Listen: How Body Positivity and Neutrality Play a Role in Your Mental Health

Content warning: this podcast episode and the post that accompany it briefly discuss eating disorders, recovery from eating disorders, and size discrimination within eating disorder recover.

On May 20, we created a panel to close out our Take a Mental Health Day event called Loving Yourself Today. We think the conversation from that panel was so important that we want to make it available to you as an episode on our podcast, #WeGotGoals.

During that talk, we discussed the language we use to describe our own bodies and others’ bodies, a much-needed intermediary step between body negativity and body positivity, and the relationship between all of that and mental health.

This conversation featured tastemakers in the size inclusive space – Charlotte Oxnam founder of Cue the Curves and Gianluca Russo, founder of the Power of Plus – who spoke on the body positivity movement, adding color from their lived experiences as well as the experiences of their communities. And rounding out the conversation, Dr. Marisa Toups anchored us to a perspective in mental health and represented our partner Project Healthy Minds.

Our moderator is a voice that will be familiar to you if you attended our #Sweatworking Summit in February, Natali Villarruel. She’s a marathoner, triathlete, Team USA member, body positivity advocate and so much more.

What we heard universally is that the act of self-love is an ongoing journey, not a destination. And because it’s a journey, that journey is as different as each individual.

“I’m working towards body positivity, but that also means I’m working my way out of body negativity,” Oxnam said. “I really like having that beautiful middle step of body neutrality.”

And body neutrality resonated for all of the attendees and panelists – it’s a soft, forgiving middle ground, described as “a philosophy that you should focus on what your body can do for you rather than what it looks like.” Whereas body positivity can leave those attempting to practice it feeling shame if they don’t love their bodies every moment of every day.

“One of the best things about being a human is that we get to go on that journey,” Russo said.

And on the topic of being an ally, each panelist has words of wisdom to share.

“People walk around believing about themselves what they’ve had reflected to them,” Dr. Toups shared on language.

And for Villarruel, the value of being an ally who works in the intersections is most powerful for her – specifically when putting your money where your mouth is. “Seek out brands that not only have extended sizes but also show different races and abilities,” she said.

For, Russo, it’s about knowing when to speak and when to listen. “Amplify other voices – especially those that fall under deeper marginalization and intersections. I think when you take the time to do that It really has the biggest impact and the best impact. It doesn’t matter how many conversations we have, if we don’t have that lived experience.”

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About Jeana Anderson Cohen

Jeana Anderson Cohen is the founder and CEO of asweatlife.com a premiere wellness media destination that creates content and community to help womxn live better lives and achieve their goals. Before founding health-focused companies Jeana earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison - and fresh out of college she worked on the '08 Obama campaign in Michigan. From there, she created and executed social media strategies for brands. aSweatLife fuses her experience in building community and her passion for wellness. You can find Jeana leading the team at aSweatLife, trying to join a book club, and walking her dog Maverick.