic and online school for our first born, I just wasn’t feeling this body. I was overweight, nothing in my closet fit and even though I knew how to lose weight, it just didn’t feel like it was the right path for me anymore.
My husband said that he knew how I felt. Just like I could never be small enough, he would never be big enough. He struggles to find clothing that fits because it is rare to find a small enough size. He also has tried his whole life to gain weight without it ever being sustainable.
In that moment I realized that just as much as I wished that I had a body he could lift and carry across the threshold, he wished he had a body that could do the same.
But we are not mismatched.
We may not fit the image we’ve been conditioned to believe we should look like, but how we make each other feel is whole.
We enjoyed our bodies that night. And morning. I had this realization that I did not have to like my body to appreciate it. That I could enjoy its capacity regardless of physical size.
What is Body Neutrality?
Body neutrality has to do with your perspective. You do not have to love your body to fully accept and appreciate what it is capable of. What it does for you every day or what it has done for you in the past.
I hear you. Changing your perspective is no easy task. An easy start is to look at your “should” statements in your head and stop that thinking. Shift it to what is realistic.
Instead of my body should be the size it was before, I shift it to my body will change.
I should lose weight to be healthy, rather I eat intuitively and am conscience to move pain free.
Loving my body should come easily to me, or I respect what my body can do even when I don’t like the way it looks.
I Am Not Fat
Why neutrality clicked for me? I don’t always feel positive about my body. I don’t like having to buy larger clothes. Or carrying this extra weight. I don’t like that I feel more accepted when I am smaller. I don’t like that my daughters called me fat.
Yep. That happened. I was wanting to workout and was just in a sports bra and leggings. My extra rolls exposed in the middle. And my two girls looked at me and said, “gross, mommy, you’re fat.”
Never had I ever used this word out loud with them. Or ever spoke about anyone’s body or my own in an unkind way. As I struggled to understand where this language came from, I realized that it didn’t matter the audible source. I had said it about myself in my head. That is enough for your children to reflect.
Afterwards, I shared this hurt and a mentor of a mother responded with how she had explained it to her girls. “I am not fat. I have fat on my body.”
And for me, this is what body neutrality means. I am not my body. My body is a part of me. It helps me to live and thrive. But it does not define my worth. And I don’t always have to like it.
When summer approached and I hadn’t lost the extra weight from my third baby a year later, I thought hard about how I was going to participate at the pool. Truth is, I didn’t really have a choice. I have small children, so I have to get wet. I squeezed into an old swimsuit top and matched it up with a hand-me-down bottom from a friend. The reflection in the mirror was not how I would define beauty, but it was how I would define confidence.
I knew that my body would be able to carry my three children. Even all at once if needed. I could trust it to swim and throw and reach and kick. By body is strong.
Are You Listening?
Staying positive on this journey doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation. There are days that I do see my body’s beauty and feel how it flows and find beauty in that. And then there are days that the lining of my uterus is bleeding out my vagina and I just want to trade this body in.
I am learning to listen. Really hear all that my body has experienced and embrace that it is this essential part of me that knows things that my mind, gut and heart might miss. Like when my back pain is telling me I’ve not taken the time to rest.
There is still much work to do to heal. From birth, from past abuse, from the unkind things I’ve said in my own mind. But I don’t have to pressure myself to be a certain way. Or look a certain way.
I can express gratitude for the privilege of living in an able-bodied body. Appreciate what my body has given me and continues to do for me, often without even a thought.
I don’t have to like every gift, but I do still get to untie the ribbon every day.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, its employees, sponsors, or affiliates