You Don't Need to Love Your Body

by Yolanda Williams April 06, 2016

I'm part of a few plus size fitness Facebook groups and one of the posts really spoke to me which prompted this blog.  She wrote about being embarrassed about a loved one seeing her naked and how it brought up feelings of shame and made her realize how much she actually hates her body, which made her feel even more shame.  It was a painful read because I know what that feels like.  To look into the mirror and see only what's wrong with your body...all the lumps, bumps, rolls, discolorations, muffin tops, etc, and wish you could trade bodies with someone else.  Reading her post triggered me a little because although I don't feel that way about my body anymore, I don't exactly love her all the time either.  I feel ashamed even typing that but it's true.


 Here I am screaming from the rooftops that you need to love yourself and hashtagging the shit out of every instagram post... #selflove #lovethyself #loveyourcurves but not sure if I actually feel that way myself all the time.  So, I sat with it for a minute.  Do I really need to love myself?  The answer I came up with is no...I don't.  

Self-esteem, body-image, and confidence seemed to be wrapped up in two really black and white or hate.  The common myth is fat = self hatred.  If we're not a size 2 or an hourglass figure or some other idea of beauty that most of us don't fit into, we're told to feel ashamed or to be invisible.  The alternative to hating our bodies, to trying to starve ourselves into being less, to trying to will ourselves invisible, to refusing to enjoy a single outfit or a moment of exposed flesh, is to love our bodies.  We're told in order to be free we must love our bodies unconditionally.  Yes girl...flaunt them curves, wear that crop top, and you better know you're beautiful every day.  If we don't we've been infected by the poison of the matrix.  

Of course, loving our bodies is preferable to hating them. But, I have found myself spending just as much time trying to love my body, trying to force out harmful images and judgmental thoughts, as I used to spend visualizing a thinner "hotter" version of myself.  So, what do we do?  How do we become more loving and accepting of ourselves without putting so much pressure behind that goal?  Two words:  Body Neutrality.


 What is body neutrality?  

Body neutrality is falling asleep thinking about anything other than your body and what you’ll change tomorrow in the hopes of it altering eventually.  Body neutrality is not thinking twice about that craving you have for a German Chocolate Gelato because it is neither a source of shame (“If I get it, I’ll do a non-fat, no-whip tall”) nor pride (“Let me post this on Tumblr so everyone knows how not worried about food I am!”). It’s simply satisfying a craving.

Body neutrality is a blank slate.

Body neutrality is a starting point.

Body neutrality is a foundation.

Body neutrality is the place from which we can work toward building body positivity.

It’s a strategy to decrease self hate and negative self talk. Body neutrality acknowledges “what is,” rather than longing for “what isn’t.” And it can be a place to start when body positivity feels like too much of a reach.  So where and how do we start?  The easiest way is with self-talk.  Try this:

Stand in front of the mirror and listen.  What are the first thoughts that come to your mind? Is the language you use complimentary or critical?  


 If the self talk you hear is mostly negative, remember that moving from body hate to body positivity is a process, not an event. And you may need to take baby steps, using body neutrality as a rest stop for a while. From a body neutral place, you may be better able to accept body positive messages. Here’s how:

  1. Acknowledge that the negative self talk is there.
  2. When you hear it, breathe as a way to create the space so you can move from reaction to response.
  3. Validate the body hate. Say, “I know you and though you might be trying to help me, I’m going to try it a different way.”
  4. Practice progressive affirmations, starting with body neutral ones and growing into body positive ones, as you feel ready. Check out these 20 Body Positive Affirmations from Bustle to get you started.  
I think we need body positivity, especially as a radical expression of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in plus-size bodies. I also think we need an in-between stage for the folks who look at body love and feel daunted by the seemingly insurmountable task.  Body neutrality is a stop on the train to body love. You can get off here or stay on for the ride toward the final destination. The point is, once you’re here, you’ll never look back and long for the place that you left.  And maybe if we propose this to people — if we give them the option to inch toward body love, rather than implying that the only way there is a catapult — they’ll (more comfortably, daringly, courageously!) feel empowered to leave their body hate behind.

Yolanda Williams
Yolanda Williams