This is a form of self-love where you adopt a neutral mindset and make peace with your body. You neither loathe its shape, weight and size, nor do you pressure yourself into loving it. In short, you learn to respect your body and be happy.
The realisation that your body allows you to do things you love and move about the way you desire is what body neutrality (BN) is all about. “Obsession with body size is a waste. To feel grateful about what you are blessed with frees you from the pressures of looking good as per societal norms,” says Dr Kavitha Fenn Arunkumar, consultant psychiatrist at Hannah Joseph Hospital in Madurai.
BN was born after body shaming became passé, even as the body positivity movement began focussing on body image. Blog posts popped up in 2015, and in 2016, Anne Poirier of Colby-Sawyer College-led BN programs at the Vermont wellness retreat emphasised that the body is like a vehicle that needs to be treated with care — people should not be overly concerned about how much it weighs and looks.
Dr Arunkumar feels BN is gaining popularity because the focus is on the happiness quotient and mental well-being of individuals and not just weight loss. However, she warns against ignoring any health issue related to obesity. “If you are able to perform daily activities like bending to tie your shoe laces or climbing up stairs without running short of breath, feel grateful,” she adds.
The outward appearance is less important than what your body is capable of doing, says Mumbai-based dietician Sheryl Salis. She says a plus-size body also deserves inclusivity and people have the right to celebrate their bodies. But they should also make the right choices for a sustainable lifestyle, she adds.
The BN movement got a big push when American singer Taylor Swift and British actress Jameela Jamil fought gender stereotypes over bodies through an Instagram campaign ‘I Weigh’. The campaign asked women not to focus on or feel ashamed of their body weight. ‘I care what I think and not how I look’ made millions of women post selfies and write things they valued about themselves.
BN initiates into multiple things, says actor Mandira Bedi, who at 47 has redefined fitness goals with her workouts. “I enjoy being active because it makes me body confident,” she says. Instead of ruing about the fat on your thighs, appreciate that your legs have the balance, she adds. Mandira says she always says a prayer in gratitude for her body that works non-stop. “I am thankful that it lets me exercise and tells me when to rest. It responds well to my chosen regimen, eating patterns and has the kind of energy I require. That in a nutshell is being body neutral,” she believes.
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