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Practicing Self Love During the Holiday Season

By: Shellsea Lomeli

There are so many things about the holiday season that I absolutely love. Late-night drives while blasting my favorite Christmas songs, driving through the neighborhoods that deck their houses out in holiday lights, wearing matching pajamas with my family, and more. I love the feeling of joy, family, and friendship. However, holidays can also have some downsides. For me, this time of year tends to evoke feels of guilt in situations such as straying away from a diet, not being able to afford a certain gift for a certain friend, and not spending enough time with family. 

During situations like these, we can often start to feel bad and blame ourselves when, in reality, we should be practicing self-love instead. The holidays are all about spreading love and joy but sometimes we forget that we need to try and give those feelings ourselves too, not just our loved ones. 

In hopes of alleviating some of the guilt that the holidays can bring, I’ve written out a few reminders for myself and for anyone who needs it. 

1. Allow Yourself to Recharge

If you’re like me, the holiday season means having a million things to do with a limited time to do them. From holiday gift shopping to getting together with loved ones (covid-safe, of course), I always feel my energy running out during this time of the year. When my social battery – or just energy in general – runs out, I often find myself feeling bad for not dedicating enough time to my family and friends. Or for not completing the list of things I set out to accomplish that day. We often expect too much from ourselves which is why it is so important to take time for yourself. Taking care of yourself is NOTHING to feel guilty about. 

Some of my favorite ways to destress are painting, going on a solo car ride while blasting my favorite music, or watching a sappy movie on Netflix, and maybe even shedding a tear or two. 

2. Money Doesn’t Equal Love

As a college student, money is often tight. A part-time job that pays $13 an hour doesn’t necessarily allow for buying your friends the glamorous gifts you wish you could. And that’s okay! Expensive gifts are not the only way to show someone that you care about them even though our capitalist society likes to say otherwise. 

Try not to stress about money this holiday season. Your mental health will thank you. Instead of focusing on the price tag, focus on the meaning of the gift you’re gifting. Personally, my favorite type of present is something that is personal and thoughtful. I’d like to believe a lot of other people feel the same. 

I recommend checking out customizable sites like Shutterfly or VistaPrint. If you’re trying to support small businesses, check out Etsy which has a lot of personalized gifts to choose from. Last Christmas, I used Shutterfly to make a customized calendar for one of my best friends. Each month had a different theme and was decorated with pictures of our friends, inside jokes, her favorite music artists, and more. I had so much fun making it and she loved it. This gift brought so much joy to both of us and it costed almost nothing.

3. Enjoy the Holiday Food 

As someone who’s experienced body image issues for quite some time, this particular piece of advice is probably the hardest for me to execute. Holiday food is my favorite, especially during Thanksgiving, but I’ve often found myself either limiting what I eat or feeling incredibly guilty after a holiday meal. As much as we are told otherwise by a society that often values “skinny” over “fat”, eating IS self-care. Food fuels our bodies, our minds, and even provides pleasure. It’s a good thing, even if the meal you’re eating is characterized as “unhealthy”. So if you’re considering getting a second helping of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner and the only thing that is holding you back are the calories or grams of sugar of the food, eat the pie. Make your tastebuds happy. It’s okay! 

While you’re sending love to your friends and family this holiday season, remember to send love to yourself too. You are worthy of it. 

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A Brief Discussion on the Neglect of Mental Health Education in Schools

By: Shellsea Lomeli

The importance of physical health has been drilled into us since we were children. From being forced to run laps in elementary school P.E. classes to sitting through a lecture about STDs in the eighth grade, schools have prioritized the promotion of a physically “healthy” lifestyle for students. Based on my personal experiences in public school, the same agenda was not given to another vital component of students’ health : mental wellbeing. 

The point of this article is not to depict physical education and health as being unimportant. Clearly, keeping your body strong and well should be a priority. Having physical education classes throughout grade school is, in theory, a good thing. However, P.E. classes should not be the extent to which health is discussed with students. Nor should they be operated in a way that puts young people at risk of developing body image issues that can become detrimental to one’s mental health.

While the concept of mental health encompasses a lot of different things, I want to specifically discuss the way in which physical health is prioritized in school can be detrimental to mental and emotional wellness. My experience with P.E. in middle school was surrounded with numbers and measurements of my body and it’s ability. How long did it take you to run the mile? How much do you weigh? What is your BMI? These were all measurements of ourselves that we were forced to expose in a very public setting where anyone in class could see and use to compare bodies and abilities with one another. 

For many, the days students had to weigh themselves and record it was just another Tuesday. But for people like myself who have struggled with body image issues for years, stepping on a scale while an entire line of classmates watched and waited, was absolute hell. If schools still want to collect students’ Body Mass Index (BMI) scores for surveillance and screening purposes, although there is great controversy on whether this measurement accurately measures physical health, this collection must be done in a better way. There should be a way that promotes privacy and decreases the likelihood of young people becoming at risk of developing weight related mental illnesses such as eating disorders. 

Making changes to how physical education is conducted in schools is just the beginning of promoting mental health among students. If mental health is just as important as physical health, which I argue it is, then shouldn’t there also be some sort of educational platform that is geared towards mental health education in particular? In the same way that we are taught how to take care of our bodies through eating well and exercising, students should be taught how to take care of their minds. 

In my twenty-one years of life, I have learned so much about how to lose weight and strengthen my muscles but I still struggle on figuring what to do to maintain or improve my mental health. Searching up a ten minute abs video on youtube is something I do without a second thought yet watching a meditation video seems almost taboo to me. While I cannot blame the entirety of this issue on my grade school education, I strongly believe that my hesitation to discover ways to better my mental and emotional wellbeing stem from not being introduced to these essential activities in my youth. 

Obviously, it has been years since I have taken a grade school P.E. class so I cannot attest to how schools approach mental health education now. I hope educators are beginning to realize the importance of familiarizing students with taking care of all parts of themselves, not just their physical being. I hope improving mental wellbeing becomes something that is easy and less stigmatized for this new generation. Finally, when we were not exposed to it at a younger age, I hope that my own peers are beginning to realize the importance of taking care of your mind just as I am. 

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An Identity Crisis With My Name

By: Ritobrita Mishra

I don’t remember when I first started to hate my name. When I started to hate the syllables, the sounds, and the look of it on paper. I don’t remember when my name became my enemy and when I permitted it to become so. When I allowed the first inherent part of my identity to slowly become something that I despised about myself. 

I remember vividly the day, at the tender age of four, when I first asked my mother what my name meant. This was after grasping the concept that a name is how one addresses another person. How it’s our first way of glimpsing one’s identity and individuality. I remember hearing her excitement in telling me my name and the meaning behind it. Ritobrita, a name that means encompassing the truth and being honest with one’s self. A name that holds different meanings at the roots and was given to me with love and adoration. A name that when I first heard was associated with my identity and individuality, stirred a combination of emotions inside me- content, delight, and excitement. 

I felt the beauty of my name for a short while before it became something else entirely to me. I felt my name was something that I could proudly showcase as it made me feel stronger and more connected to my heritage and culture. I felt there was a power to my name as it made me feel unique and otherworldly, both feelings that I would soon try to eradicate in the near future. Rather than embracing the core part of my identity in the coming years, I would soon find myself wanting to distance myself as much as possible from the name my mom so loved. The emotions of contentment and elation that were synonymous with hearing my name as well as the strength I found in displaying my name would soon vanish. Slowly becoming a part of me that I vehemently despised. 

When school became a part of my daily life, conforming became a lifeline that I clung to. My name was otherworldly and alien. Hearing my fellow peers and teachers try to pronounce the correct phonetic sounds created a barrier for me to be wholly accepted and belong. Thus introducing myself became a nightmare that I had to relive every single time as it was a reminder that I was different and separate. My relationship with the sounds and meaning of what my name meant became lost to me. I abhorred the uniqueness of the sounds and letters and I dismissed how the name was tied to my heritage. The times I was asked for a shorter version of my name or when my friends and teachers would instantly decide to call me a shorter version of my name, essentially manipulating it to suit their needs without my permission, became a daily occurrence. Yet I permitted their arrogance and laziness when it came to my name because I viewed it as acceptance. A chance for me to fit into a mold that I had no business ever conforming to. 

Names are powerful as it is the first introduction to one’s sense of self and identity. My yearning to assimilate drove me to allow people to dismiss my name. Allowing people to shorten my name or mispronounce it was a form of oppression I was allowing to inflict on myself that I never considered. Allowing myself to feel that my name itself was an inconvenience to the person I was introducing myself to was detrimental to my own sense of identity.  I felt that my name in and of itself was an inconvenience to those who knew me or wanted to know me. Yet the realization that I am not to blame for one’s inability to pronounce all the phonetic sounds associated with my name took me years to understand. The identity crisis that I fell into stemmed from not belonging as I let the fact that my name was “hard to pronounce” cloud my perspective and become the fundamental factor in why I should be ashamed of the name my mom gave me. 

In reclaiming my name, my identity took a lot of time but through a revelation of the amount of self depreciation I inflicted on myself, I’ve realized that the stress and anxiety was my own doing and that my name is what makes me who I am. Introducing myself is still a hassle but I don’t allow myself to feel embarrassed and to shy away from making it clear that one needs to pronounce my name fully and cannot shorten it for the sake of convenience. My identity starts with my name and it has taken me years to reclaim it, but embracing it openly has made me feel again the emotions that I first felt in hearing my name- content, delight, and excitement, as well as confidence in my identity that I was never allowed to feel growing up. 

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On Being Honest About Being Fat

By: Simar Dhaliwal

Right before I started high school, my family and I moved from India to America. The first thing I noticed when I walked on to the concrete that would support my footsteps for the next four years was how much everyone resembled barbies. With their straight hair, straight bodies, and defined thigh gaps, I felt shame and fear and insecurity because I looked so different. The second thing I remember doing is bursting into tears and frantically texting my older sister to regain some semblance of control over myself. I had never experienced feeling so uncomfortable before and it didn’t take me long to understand why. I hated my body, and I despised it so much that I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror because all I saw was inadequacy. I remember feeling very anxious about walking in front of people, and this included being called on in class, getting something from the front of the class and going to the bathroom. I had severe anxiety about being late to class because it meant walking in and having people look at you. I unconsciously began the habit of hunching to avoid attention and crossing my arms over my stomach in hopes that it would hold me together. My only goal before starting high school had been to achieve straight A’s, but here I found myself in class unable to move, let alone focus on anything apart from the way I looked. 

I sought acceptance and peace from the internet, and instead, I received the message that my feelings were expected because I was not good enough as I looked but I could be good enough if I changed how I looked. I read articles and articles on ways to lose weight, to be healthier, to look your best, to decrease the amount of food consumed, to hide body fat, what to avoid when trying to lose weight, ten exercises that guarantee weight loss, and so on. 

My mother began to monitor my meals closely but my family never realized the full extent of my starvation. My parents tried to tell me that I didn’t need to lose so much weight, that they didn’t see anything wrong with me, but my eyes would roll over before they could finish a sentence and my legs would start walking away faster than they could say, “you’re beautiful just the way you are.” They noticed that I ate little, that I could list the calories in any item off the top of my head, that I was exercising frequently, but they didn’t know it all. They had no way of knowing that I would frantically chew gum whenever my stomach refused to stop growling, hoping against hope that my body would be tricked by the chewing into believing it was full. They didn’t know that I exercised off every single calorie that I consumed, that I overestimated the calories to fool myself into consuming less and exercising more. They didn’t see me at night, feeling my stomach, relishing in its flatness and reveling in the noise it made. They didn’t see me measuring my thighs with tape or marking the points on my body that I wanted to erase.

At school, I was terrified of someone seeing me eat and judging me or even worse, whispering to their friends about how I didn’t need more food. Looking back now, I know that I was projecting my thoughts onto others and that the possibility of these words being said was small. But at that time, paranoia and anxiety were my best friends because they helped indulge my disordered eating. I wish that even if people had noticed and judged me, I could have had the strength to choose my health over their fatphobia. 

Compliments, instead of bringing me validation, brought me close to tears. I wanted to believe them so much, but I could not see how anyone could honestly compliment the way I looked. What I did believe was that I was receiving this attention because of my lifestyle and I knew that I could never stop because finally, I was desirable. It didn’t matter that my eyes would be on the floor in front of mirrors, or that I heard the sound of my stomach growling more than I heard the sound of my laughter, or that I felt dizzy sometimes. I didn’t think that I had a problem, that starving myself to the point of consuming less than 500 calories a day was an issue. I looked at it as a lifestyle, a path that I had chosen. A path that got me results, made me look good to others, and feel worthwhile when it was noticed by other people. How was I supposed to find the words “Anorexia Nervosa” and “Body Dysmorphia” amidst so many articles filled with why I wasn’t good enough, or how I could change myself?

It took me years to stop the vicious cycle of starving my body and counting calories, and even longer to stop feeling guilt and shame around food. Once I was able to eat the way I truly wanted and needed to, I gained back all the weight and then some. For years, my sisters and my best friend had told me to embrace myself. But it wasn’t their words that helped me heal. It was the body positive models, and fat models, and body neutrality models who helped me face my fears. If these people had never taken the step towards talking about their experiences, and their journeys, and if they hadn’t dared to pursue their dreams in a world that actively works against fat people, then I probably would never have seen what I could become. This is why representation is so important. Them refusing to put limits on who they could be because of their bodies showed me how I didn’t need to either. It wasn’t as instantaneous as it sounds, but the work it took to unlearn everything I thought was right was worth it. Ironically, I used to be horrifyingly paranoid that someone would see me following a fat person on Instagram and assume I did so because I was fat, and now those very models are the reason why I feel so deeply and completely whole in any size.

However, despite making so many steps in the right direction, I was still struggling. I had forced myself to conform to society’s standards of beauty by making them my own, reveled in my success, only to realize my mistake and work my way back to health. But still, what other people thought of me mattered to me more than my need to take care of myself. And yet, how could I have thought any differently when the people around me made sure to express their discomfort with my weight. 

One summer in high school, we went to India for two months. While visiting my aunt and cousin, along with being put on a diet, I was forced to go to the “best” dermatologist in the area for my offensive acne. The last time my cousin and aunt had seen me was amid the eating disorder and so the contrast between what they approved of and what I looked like now was enormous. I had had acne then too, but it had spread as it does as you grow into your teens. My cousin accompanied me to the appointment because she knew the dermatologist and spoke highly of him. This esteemed dermatologist weighed me, a highly humiliating experience in front of my fatphobic, diet encouraging, disordered eating cousin, and turned to her and told her to make me sweep and mop the floors every day because by doing so I would lose weight and my acne would disappear. If this respected dermatologist had bothered to have a proper, confidential appointment with me, he would have learned about how bad my sleep quality was, how I knew nothing about skincare, and how much stress I was dealing with to succeed academically where I hadn’t before. Acne is frequently caused by stress and hormonal imbalances, and therefore these questions should be imperative in skin evaluations. But, he only saw my weight. 

The year after that, while playing soccer with my family, my uncle, though on my team, kept up a steady stream of insults about my width, comparing me to a panda, until I was blocking goals blindly because of the tears in my eyes. Another year, one of my friends remarked that I shouldn’t attempt sitting on a bench lest it breaks from my weight. Last year, my boss’s receptionist commended how much weight I had lost from the last time she had seen me. I was shocked at the unprofessionalism and frankly, the audacity. I had lost weight because of depression, and for something born out of hopelessness and despair, to be complimented so proudly was almost too much to bear. These happenings, and so many others, reinforced to me again and again that my insecurities were real, that no matter where I was, no matter who I was as a person, no matter how hard I worked- the way my body looked was what mattered the most and I could never exist in peace as I was. 

All through the last few years, I have been constantly shamed for the way I looked. On social media, I presented the image of happiness, and in turn received validation, but in reality, it took everything in me to never show how destroyed I was by these taunts. I felt that I would emotionally burst at the seams at any moment, and as weird as it sounds- I was amazed at how much internal pain my body could endure. Many people know me to be outspoken but when it came to being bullied about how I looked, I had no voice. I was too emotionally battered to fight for the space that I took up in this world, and mostly I was afraid that if I showed them how much it affected me, I would have to defend why having fat on my body was okay. 

The problem is that fatphobia lives in all of us. My mom is my biggest inspiration for everything. She has taught me what it means to be confident and strong and loving. And yet, she is fatphobic. There have been countless times over the past few years when she has told me not to wear something because I “look fat in it”, or how I shouldn’t wear that because I have thick thighs. And yet, she is my strongest support system. Culturally and societally, what she says is both acceptable and expected. Despite the trauma that fatphobia has inflicted on me and so many others, I don’t believe that being fatphobic or acting on it inherently makes you a bad person. It’s just a belief that’s been fed to us repeatedly from nearly every avenue. It is so very important to look into your beliefs about being fat. It is so important to examine how you talk about fat, whether it be the fat on your body or someone else’s. For years I was scared that my fatphobia might have affected the way my younger sister thought about her body, and I was agonized by the realization that she might react the same way I had. Telling my story means laying my trauma and shame on the table for all to see, to show just one person that maybe their thoughts are leading them down a dark and unhealthy path, maybe their beliefs are born out of a toxic, ableist and fatphobic system, and maybe their actions cause deep-rooted trauma and pain. 

It was only after I recovered from the eating disorder that I realized just how much time, energy, and most of all, space it had taken up inside of me. After recovery, my fatphobic beliefs became crystal clear to me, as did the lens through which I had been peering at society. I realized how common fatphobia is, and how much trauma and bias almost every person carries with them. I realized how the idea of being fat is just another way for us to be distracted from what matters to each of us. For me, it meant not knowing who I was at my core. The core of who we are has nothing to do with the body we’re in and everything to do with how we use our minds. But if our minds are so focused on the idea of a body, on fitting a mold that doesn’t fit everyone, then we aren’t focusing on the important things that benefit us. Fatphobia is, directly and indirectly, to blame for people feeling insecure in who they are, and projecting those insecurities onto others, simply because the body they inhabit doesn’t fit a fake mold we’ve created. We don’t have access to our true selves when we’re obsessed with an idea of who we are supposed to be. Being thin does not equate to being healthy the same way that being fat does not either. Fat is not an insult, and nor is it a feeling (bloated is). It hurt me when taunted because of the cruelty and the connotations, but it is a body type just like any other. What your organs are doing inside of that is the business of the person whose body it is.

I don’t think this would be complete without acknowledging the privilege I have. I have privilege because I have not experienced the shaming and public ridicule that people who are fatter than me experience every single day. Along with that, I have not experienced the exclusion that they experience. Whether it be in ballet, or on planes, or in doctors’ offices. Whether it be in the line for food, or while exercising at the gym, or when being denied jobs because of the way you look. It may be while walking their pets, or at school, or enjoying in a pool. These are everyday occurrences for fat people, and my goal is for people who are impacted the most by these systems of oppression to be the center of advocacy. Especially plus size black women who are so often excluded from platforms of advocacy. It would not be fair of me to talk so much about my experiences without acknowledging this. 

This article is written in hopes that everyone’s existence can be respected equally. I have privilege as a cis-gendered woman because I am allowed the space to express my feelings without repercussions, but also because it is acceptable for a woman to be insecure about and obsessed with her weight. But it is not seen as “masculine” in today’s society for men to admit to that they are struggling or that they are insecure. Boys and men have eating disorders, they have insecurities, and they are frequently ridiculed for not looking a certain way. They are objectified when they fit society’s standards of beauty, and loudly rejected when they don’t. LGBTQIA+ people are marginalized on levels that straight, cis-gendered people are not and never will be, and when they are fat in today’s world, the consequences are usually direr. 

While people who are thin experience occasional shame for being skinny, they are not marginalized in society because of it. A doctor might encourage them to eat more and put them on a diet but the care and coverage they need will rarely be overlooked because of the way they look. They will rarely be denied jobs, or be shamed for lounging by a pool, or denied love because of their size. Their accomplishments will not be doubted, nor will their identity be whittled down to the way they look. Fat people’s very existence offends people. All pain is valid but some experiences are endured on a much wider, systemic scale. 

When I realized how powerful I was in any shape, it changed the way I viewed everything, but especially the way I carried myself. Confidence and self-worth are not size exclusive. Ultimately, you should be whatever size your body is. I wrote this article because I wish I had stumbled upon one like it before I forced my body into starvation. I wrote it for the people who instead of receiving water (from the internet, from friends, from family) to quench their thirst for acceptance, found poison disguised as nectar. This topic is so complicated, so entangled with opinions and stories and reasons that it felt almost impossible to articulate into words why your size should not make you any less worthy or any more worthy. All I know and believe is that separating your self worth from your weight, and adding self-love and confidence to whatever size you may be, can make this world less complicated, and so much more inclusive. Your body loves you and that is enough. 

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Body Neutrality: Separation of Body and Worth

By: Sai Siddhaye

I, like many others, grew up within the culture of body positivity, yet also in the wake of a society that is deeply discriminatory. Some told us to love ourselves and our bodies, to accept that we were beautiful despite our flaws–and yet body negativity did not disappear. The subtle (and not so subtle) critiques of others’ bodies were veiled under “good intentions”, but their impact was no more positive. Though body positivity means well in theory, it is not quite effective when it comes to tackling the internalized and unfathomably long legacy of fatphobia, racism, transphobia, and ableism. A contemporary offshoot of body positivity, coined ‘body neutrality’, has been attempting to reframe the tenets of body positivity, and decenter attractiveness from the discourse about body inclusivity. Though this movement may not yet be able to fully decolonize how bodies are discussed in our culture, it is taking the important stance that inclusivity is about giving every body the same value, care, and visibility, regardless of whether or not it is beautiful or attractive.

The Body Positivity movement began around the 1960s, though similar sentiments have cropped up throughout history. It began primarily as a movement for fat acceptance, and over its multiple waves has expanded to promote acceptance of different sizes, features, and skin colors. Its primary goal is preaching the idea that people of all different appearances can be beautiful, and has made waves in improving the self-acceptance and general psychological health of people who it has influenced; its main goal is inarguably beneficial. However, many people have voiced their dissatisfaction with its scope. Placing emphasis on embodying beauty in order to feel self-worth reinforces the standard of beauty that is valued in our heteropatriarchal culture, and increases the value of beauty within our society. As such, using the values of body positivity in daily life can quickly turn into toxic positivity, which invalidates any negative affect and encourages people to veil their normal emotional fluidity with unwavering positivity. Body positivity can put pressure on us to feel beautiful regardless of what we look like, but this is hard for most people to truly internalize. Trying to ignore a fluctuating self-image in order to feel beautiful all the time can stop us from processing what we are feeling about ourselves, and from analyzing where these thoughts stem from or talking about them. Body positivity encourages accepting one’s own flaws, but doesn’t analyze the history of how these characteristics came to be labeled ‘flaws’ in the first place. 

As someone who has survived body dysmorphia and body image issues for several years, it has been very difficult for me to embrace body positivity, despite my best efforts. Trying to feel beautiful while my mind was filled with disgust at my own body was not feasible for me, nor was it a healthy way to try to repair my self-esteem. I felt that unless I was able to feel beautiful, I would not be worthy of love, from myself or others. My fixation on beauty as a gateway to acceptance was holding me back from caring for myself and healing. This certainly isn’t an indictment of body positivity, but rather an example of its limitations; I have many privileges and am certainly not one of the most marginalized in our society, and yet the scope of body positivity was not able to repair my unhealthy relationship with my body. Unless this school of thought can adequately benefit the most vulnerable in a community, namely fat people, trans people, disabled people, and BIPOC, it is not a viable solution for the intense body shame ingrained in our culture.

Though the idea of body neutrality is not directly confronting the root of conventional beauty standards either, it nonetheless separates itself from the patriarchal notion that being attractive gives a person more value. Subverting the power that beauty holds in our culture also means rejecting the influence of the power structures that emphasize a certain kind of beauty. Body neutrality has the same goal as body positivity: self-acceptance regardless of what your body looks like. However, its approach prioritizes the undisputable and objective value and functionality of each body over its appearance. In a body neutral approach, people do not have to feel beautiful in order to treat their bodies with love and care, nor should they emphasize other people’s beauty over their inherent value. 

I should make it clear, however, that valuing your body regardless of your appearance does not mean anti-change. A side effect of putting less importance on appearance should be that bodily changes, whether it be weight loss/gain or gender confirmation surgery, are destigmatized, but still legitimized. Prioritizing people’s physical and mental health, no matter what that entails–as well as divorcing health from appearance (read: thinness ≄ health)–should be one goal of body neutrality. However, a  critique of body neutrality is that moving focus away from attractiveness and onto health and functionality makes this movement inclined to ableism. Focusing on what a body can do instead of what it looks like is hugely detrimental to the disabled community, as it still places value on physical ability and productivity, which is not an inherent quality that all bodies possess. In order for the goals of body neutrality to be achieved, they also must be sure to put value in human bodies regardless of what they are physically capable of, or they will further marginalize disabled people.

Rejecting a connection between value and beauty also goes beyond combating fatphobia, and should also combat racism. Whether this means transgressing Eurocentric standards of beauty, combating fetishization, or addressing how “pretty privilege” is yet another function of white supremacy, body neutrality and anti-racism should go hand in hand. Decentering attractiveness and appearance from discourse about bodies benefits everyone, and requires systemic changes–such as preventing racial bias in medicine and dismantling the prison industrial complex– along with cultural changes. True body neutrality can’t be achieved without dismantling power structures like white supremacy or cissexism. 

The tenets of body neutrality have helped me finally understand that treating myself with love, care, and respect is possible even when I don’t like what my body looks like. Though this may come naturally to many people, my experience with mental illness has forced me to relearn how to care for myself, and refusing to place value in physical beauty has made this process much easier. The subversive nature of body neutrality may be hard to fully internalize, as that requires unlearning most of the cultural norms that we have been indoctrinated with, but it may have the potential to help repair the fraught relationships that many of us may have with our bodies.