A MID­DLE GROUND

Body pos­i­tiv­ity feel­ing a long way off? Slip into neu­tral

Women's Health (UK) - - CONTENTS - words EMILY REYNOLDS

Ev­ery step, no mat­ter how slow, is progress,’ reads one. ‘I want to feel at ease and ac­cept how I look,’ reads an­other. They are rea­son­able, achiev­able, sen­si­ble state­ments. And that’s pre­cisely the point. The lan­guage of lov­ing your body is chang­ing. Amid the roar of pos­i­tiv­ity – the ac­tivists, the panel talks, the memes – a more sub­dued but no-less pow­er­ful phe­nom­e­non is push­ing for­ward. It’s the un­der­stand­ing that not ev­ery­one can eas­ily achieve out and proud, shout-it-from-the-rooftops love for their body; that some­times even tol­er­ance is a bat­tle. This is the premise of body neu­tral­ity, a credo that pri­ori­tises base­line ac­cep­tance. To un­der­stand how we got here, it’s help­ful to know where we’ve come from. The term ‘body pos­i­tiv­ity’ is thought to have been coined in the 1990s by fem­i­nist ac­tivists Con­nie Sobczak and Deb Bur­gard. It gained trac­tion on­line, where a vo­cal com­mu­nity be­gan to use dig­i­tal plat­forms to share thoughts, feel­ings, hopes and anx­i­eties about their bod­ies. Only, for some, the idea of lov­ing, hell, even lik­ing your body, was set­ting the bar a lit­tle too high. In re­cent years, body neu­tral­ity has emerged as an al­ter­na­tive for those who needed it the most – those whose self-con­fi­dence was at its low­est ebb. Its pro­po­nents ar­gue that the em­pha­sis the body-pos­i­tive move­ment placed on feel­ing good all the time and the con­tin­ued fo­cus on the body was ac­tu­ally breed­ing neg­a­tive thoughts and poor body im­age – the op­po­site of its in­tended out­come. Now, the no­tion of neu­tral is gain­ing ground fast. Vo­cal ad­vo­cates such as TV pre­sen­ter Jameela Jamil are en­cour­ag­ing con­ver­sa­tion around the topic and the In­sta­gram hash­tag boasts 3,000 posts and count­ing.

CAST­ING DOUBTS

‘It’s about ac­cept­ing your body de­spite any per­ceived im­per­fec­tions,’ ex­plains Dr Bry­ony Bam­ford, clin­i­cal di­rec­tor at the Lon­don Cen­tre for Eat­ing Dis­or­ders and Body Im­age. ‘In do­ing so, you stop al­low­ing those per­cep­tions to im­pact on your emo­tions or day-to-day life the way they do for those who have par­tic­u­larly poor body im­age. For th­ese women, the jump from dis­lik­ing or even hat­ing their bod­ies to lov­ing them is a vast one.’ That un­re­al­is­tic leap is an idea that even the most vo­cal in the body-pos­i­tive move­ment ac­knowl­edge.

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