By @George_Arkley 

It’s May 2020, and I feel disgusting. A dozen bottles of beer and leftover cheesy chips serve as a reminder of last night’s Zoom party with my girlfriends. I can feel the alcohol and grease bleeding out of my pores.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

My IBS is not happy with me. My stomach twists and writhes as it tries to digest, yet another, fatty takeaway. I rollover and dismiss my body’s cry for help. I order a hangover pizza. Ten minutes later, the delivery driver hands me my food with a pitiful look in his eye. He must have delivered my drunk food last night as well.

I don’t even like unhealthy food. It makes me groggy, bloated and worst of all, sends extreme shockwaves throughout my digestive system.

Over the past year, I have gained a lot of weight and even more stretch marks around my hips, arms, calves and thighs. Lockdown made me lose track of the healthy young woman I used to be. I stopped working out and eating a balanced diet. I lost all respect for my body.

Now, in February 2021, I have lost most of the weight and regained a healthy relationship with food and exercise. But stretch marks still snake their way around my curves and slice into my dream of a perfectly toned body. Cellulite covers my thighs and the fatty food I gauged myself in still sits stubbornly on my hips.

I am far from body positive

I follow #bodyposi influencers, I eat clean, I don’t drink alcohol and I work out at least four times a week. I have started to respect the inside of my body, but the so-called imperfections plaguing my skin still bother me – and that’s okay.

My stretch marks remind me of the dark place I used to be in. The purple lines slithering around my newfound muscles irritate me. It doesn’t matter how much bio-oil I slather onto them or how many push-ups I can do – I will always have these as a reminder of lockdown.

My stretch marks remind me of the weeks I couldn’t get out of bed to make a healthy meal. Or the times I would drink two bottles of wine to myself just to numb the depressive thoughts in my mind. I don’t love my stretch marks, and I shouldn’t have to.

Stretch marks are a normal part of the body, and almost 80% of the population has them. The body positive movement has been insisting for years that we learn to love our tiger stripes. It’s not enough to simply accept your stretch marks. You have to show them off, parade them around social media and celebrate them. 

The body positive movement has entered toxic territory

Although I love aspects of my body, I feel ashamed of myself for being unable to love my stretch marks and cellulite. Can I truly support other people’s bodies, if I can’t completely love my own? Can I be body positive and dislike parts of my body? Is #bodypositivity actually body toxicity?

I’m not alone either. Many young women have taken to social media, renouncing their association with body positivity and instead, aligning with body neutrality. Body neutrality focuses on what your body can do – not what it looks like.

It’s okay to dislike parts of your body. It’s okay to have days when you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. It’s okay to gain weight, lose weight and struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with your skin. Body neutrality is about accepting your body for what it is and sitting with the feelings you have about it.

Body positivity encourages people to love their bodies, no matter their imperfections. However, loving your body 24/7 is unrealistic and can actually make us feel deflated when we don’t like what we see in the mirror.

It’s okay to have issues with parts of your body. I do.

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