5/100 — Some thoughts on 'body neutrality'

Lately, when I’m commuting and can’t be bothered with a paper book, I’ve been reading Laura Thomas’s  Just Eat It on my phone. Her exasperation with diet culture gives me life. Here’s an example:

You might be thinking, ‘uhhhh, I’m not on a diet’. And sure, you might not be going to Weight Watchers or Slimming World, but let’s talk about all the subtle ways we can be on a diet or attempting to control our eating. Maybe your plan was to ‘eat clean’, maybe challenge yourself to the Whole 30; just do what the bloggers do. It’s a lifestyle. It’s about balance. It’s a fucking diet.

I don’t like reading on my phone, so it’s slow going, but yesterday I reached the chapter on ‘body neutrality’. I’ve come across this concept before: body neutrality is body positivity’s less glamorous sibling. Instead of learning to treasure every curve and dimple, the goal is to simply be okay with the fact of having this body. It’s neither a good nor a bad thing – it just is.

According to the book, part of body neutrality is the ability to buy clothes for the body one has, rather than waiting for a slimmer time or even buying ‘goal clothes’ that don’t fit (‘yet’). Reading that reminded me that I haven’t bought any clothes in a while. When I stopped running last year due to injury, I still continued to eat like I was running, and my weight went up. Not dramatically, but there came a point when I didn’t fit into my jeans anymore. Knowing I would run again, I didn’t want to buy new clothes only for them to get too big a few months into training. And now it’s somehow April, and I haven’t bought new clothes since … I don’t even remember. But spring is in the air, my closet is almost entirely black, and some items just need replacing. So I went shopping today.

excuse the haphazardly tucked t-shirt, I would not walk around like this

excuse the haphazardly tucked t-shirt, I would not walk around like this

I don’t necessarily dislike my body; it’s more than I’m confused by it. I find it difficult to dress, mostly because my shape does not correspond with where my mind is on the gender spectrum, a discrepancy that gets worse when I gain weight. And of course I’m not immune to the general societal pressure to be ‘slim’.

I know that diet culture is bullshit. I’m annoyed to no end by talk about ‘guilt’ around food or the endless calculations about how we can ‘work off’ the food we’ve eaten that many of us do. I know I’ve never looked at another person (that I can remember) and had any negative feelings about their body. I don’t care what other people look like! That I should be held to a different standard than everybody else makes no sense. But here we are: there is a part of me that thinks that if I was thinner, or more athletic, I’d be a slightly better person. Not much; but a little more confident, and deserving of that confidence.

It is a weird feeling, and I did experience it in the changing room today. But I’m happy to say that my thinking is shifting from ‘I need a personal trainer’ to ‘I need a personal shopper’ (my actual thought is ‘I need Tan France’, but who doesn’t). I’m even happier to say I found clothes today that aren’t black, and I think they fit.

I’ve experienced true body neutrality before. It was in late 2017, around the time I ran my first half marathon. It was a hilly beast and I’d trained really hard to be able to do it. When I realised I’d lost quite a bit of weight, I found I didn’t care all that much. What I really cared about was the ease with which I could walk up stairs. How I was rarely ever out of breath. The energy I had. The way my thighs felt solid, substantial. I’m back to running again now not because I want to lose weight; I’m back at it because I want that feeling of being capable again. I want that confidence that makes me a slightly better person. It has nothing to do with the size of my body, and everything with what it can do.

Hello, my Thirties – on to new adventures

Happy New Year!

Today is the first day of my thirties. A brand new decade lies ahead.

Of course, marking a ‘new beginning’ on the first of January or a birthday is an arbitrary thing; I’m not much different today than I was yesterday, or a week ago. But the great thing about leading our own lives is that every moment we choose, be it a new year, week or morning, can be a new beginning, if we decide to see it that way.

I’ve been waiting for this birthday for a while. My twenties were … rough. A lot happened, including many good things, but overall I’m glad to take that decade and file it under ‘Memories’. I’m a very different person from who I was ten years ago, and I fully intend to take everything I’ve learned and do something with it.

One thing I mean in particular is my creative life. My early twenties in particular were largely defined by health problems and life events, and all my previous passions – writing, drawing, photography, design – all took a backseat. In the very far back. Different vehicle almost.

Over time, I have been able to slowly reintroduce these things into my life, but as it goes when you get to a certain age, impostor syndrome kicks in. Rather than doing things for fun, now there is a pressure to be good at those things, and when you haven’t worked on anything in years, it’s hard to just pick them back up again. Social media doesn’t help: if I share my stuff online it’ll give me great accountability, a reason to keep going with it. At the same time it makes me vulnerable to comparison and criticism. Which wins out?

When I wrote last week’s reading roundup, I was a little shocked by how rusty my writing felt. This blog is already a year old (my poor neglected child), and while I wrote and published more than in a long time in 2018, I know this can be improved.

My plan for 2019, as a start of the next chapter in my life, is to create more. This goes especially for writing, but my other interests as well. I still love books and want to read more, and more deeply, than I have in recent years. As awful as it sounds, I miss thinking. I miss engaging with what I consume and create. Writing papers on books used to be one of my favourite things to do, and there are already so many things, works and genres that I would love to explore more deeply, that might even make halfway interesting reading for whoever lands on this blog.

But at the same time, I miss play. It annoys me to think that I’m too old for something, that it’s unacceptable to be new to something at my age, and to be bad at it. Nobody is too old for anything (except maybe professional ballet, that’s not happening for me in this life). The world is an exciting place with many opportunities, so let’s keep trying new things!

My current new thing? Youtube.

2019 will be a year of changes for me (more on that soon), and I’ve long wanted to explore visual storytelling. What better reason to try my hand at vlogging? My video editing is … not great, but the fact that I can see that gives me hope for improvement, and so I want to push on. These are vulnerable times, exciting times, and if not now, then when?

This week, I was busy

Happy last day of September!

Where did this month go? I have no idea.

For me, September was a month of pretty intense emotional growth (ooohhh) that I can’t write about because I don’t know how (aaaww), lots and lots of drawing, a return to my love of reading, all the planning, and of course work.

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Mood-wise I’ve been doing very well (intense emotional growth will do that to you, apparently), which is why it was such a big surprise when, last Tuesday, I got up from my office chair and nearly toppled over. Maybe it was a blood sugar thing, because a slice of lemon drizzle cake (or my belief in the cake) seemed to sort it out, but since that day I’ve been feeling … off. Slightly wobbly in mind and body.

I thought that I was taking care of myself, but looking back, it seems I have been pursuing self care with the kind of gritted-teeth determination I have been applying to everything else recently: getting up early for yoga classes twice a week, running in the morning three times a week, meditation on the daily to do lists I’ve started writing. I’m not about to change a single aspect of all these things, because they do make me happy, but I have to find a way to un-grit my teeth. (Literally. My jaw hurts.) Going forward, there will be more reading time. More writing time. Shorter to do lists.

One of my weaknesses is productivity videos on Youtube (how did we ever get anything done before other people started ~inspiring~ us to do them?), and I often hear from these people how they (apparently) fill their every second with something improving. Got a free minute? Read a business book. Hands busy, mind unbusy? Listen to an self improvement podcast.

I came across this song by Tom Rosenthal earlier in the week:

It gave me a sense of vindication, because I have often thought that, especially living in a large city, it is an absolute pain in the backside to get people to free up their time. There are friends I don’t see for months if we don’t do the same group activities. At the same time, I used to be that person. I know how easy it is to be that person.

October is upon us, and I will not be doing Inktober or Blogtober. It makes me sad, but I have enough on my plate with my 100 Day Project and my plan to revive this here blog a little. (Also all that regular life stuff.)

That being said, I’m so excited for October. I can’t wait to read only horror books and watch only horror movies and listen to only creepy songs and burn all the candles. Maybe I’ll even wear a little more black.