By Martha Gilheaney
We have loved or loathed our bodies throughout different trends, depending on what we were being fed, told or sold.
Trying to keep up with any fad is tiresome, but ones based around bodies? Well, they are just a waste of our good energy, thoughts and time, detrimental to our wellbeing and for the most part unattainable.
Jeans come and go, but genes are for life.
Girls, we need to stop listening to the dictators, to the influencers and even to ourselves because (breathe a sigh of relief) there is a new neutrality in town!
To understand the journey towards Body Neutrality we’ve got to go back, specifically to the Noughties when size zero was in and body confidence was out.
Celebrities, already slim, lithe, gorgeous creatures, who we often admire, began to waste away in front of our very eyes, and we wondered.
‘Size Zero,’ at first a laughable term, began to register on our psyches. ZERO. You lived through the Noughties, you’ve heard it before, but let it sink in. Zero equates NOTHING, non-existent. But suddenly, ‘Nothing’ existed, and we all wanted it.
If you also lived through the Eighties you might remember a classic kids’ film called The NeverEnding Story, in which the big baddie was also known as the 'Nothing'.
A scene from the movie comes to mind when the main character asks why the fictional land of Fantastia was dying, only to hear that it was because people had begun to – and I quote – "lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger."
"The Nothing is the emptiness that's left. It’s like a despair, destroying this world… because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control… has the power!"
Life imitated art when the real world of Earth also became infatuated with the Nothing. The media and diet industries had the control and therefore the power. Young, impressionable people lost hope and fell into despair and the emptiness of empty bellies, shrunken selves and shattered self confidence were the only things left.
Famous faces like Nicole Richie, Victoria Beckham, Rachel Zoe, Lindsay Lohan and Keira Knightley epitomised this Noughies' skeletal trend. The memory of their gaunt, jaw-jarring faces still jade me today, like they did when I was a young adult, struggling to own my own, newly grown, more curvaceous body.
Simultaneously the Atkins diet exploded into our lives, dictating that carbohydrates were ‘bad.’
Before this, growing up in an Irish home, bread had been King and potatoes Queen(s) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They were standard, filling, fast, easy, cheap and yum. But carbs did not lend themselves well to this new emaciated mirage on the front of every tabloid magazine and so bread, pasta and potatoes were blighted in a whole new manner.
Back to the present and things are somewhat different.
In an era of social media soakage, an opposite attitude has emerged, but before you get to thinking things have come up rosy, think again. Opposite ‘bad’ does not necessarily mean 'good'. Health and fitness fads have been amplified, with fitness becoming more fashionable than fashion itself.
Our feeds are awash with hashtags such as #HealthFoodPorn, #Gymshark and #Fitspo. Personal trainers have become rife, gym rest days rare. And then there’s the healthy lifestyle influencer types soaking their slow-soaked overnight protein oats, acting like it’s a piece of (natural, skinny, no sugar, or additives) cake to find the time, money or appetite for slow-soaked anything.
Don’t get me wrong, body love is lovely, but when it’s excessive it can begin to feel narcissistic, silly and somewhat alienating, especially for those who cannot, those struggling with body issues, eating disorders and low-self esteem, those who end up feeling more detached than ever as they cannot muster up the same level of love for themselves.
Speaking of narcissistic, spare a thought for Narcissuses, fame boy of Greek Mythology who drowned in a pool of his own reflection, in 2018 he would certainly drown on his own Instagram feed. There goes life again imitating art…
While there’s no doubt that the move from body loathing to body loving is an improvement, it’s no less consuming, and our endless consumption of what we should and shouldn’t be consuming is exhausting!
It’s limiting, controlling, expensive and distracting. Investing all this time and energy in our bodies means depriving ourselves from other, perhaps more noble pursuits. If we weren’t naming days after abs, legs or shoulders or working on our #FitFam (whatever that is), what would we be working on?
Maybe we’d be using our time, energy and head space to spend time with our real ‘fam,’ or to take up a new hobby, set up a business, read or write, cook, create, do some home decor, dance, learn a language or a musical instrument, reconnect with nature, strengthen our skills or our relationships?
The answer to all of these trends, my friends, is not blowing in the wind it’s written here: ’Body Neutrality.’ But what does it mean and how do we get it?
As that Baz Luhrmann song says, "Enjoy your body, use it every way you can, don’t be afraid of it, or of what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you'll ever own."
Notice the word ‘instrument,’ because at the end of the day that’s what our body is. It is the vessel that makes everything else possible and THAT (not it's shape or the size) is what makes it incredible!
So yes, love your body, respect it, take care of it, listen to it, exercise it, rest it, nurture it and be proud of it and what it can do for you, but try not to become infatuated with it.
Don’t just shift the focus, lift the focus.
Free yourself from the barrage of information about our bodies. Block the white noise and now block me and then you’ll have achieved Body Neutrality!
Martha Gilheaney is a Fashion & Lifestyle Blogger, YouTuber, Personal Shopper & Stylist based in Dublin. Website: www.marthaslookingglass.com