body image, body positivity, body neutrality

Is body neutrality the key to body image freedom?

As a middle-aged woman, I've spent decades battling for my body. I have become a skilled fighter against the advertising industry, the entertainment industry, the fashion industry, the beauty industry and the fitness industry. I've learned to fend off societal expectations, language norms, social media filters and even my own brain, simply to exist in peace inside my own body.

It's not a war I chose to wage, but one I was born into. From infancy, magazine covers at grocery store checkouts and billboards along highways have bombed me with messages about bodies and beauty. It's been a daily assault my whole life, boom after boom after boom.

I'm also a mother of three who didn't want to hand this "forever war" down to her children. My own mom served as an excellent example on the body image front, which gave me a tactical advantage for which I'm grateful. But I knew the bombardment from the outside world would hit my kids just as it hit me, and I vowed to prepare them as best I could.

The first thing to know is that the enemy in the body image war is sneaky, relentless and everywhere. It's in every message that tells us we're too fat, too skinny, too curvy, too flat, too tall, too short—or not enough of any of those things. "Too" and "not enough" are its weapons of choice and boy are they effective, targeting with perfect precision the part of us that wants to belong, to be accepted, to be loved.


In a war, we can deal with an enemy attack in two ways: take cover or fight.

Body positivity is a weapon we use to fight body negativity. The enemy says "Your tummy's too flabby," and we fire back with "No way, my belly is fabulous!" The enemy says "You need to lose weight" and we fire back with "Screw you, my body is gorgeous!" The problem with fighting body negativity with body positivity is that it means constantly engaging in battle. One side hits, the other side hits back. Even when you're winning the battle, it's exhausting.

Body positivity can be especially problematic when it comes from other people. Jonah Hill recently spoke to this issue, asking people to stop commenting on his weight loss, either negatively or positively. "I know you mean well but I kindly ask that you not comment on my body," Hill said in a post on Twitter. "Good or bad I want to politely let you know it's not helpful and doesn't feel good. Much respect."

That message is so simple—I know you mean well, but your positive messages about my body are not helpful.

Those messages aren't helpful because what they say to the person is "Someone is judging my body." Judgment itself is what keeps the war going, whether it's others doing it or us doing it to ourselves. Real freedom lies in dropping the judgments altogether. That's where body neutrality comes in.

Body neutrality means moving away from judgment altogether and taking a neutral view of our body. It's not "good" or "bad," it's not "ugly" or "gorgeous," it just is. Instead of asking how our body looks and going with a negative or positive judgment as the answer, we ask different questions to determine if anything needs to be adjusted: How does my body feel? Does it function well? Is it fulfilling its purpose, enabling me to move around, enjoy things and be of service in this world?

Very Well Mind offers a description of it:

"Body neutrality means taking a neutral perspective towards your body, meaning that you do not have to cultivate a love for your body or feel that you have to love your body every day. You may not always love your body, but you may still live happily and appreciate everything your body can do."

Body neutrality serves as a shield against body negative messaging. It allows us to put down our weapons and walk away from the body image war, largely unscathed by the bombardments of the enemy. It's not putting up a white flag and surrendering to body negativity; it's becoming Switzerland in the face of it. It's simply saying, "Yeah, I'm not going to do this anymore."

Body neutrality sounds simple enough, but it's not necessarily easy to achieve considering how trained we are to judge. Once we do achieve it, though, the result is liberation.

My biggest body neutrality epiphany hit some years ago when I saw that women were spending gobs of money getting butt implants. I had spent so much of my teen and young adult years lamenting my "child-bearing hips" and formidable derriere in the face of tiny-bottomed models, and now suddenly having some trunk junk was all the rage? That's when I truly internalized the reality that it's all bullshit. All of the judgments and the subconscious thinking about what's ideal or desirable—it all went out the window because it's based on literally nothing.

Actress Jameela Jamil offered an example of what body neutrality can look like when she told Glamour in 2019, "I don't think about my body ever. Imagine just not thinking about your body. You're not hating it. You're not loving it. You're just a floating head. I'm a floating head wandering through the world."

Personally, I don't think we have to never think about our bodies at all. I think about my body daily because I want to feel good and have energy. I know that what I do with my body impacts those things, so I pay attention to what I'm eating and make sure I'm getting enough movement, considering my sedentary job—but I can do all that from a place of gratitude for what my body enables me to do, rather than a judgmental analysis of what my body is or isn't.

I also don't think we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Body positivity has been life-changing for some people, and body neutrality might feel unnecessary for people who honestly feel awesome in their own bodies and want to celebrate that. For me, there's a place for body positivity alongside body neutrality. Putting on an outfit that fits just right and saying, "Dang, lookin' good" is fun. When used as a genuine celebration instead of as a reactionary weapon, body positivity is healthy, in my experience.

What all of this really comes down to is that truly being at peace in our bodies doesn't come from constantly fighting negativity with positivity, especially in a war over body image that truly has no end. The commercial machine will continue to do what it does best—tell us we should feel insecure and then prey on those insecurities. We can fight back with opposite messaging—and sometimes that might be a reasonable strategy—but we have to realize that judgments, good and bad, just keep the war going. Perhaps a better strategy is to decide the fight simply isn't worth it, lay down the weapons and walk away from the battle altogether.

I have a body that lets me live in this world. That's neat. I'm thankful for it. End of story.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

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