First off, I LOVE me some Lizzo. I’m a fan and I’ve watched her reality show called, “Watch out for the big gurls” and literally wept tears of joy for her affirmation of diverse and bigger (fat) bodies. I love how unapologetic she is and how she emphasizes physical strength and ability instead of having to conform to our cultures obsession with thinness. She is refreshing and inspires body liberation.

And, lately she has been losing weight with intention also know as intentional weight loss (IWL). She’s getting some criticism from this, obviously it feels out of alignment with her “body positive” messages she previously espoused. Because she is such a wildly successful and talented black woman, she is not immune to cultural pressures and stigma. If you follow her on social media, you will know she talks about how some people are obsessed with her appearance, making fat shaming comments. Lizzo has straight up said, “My body is nobody’s business.” 100%!

Also, she is on record saying that, “The idea of body positivity, it’s moved away from the antiquated mainstream conception,” she said. “It’s evolved into body neutrality.”

The article goes on to day, “Yet to hear her tell it, she is anything but neutral. “I’m not going to lie and say I love my body every day,” Lizzo said. “The bottom line is, the way you feel about your body changes every single day.”

I agree with her on this. Bodies change and how we feel about our bodies varies from day to day, season to season, month to month. It’s a myth that we “arrive” at some place and “always love our bodies.” We are human after all, and our moods as well as our bodies are moving targets subject to ongoing fluctuations. That’s the nature of bodies: to change.

Body positivity vs. Body Neutrality

Body positivity is about “loving your body” – which is a lofty idea. For some folks this might feel unattainable and even false. More recently, the body positive concept has been co-opted by thinner white women on social media who cannot relate to stigma and bias that is faced by folks in larger bodies. We are moving away from being “body positive” in this sense, although, if one wants to embrace this, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.We just want to be mindful of inclusivity in this area and to know that we don’t want to start and end with “body positivity.” We need to make “body image” healing bigger than ourselves.

What is Body Neutrality?

Instead of hating our bodies and acting in ways that aren’t nourishing and kind, we want to call a truce on our automatic patterns of negativity that lead to the inevitable shame spiral. This is where body neutrality can be helpful. In order to really heal our relationship with food and body, we need to become more conscious of our thoughts, that is, how we talk to ourselves about our bodies. We need to stop body bashing, body checking and using critical words to scrutinize the body. This can help move us out of a negative shame spiral and into a more neutral and possibly acceptant place. Instead of the automatic negative barrage, stop yourself and find a place of neutrality; neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ judgements here, just a sense of accepting what is, “This is my body here and now; it is what it is.”

Body Appreciation.

It can be hard to stop the negative thoughts, body bashing and body checking. It’s almost like it’s a default setting in our brains. It’s an automatic response. BUT, how are the negative thoughts helping to motivate you? Probably not very well. Nor does it help us to feel better in our bodies. Negativity breeds more negativity and keeps us trapped in the shame spiral. To interrupt this pattern, try to focus on body appreciation, body kindness and body respect. Even if you don’t like (love) how your body looks now, can you name something about your body that you are grateful for? Can you do something kind to your body today? Can you show your body a little respect by taking a walk, having a bath or getting a massage? Can you name one thing you are grateful for? How is your body keeping you alive today?

You don’t have to love your body to be kind to it.

The body positivity movement has been under attack because it feels like there is too much pressure to “Love your body.” Again, this is unattainable for many, and places the burden of healing solely on the individual. 

Healing body image is not necessarily about liking the image of your body. It’s not solely about changing the way you see or experience your body either. Nor is it about actually changing your body (although there is some nuance here). But the point is that it’s not just about your body. It is very much about turning towards and looking at the body loathing, shame, and oppression that have turned your body into a thing that needs to be fixed and changed.

How do we heal body image?

Make body image healing bigger than you.

Blame the culture, not your body.

We live in a culture that reinforces internalized dominance and oppression. These are belief systems you have inherited; they are not yours to continue to uphold if you choose. It’s time we all healed from these outdated systems.

Internalized dominance is the belief in a hierarchy that some bodies are better than others. It’s about power over another. It’s about the idea that fat bodies are less worthy of love, respect, food, access to healthcare, etc. The idea that the pursuit of thinness is the holy grail and that thin bodies are deemed more deserving of love, respect and inclusion. These assumptions are not true.

We want freedom for all bodies and we want inclusion for all bodies.

Aubrey Gordon, host of the Maintenance phase podcast, says, “It’s rallying cry, love your body, presumes that our greatest challenges are internal, a poisoned kind of thought about our own bodies. It can’t adapt to those of us who love our bodies, but whose bodies are rejected by those around us, used as grounds for ejecting us from employment, healthcare and other ares of our life. “

We want systemic change and less body blame. We cannot improve our body image without addressing the personal and systemic impact of anti-fat bias.

What institutions, drug companies, businesses, etc. profit off weight stigma? Can you name any?

We need to dismantle the systems that monetize weight stigma so that folks can feel safe to live in their bodies. If we continue to assert that some bodies are better than others, we will continue to cause harm by excluding those bodies (fat bodies) not deemed acceptable.

Body image should not just be about changing your thoughts and improving the way you feel about your body. It’s much bigger than that. Instead of calling it “body image work” – it really is about fat affirmation work. Although this notion may seem radical for some, it’s about inclusion for all bodies.

We must address both the conscious and unconscious anti-fat bias we have all inherited in this culture. People cannot recover sustainably without addressing the personal and systemic impact of weight stigma and anti-fat bias.

“Internalized oppression and body shame have to be named not merely as “thinking errors,” but as the very real experience of having a body that is subject to othering and pathologizing. Maybe this is why body image work has primary served only white, cis-gender women. And it hasn’t really served them well either.” From the authors of the book, Reclaiming Body Trust, by Hilary Kinavey and Dana Sturtevant.

Body image work should not exclusively place the burden of healing upon the individual alone. In order to really change the system, we must work in community. Our collective commitment to the inclusion of all bodies is where belonging and healing are created.

My invitation to you, is to check in with how you feel about reframing “body image work” to fat affirmation work. Changing how we feel about our bodies should not just be about the promotion of weight loss. This association does not include the totality of what it means to be a fully human. Furthermore, it upholds weight stigma which maintains a disconnected relationship to food and body.

If you aren’t comfortable with fat affirmation work, that’s okay, most people are not unless you are in a fat/larger body yourself, and or are actively working on body trust and Health at Every Size principles. Your ability to feel comfortable offering fat affirmation work will be enhanced by exploring and healing your own body story and process.

If you need help doing this essential work, reach out and  book a free call with me here

Much love, Karen Louise (your anti-diet nutrition therapist and body liberation coach since 2005)

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Karen Louise Scheuner, MA, RDN

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