Maria Simpson, who also goes by Body Love Boss, joined us this week to talk about body neutrality. We cover what body neutrality means, and where it fits into the body love conversation! We also talk about taking care of and respecting our bodies. I’m so excited to bring a fresh perspective and another awesome, personal story to the show.
“Looking Like” a Personal Trainer
As someone who always loved movement and exercise, personal training felt like a natural fit. And Maria feels that at the beginning of her career, she had a really healthy perspective. But after about 7 years as personal trainer, Maria reached a burn out phase that inspired her to take a break from that part of her life.
As her career had continued to grow, she had started to feel more pressure to look like what she felt a personal trainer “should” look like. She lost weight, and as her body got leaner, she got more and more compliments. (Just last week I talked about the unintended consequences of body compliments!) Eventually, Maria was only eating the bare minimum, while also exercising an extreme amount of time.
It didn’t take long for health symptoms start popping up. She kept pushing her body harder, and forcing herself to do more. Eventually, she came across a YouTube video made by someone with a very similar story to hers; that woman shared that she was dealing with a eating disorder. For the first time, Maria recognized that her exercise and eating habits were possible disordered.
No More Mystery Symptoms
As she started eating more and resting, her mystery symptoms started to disappear. And even though she loved being a trainer, Maria made the choice to stop training. Instead, she began to pour herself into the work of body love and acceptance.
A huge part of her healing involved gaining weight. This part of the journey was when body neutrality became an important focal point for Maria. During her recover period, she gained 50 pounds in about two months. She felt an extreme amount of shame as she looked at a body she didn’t feel she recognized. As much as she wanted to hide, she also knew she needed to be able to embrace herself as she was.
And early starting point? Identifying that gratitude was the opposite of fear and shame, and choosing to express gratitude for everything she could. While practicing that, she felt a small shift in the way she felt about her body.
Those small shifts continued to grow as Maria chose to recognize that her worth was not attached to her size. She started recognizing negative thoughts about herself that would pop into her mind, and she’d practice replacing them with something else.
A Growing Gratitude Practice
This small steps continued to form into a gratitude practice. Maria started making lists of things she was thankful for about her body, and choosing to notice all the things her body was capable of.
She found it allowed her to do and experience so much.
And as she noticed and expressed gratitude, she found she could have a life filled with joy and happiness, no matter what her body looked like. This realization was freeing, and allowed Maria to accept that she was honestly healthier and happier at her new weight.
Instead of forcing herself to follow a strict diet or exercise regimen that would allow her to be a certain size, she could release that control and enjoy the way her body naturally was. It felt really good, and served as a continual reminder that being happy and comfortable in your body was more important than anything else.
Body Neutrality vs. Body Love
It’s really hard to ask someone to suddenly love you. They need to meet you, get to know you, and gradually grow into love.
Our bodies are the same. When we’ve had a difficult relationship with our body that has been marked by stress, tension, and even hatred, we can’t suddenly wake up and be genuinely in love with it. We have to allow ourselves to work towards that, and moving towards body neutrality is one way of doing that.
Maria has found that focusing on what she most wants to be remembers for has helped her to shift her focus; instead of how she looks, she can focus on how she shows up and lives. In the process, she has slowly moved into the space of feeling neutral about her body, and from there she was able to begin to love her body.
She doesn’t feel she loves her body every single minute of every single day. However, she feels that has the tools that enable her to get “unstuck” when she finds herself succumbing to her old thinking patterns. And if she’s feeling particularly negative, she doesn’t have to swing drastically back to love. Instead, she moves gently back to body neutrality, and from there, she can transition back into full body love.
Body neutrality is an important ground that lets you experience gratitude and appreciation for yourself, exactly as you are.