That was my reaction when the experts at Green Mountain first tried to introduce me to the concept of Body Neutrality℠ – the uncomfortable, unfamiliar grey space between loving your body and hating it.
The Neutral Space Between Body Hate and Body Love
Four years ago I was a strict, pattern-following, number-obsessed, stay-inside-the-lines, all-or-nothing thinker.
I liked rules! Numbers didn’t lie! And these people I just met were trying to re-route my thought patterns and re-write “my truths”… but for good reason.
Why? Because this is how I used to think: I’m a binge eater. Binge eating is my fault, which means that being fat is also my fault. Fat is ugly. How could I, or anyone else, accept something this ugly? I need to punish myself until I look better. Until I look better, I will never be loved.
I didn’t think this this way about anyone else except for myself.
I didn’t look at other voluptuous bodies and think, “Those people are lazy and bad.” But when I looked in the mirror and saw my own love handles, stretch marks, double chin, and thighs that never stopped touching… I felt like a monster, a disease.
I had let society convince me that until I reached a certain number on the scale, fit into a certain clothing size, or looked a certain way… I would have been doing myself a disservice if I didn’t hate myself.
That if I showed any signs of self-acceptance, then I wouldn’t be motivated to change.
When it comes to our bodies and our relationships with food, Green Mountain taught me that criticism is not motivating.
Moving From “Hate” To “Neutral”
Body Neutrality℠ is a mindset, a feeling, a strategy. It’s a way of thinking that helps us to step away from negative self-talk to a place of, at least, neutral.
We may never get to a place of loving our body, but Body Neutrality℠ disengages our minds from the damaging place of body hatred.
In order hang out in this neutral space, we have to learn to accept that we may not be perfect, admit how we’ve treated ourselves in the past, and try our best to feed ourselves strength, pleasure, compassion, and respect.
Before learning that “grey was okay”, I thought I had to jump right into the love boat after a lifetime of drowning in body hate.
Well, Body Neutrality℠ isn’t like instant coffee. You can’t just add water and be on your merry way. You have to plant the seed, harvest the bean, hull, sort, ship, sell, brew, mix, and sip! And you have to do it… Every. Single. Day.
Yeah, that sounded like a lot of work to me, too.
The idea that there were all of the extra feelings, emotions, and “maybes” was too overwhelming. This or that was a much more digestible way of thinking. Adding yellows and reds to my two-tone rainbow seemed far too complicated.
But a splash of color and neutrality was exactly what I needed…
And slowly, my old daily mantras: You’re fat and ugly. You’ll never be good enough became: You’re doing okay. Keep moving forward. You’re a good person.
Remember To Thank Your Body
One thing that really helped with this transition was learning how to appreciate and thank my body for everything that it does for me:
Without these arms, I couldn’t hug my partner
Without these thighs, I couldn’t walk for miles in the sunshine
Without this stomach, I couldn’t digest pizza
Without these hips, I couldn’t… well, you know 😉
How can I really hate something that makes it possible for me exist?
Judging our actions, belittling our struggles, and shaming our bodies is like pedaling backwards on a bicycle. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and it doesn’t get us anywhere.
But with a few kind words at a time, we can start heading in a new direction, with a new outlook on what these bodies were really made for: living.
Until next time,
Have you been having a difficult time transitioning away from body hate? If this post resonated with you, please feel welcomed and safe to share your thoughts below.