Health & Wellbeing

New Year, Same Me: Neutrality vs Positivity (Part Three)

Probably the final instalment (though who the heck knows) of this series.

Positive or Neutral?

Body positivity is a somewhat outdated buzzword these days. It stipulates that loving yourself is hugely important, and an aspect of this looks like feeling positively towards your body. Obviously that’s not the whole picture – we are so much more than our meat sacks – but my series so far has focused on how we perceive and relate to our bodies. Parts one and two are available here.

Body neutrality has gained a lot more traction as of late – and that is as it sounds: striving to view your body neutrally, admiring its utility over its beauty. From where I sit, it doesn’t have to be an either or. I haven’t completely done away with the positivity label yet, but I recognise that it has been pounced on by the wellness industry and cheapened through marketing and money-making media pursuits.

For getting me started on this exploration of-sorts, I have my ex to thank. She was radically anti-diet, pro-fat liberation and was my first proper exposure to these ideas in a way that made sense to me. I still have plenty more exploring to do, but I am grateful that she helped me begin to expel some harmful views about myself and others that I had been holding onto for a long time.

Diet Culture

For starters – science has proven time and time again that diets don’t work:

You can initially lose 5 to 10 percent of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back. We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more. Sustained weight loss was found only in a small minority of participants, while complete weight regain was found in the majority. Diets do not lead to sustained weight loss or health benefits for the majority of people.”

– Traci Mann, UCLA associate professor and lead author of American Psychologist study “Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer.” [emphasis my own]

The full study is available below for those affiliated with universities D:
Mann, T., Tomiyama, A. J., Westling, E., Lew, A.-M., Samuels, B., & Chatman, J. (2007).  The American Psychologist62(3), 220–233.

If you are that way inclined, and like me, lack access to academic research articles (rip my former uni student privileges), this is a comprehensive, well-researched read with open access: “Why do dieters regain weight?

We’ve been dieting for yonks. Haven’t we learned by now? Unfortunately, societally we’re still feeling the pressure and looking for quick, straight-forward ways to drop a dress size or two. According to Mann, “Eating in moderation is a good idea for everybody, and so is regular exercise.” While not the point of this post, and probably nothing new, it’s good to reiterate. She’s also written a research article called ‘Low calorie dieting increases cortisol‘. While I can only access the abstract, is kind of terrifying:

“Restricting calories increased the total output of cortisol, and monitoring calories increased perceived stress. Dieting may be deleterious to psychological well-being and biological functioning…”

No thanks. But also, that makes total sense. My anecdotal experiences, however unscientific in isolation, resonate with that spike in stress. Anytime I’ve ever tried to manipulate my weight, restrict my dietary intake, I have been anxious and stressed. It’s never a fun experience by any means.

Body Neutral Gnome is rocking it, he just needs to do away with the tape measure…
-Photo by Karen Lau00e5rk Boshoff on

Concluding Whakaaro

Circling back, my hope for myself and others is to…

  • appreciate our bodies for what they can do (and not to chastise them for what they can’t do)
  • eliminate, or at least mitigate focusing on weight loss as a health goal (that shit drives so many of us insane, and for what?)
  • harbour good feelings towards ourselves when and where possible
  • neutralise ‘body talk’: i.e. ability and functionality-focused, rather than lamenting what our body isn’t

Thanks y’all, I hope you have a blissful Wednesday, or at least one where you don’t frazzled and dishevelled all of your waking hours. Whatever your thoughts, feel free to drop a comment below – I’d love to start a dialogue. Hei konā x


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