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Well Being

Body positivity vs. body neutrality: One is a weapon, the other a shield

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.

Image from Pixabay.

Under the sea...

True
The Wilderness Society


You're probably familiar with the literary classic "Moby-Dick."

But in case you're not, here's the gist: Moby Dick is the name of a huge albino sperm whale.

(Get your mind outta the gutter.)


There's this dude named Captain Ahab who really really hates the whale, and he goes absolutely bonkers in his quest to hunt and kill it, and then everything is awful and we all die unsatisfied with our shared sad existence and — oops, spoilers!


OK, technically, the narrator Ishmael survives. So it's actually a happy ending (kind of)!

whales, Moby Dick, poaching endangered species

Illustration from an early edition of Moby-Dick

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Basically, it's a famous book about revenge and obsession that was published back in 1851, and it's really, really long.

It's chock-full of beautiful passages and dense symbolism and deep thematic resonance and all those good things that earned it a top spot in the musty canon of important literature.

There's also a lot of mundane descriptions about the whaling trade as well (like, a lot). That's because it came out back when commercial whaling was still a thing we did.

conservation, ocean water conservation

A non-albino mother and baby sperm whale.

Photo by Gabriel Barathieu/Wikipedia.

In fact, humans used to hunt more than 50,000 whales each year to use for oil, meat, baleen, and oil. (Yes, I wrote oil twice.) Then, in 1946, the International Whaling Commission stepped in and said "Hey, wait a minute, guys. There's only a few handful of these majestic creatures left in the entire world, so maybe we should try to not kill them anymore?"

And even then, commercial whaling was still legal in some parts of the world until as recently as 1986.

International Whaling Commission, harpoons

Tail in the water.

Whale's tail pale ale GIF via GoPro/YouTube

And yet by some miracle, there are whales who were born before "Moby-Dick" was published that are still alive today.

What are the odds of that? Honestly it's hard to calculate since we can't exactly swim up to a bowhead and say, "Hey, how old are you?" and expect a response. (Also that's a rude question — jeez.)

Thanks to some thoughtful collaboration between researchers and traditional Inupiat whalers (who are still allowed to hunt for survival), scientists have used amino acids in the eyes of whales and harpoon fragments lodged in their carcasses to determine the age of these enormous animals — and they found at least three bowhead whales who were living prior to 1850.

Granted those are bowheads, not sperm whales like the fictional Moby Dick, (and none of them are albino, I think), but still. Pretty amazing, huh?

whale blubber, blue whales, extinction

This bowhead is presumably in adolescence, given its apparent underwater moping.

GIF via National Geographic.

This is a particularly remarkable feat considering that the entire species was dwindling near extinction.

Barring these few centenarian leviathans, most of the whales still kickin' it today are between 20 and 70 years old. That's because most whale populations were reduced to 10% or less of their numbers between the 18th and 20th centuries, thanks to a few over-eager hunters (and by a few, I mean all of them).

Today, sperm whales are considered one of the most populous species of massive marine mammals; bowheads, on the other hand, are still in trouble, despite a 20% increase in population since the mid-1980s. Makes those few elderly bowheads that much more impressive, huh?

population, Arctic, Great Australian Blight

Southern Right Whales hangin' with a paddleboarder in the Great Australian Bight.

GIF via Jaimen Hudson.

Unfortunately, just as things are looking up, these wonderful whales are in trouble once again.

We might not need to worry our real-life Captain Ahabs anymore, but our big aquatic buddies are still being threatened by industrialization — namely, from oil drilling in the Arctic and the Great Australian Bight.

In the off-chance that companies like Shell and BP manage not to spill millions of gallons of harmful crude oil into the water, the act of drilling alone is likely to maim or kill millions of animals, and the supposedly-safer sonic blasting will blow out their eardrums or worse.

This influx of industrialization also affects their migratory patterns — threatening not only the humans who depend on them, but also the entire marine ecosystem.

And I mean, c'mon — who would want to hurt this adorable face?

social responsibility, nature, extinction

BOOP.

Image from Pixabay.

Whales might be large and long-living. But they still need our help to survive.

If you want another whale to make it to his two-hundred-and-eleventy-first birthday (which you should because I hear they throw great parties), then sign this petition to protect the waters from Big Oil and other industrial threats.

I guarantee Moby Dick will appreciate it.


This article originally appeared on 11.04.15

National Autistic Society/Youtube

"Diverted" educational video shared through the Too Much Information Campaign.

Everyone who lives with autism experiences it somewhat differently. You'll often hear physicians and advocates refer to the spectrum that exists for those who are autistic, pointing to a wide range of symptoms and skills.

But one thing many autistic people experience is sensory processing issues.


For autistic people, processing the world around them when it comes to sight, smell, or touch can be challenging, as their senses are often over- or under-sensitive. Certain situations — like meandering through a congested mall or enduring the nonstop blasting of police sirens — can quickly become unbearable.

This reality is brought to life in a new video by the U.K.'s National Autistic Society (NAS).

The eye-opening PSA takes viewers into the mind of a autistic woman as she thinks about struggling to stay composed in a crowded, noisy train.

It's worth a watch:

The PSA hit especially close to home for 22-year-old actress and star of the video Saskia Lupin, who is autistic herself. "Overall I feel confused," she said, of abrupt changes to her routine. "Like I can't do anything and all sense of rationality is lost."

She's not alone.

According to a study cited in NAS' press release, 75% of autistic people say unexpected changes make them feel socially isolated. What's more, 67% reported seeing or hearing negative reactions from the public when they try to calm themselves down in such situations — from eyerolls and stares to unwelcome, hurtful comments.

The new PSA aims to improve that last figure in particular.

It's part of the organization's Too Much Information campaign — an initiative to build empathy and understanding in allistic (i.e., not autistic) people for those on the spectrum.

Autism Awareness Day, campaign, World Autism Awareness Week

Campaign by National Autistic Society created to share the autistic experience to the world.

Photo from Pixabay

"It isn't that the public sets out to be judgmental towards autistic people," Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS, said in a statement in 2016. It's just that, often, the public doesn't "see" the autism.

"They see a 'strange' man pacing back and forth in a shopping center," Lever explained, "or a 'naughty' girl having a tantrum on a bus, and don't know how to respond."

Well, now we do.

Instead of staring, rolling your eyes, or thinking judgmental thoughts about the young person's parents, remember: You have no idea what that stranger on the train is going through.

“We can't make the trains run on time," said Lever. But even the simplest, smallest things — like remembering not to stare and giving a person some space and compassion if they need it — can make a big difference.


This article originally appeared on 03.28.18

Joy

Pet cockatiel is obsessed with singing 'September' by Earth, Wind and Fire

Kiki remembers the 21st night of September ALL. THE. TIME. and it's actually quite impressive.

Representative hoto by Saqib Iqbal Digital on Unsplash

Apparently, "September" is all the rage with cockatiels.

“Do you remember…the 21st night of September?” has been one of the most iconic song openings of the past 45 years, as the R&B hit by Earth, Wind and Fire perpetually serves as a catchy favorite for dance clubs, movie scenes and TikTok clips alike.

However, "September" has also gained wild popularity among an unlikely group—pet cockatiels.


One cockatiel in particular has taken a shining to the song to the point of obsession, to the combined delight and chagrin of his owner. You see, Kiki doesn’t just like listening to the song, he sings and dances to it. Loudly. Over and over. At uncomfortable hours of the morning.

Kiki’s owner has shared multiple examples of her pet bird reveling in his favorite song, and it’s hilarious every time.

Watch:

@kiki.tiel

Send help plz wheres the off button on parrot #fyp #foryou #bird #cockatiel #parrotsoftiktok #birdsoftiktok

"Kiki…it's 7 o'clock in the morning…" Yeah, Kiki does not care. Kiki is feelin' the groove.

This isn't just a one-off and it's also not just a random song. Here we can see that Kiki recognizes it and sings it when his owner plays it. (Just after pooing on her leg—the reality of having a bird, in case these videos make you want one).

@kiki.tiel

Babywipes handy at all hours 🫡 #bird #cockatiel #fyp #foryou #september #parrot

But Kiki doesn't even need anyone else around in order to sing his favorite song. Here he is singing and dancing all by himself when his owner left the room and left her camera running to see what he would do.

@kiki.tiel

Partying without me :( #cockatielsoftiktok #birds #fyp #for you

As cute and hilarious as this is, it surely gets old after a while, right? It's one thing to watch in a video—it's got to be entirely another to hear it all the time at home.

It's also not just a Kiki quirk. Apparently, "September" is a "thing" among cockatiels. Other cockatiels have been known to love it and sing it, though not quite as well as Kiki does.

Someone on Reddit asked why so many cockatiels love the song—one person even said it was basically the cockatiel national anthem at this point. No one knows exactly why, but this explanation by Reddit user nattiecakes is as good an explanation as any:

"Yeah, cockatiels genuinely like the song in a way they don’t universally take to many other songs. My cockatiel is 17 and early in life basically seemed to max out his harddrive space learning a little bit of La Cucaracha, The Flintstones theme, the phrase 'pretty bird,' and this horrible alarm clock sound that is similar to the hungry baby cockatiel sound. We thought we could not get him to learn anything else because they do have some limits.

Then 'September' came. Every cockatiel loved it. We decided to see if our cockatiel loved it.

I sh*t y’all not, within a DAY he whistled the first three notes, which is really all that matters. He hasn’t been able to learn more, but he loves it.

Now our African grey whistles it to him constantly. He used to reliably whistle La Cucaracha to our cockatiel when our cockatiel would get angry and upset, and our cockatiel would start singing instead and forget he’d been upset. But almost immediately our grey switched to using 'September' 90% of the time. Like, it’s so plain even to our grey that 'September' is the song to unlock a cockatiel’s better nature. I think the grey likes it a lot too, but he has many other songs he likes better.

As for why cockatiels like this song so much… all I can guess is it really resonates with their cheery vibe. I think the inside of a cockatiel’s mind is usually like a disco."

Rock on, Kiki. Just maybe not so early in the morning.

How to clear a stuffy nose instantly.

With cold season upon us, there's no better time to learn a couple of awesome and easy tricks that will clear up the dreaded and annoying stuffy nose.

Prevention magazine created a short video showing two easy ways to get you breathing free again no matter how stuffed up you might be.


Both tricks take less than two minutes and are certainly worth trying out when it feels like that runny nose might never go away.


Watch the YouTube video below:

This article first appeared on 9.8.17.

Pop Culture

A brave fan asks Patrick Stewart a question he doesn't usually get and is given a beautiful answer

Patrick Stewart often talks about his childhood and the torment his father put him and his mother through.

Patrick Stewart often talks about his childhood and the torment his father put him and his mother through. However, how he answered this vulnerable and brave fan's question is one of the most eloquent, passionate responses about domestic violence I've ever seen.



WARNING: At 2:40, he's going to break your heart a little.

You can read more about Heather Skye's hug with Captain Picard at her blog.


This article originally appeared on 06.26.13.