This month we got to chat with Bethany Meyers, a fitness and body neutrality enthusiast, and general radiator of confidence, knowledge, vulnerability, and strength. Bethany talks to us about the nuances of body neutrality and how that concept, alongside the need to un-gender workout spaces, shaped their project, be.come. Take a seat and get ready to feel capable and nourished by way of Bethany’s magic words…
When engaging with your work, I feel such a sense of acceptance and enthusiasm emanating from you. We hear you talk a lot about “body neutrality,” as opposed to the more common term “body positivity.”
What do the two terms mean to you and why do you see a need to shift the language?
I think body positivity has done amazing things for our culture and society, and more specifically Black women, who really started the body positivity movement, so we can’t forget about that piece. I think that body positivity can be really great, unfortunately what has happened is that it has become so mainstream and a bit over used, and I think that some of the meaning has gotten lost. The other aspect of body positivity is that there’s a real force to be so happy about your body, to be so enthusiastic about it, whatever size you are you need to show it off in lingerie like, “here I am - I love this!” That’s great, but that’s also really, really difficult. It’s almost impossible to love your body 100% of the time. As humans, we have ups and downs about how we feel about any particular subject. What can happen with body positivity, is that we decide, “Ok I need to be body positive,” then you have a day where you’re NOT feeling great about your body… and then if feels like you’ve failed at body positivity. Then we’re back into this failure, good OR bad mentality that is kind of polarizing and sort of lives somewhat in the binary. I myself am very interested in the non-binary across the scope of everything, so that’s really my attraction with body neutrality. It takes the focus away from the body itself, and makes it not so much about the body, this container, this vessel that we live in, but instead it’s more about us as who we really are. I think body neutrality can feel so radical - especially for those who have struggled with eating disorders, disordered eating, or body dysmorphia - because in those disorders you have such a focus on the body. Neutrality says, "no, my body is just the container, it’s what I live in, it doesn’t make or break me. I am me, and my body is not the #1 focus." Body neutrality stems from this idea that acknowledges, some days you love your body, some days you hate your body, every single day you respect your body. That respect and acceptance is truly the way forward as we start to shift society’s thinking into the idea that body size does not determine worth, body size does not determine health.
Your work on making fitness more body and gender inclusive is so inspiring. Gyms can feel like somewhat toxic and hyper-fit spaces -- how have you navigated this environment as non-binary?
How did your own experiences in this space influence the way you developed your project, be.come?
My entire adult career, aside from starting be.come, was spent in the studio. When I left studio work and started doing more at home, I would find myself going to a studio and even I myself felt intimidated. Walking into a new studio space always felt a little bit scary - who’s working the front desk, what’s the workout going to be like? Studio spaces can feel a bit intimidating for anyone, including someone like myself who knows studios, managed them, ran them, trained instructors….
There’s something really appealing about being able to find a movement practice at home. Most at home movement practices have adopted the messaging of gyms - you’re here to lose weight, you’re here to change yourself, you’re not good enough as you are right now.
I’m really interested in movement being a source of peace. A place we can go to just be with ourselves, almost a meditative experience - but I’m really not good at meditating so I find my meditation work through movement. As we started be.come, I realized how many people were needing that space for themselves, and how big of a difference it made when movement came from a place without body shame. It’s about loving yourself exactly where you are. The at home environment creates the safe space for that.
When it comes to gender and queerness, something that is really prevalent for queer people is body dysmorphia, because it’s so heavily tied to gender dysmorphia. A lot of people who are born in female bodies who are non-binary or trans, weight tends to be this more womanly aspect; when you have more weight, you have more hips, more boobs, more stomach, you tend to look more female. This is for myself and many clients I know - a lot of eating disorders can start out of gender dysmorphia - this need or desire to appear more thin in order to appear more masculine. It’s so important for queer people to have a safe place for exploration and movement without a gendered perception. In classes, you often hear “Ok ladies, let’s get started for x, y and z!” The language of instructors is super gendered because we’ve somehow decided that movement itself is gendered. It’s very weird to me that Barre classes are ‘girl’ workouts and Bootcamp classes are ‘boy’ workouts. How did we start to gender something like the way that we move our body, which is inherently not gendered? It’s so important to create both space and language around workouts and movement so that more people are able to feel accepted.
Dancing, movement, and fitness are obviously passions of yours. What does being in your body mean to you, and how did you make it to this place of such powerful and confident embodiment?
What jewels of advice can you share with those of us who are still striving toward higher levels of acceptance of ourselves?
I’m not there yet! I like to be really honest about that. With social media and having a platform where I speak about body neutrality, have the be.come workouts - a lot of people must think, oh, Bethany must have it figured out. I don’t! I am still working on body acceptance. This goes back to body neutrality - I have good days and bad days, I have struggles I have to work through, still lots and lots of therapy sessions… even quarantine brought up past thoughts and habits for me. Going into quarantine, I felt like, WOW, this stuff still exists?! I don’t think I have it figured out, nor do i know that we ever figure it out. That’s what I absolutely love about body neutrality - you don’t have to have it figured out. You can still have these bad days and it’s OK! For me, what I really work to do is just to notice. The more aware we can be, ends up bringing up more knowledge and more power.
The biggest change in my mindset has been an awareness of noticing what thoughts are coming up, and acceptance of letting those thoughts be there, and then the knowledge that I am bigger than those thoughts.
Your and Nico’s 13 year long relationship is so admirable! It seems to be over a decade of incredible communication, unwavering acceptance, and deep love. What are your secrets?
I often tell Nico that I feel we are so lucky to have gotten to meet each other so young - we were only 18 and 20. We have time on our side, so we’ve had plenty of time to let each other go and come back again and again. We’ve experienced our relationship just as friends, as lovers, as partners, as family, as queer people, as all of the things. As cheesy as it sounds, we are so blessed to have had that time on our side! For Nico and I, communication is key. It’s so vital in our relationship itself, and I think we’ve really allowed each other to communicate ANYTHING - and that has been super important. We still have feelings of jealousy - I think probably more for me than for Nico - but I experience jealousy. My Dad died when I was young, I’ve gone through therapy for abandonment trauma, so those things certainly come up for me. It’s less about the feelings you have and more about how you react to those feelings. I think the ability to be able to express feelings and talk about them from a neutral point of view is really, really vital. It’s ok if your partner is experiencing feelings of jealousy or other things, but it’s about - what are we going to do with that, and how am I going to reassure my partner that I am here and that things are OK?
We talk a lot! We have a lot of conversations about feelings, and what’s going on and we really work to reassure one another that we’re not going anywhere, and that this is the long haul. I feel very lucky in our relationship. The other thing that we do… we have a super silly relationship that is almost childlike at times! That’s my favorite part about us - the ability to be silly, not so serious all the time. I think that’s major, especially in the year of 2020!
When quarantine hit, I was a bit worried - oh my god, this is the most time we’ve ever spent with one another on a consistent basis because we’ve always been traveling, in and out, always having something going on with work. I didn’t know how it was going to work with the two of us. But it surprised me how much our relationship really grew during this time and how closer connected we became. We’re nesting a little bit, talking about starting a family some time soon - ish… I think this really gave us a time to connect, be still, be with one another, and learn about the other. It really brought a lot of great things out for us that I completely did not anticipate. I feel oddly very grateful for the time in quarantine and being able to spend consistent time with each other and really learn about the other.
You seem so lively, social, and people-oriented! How have you been assuaging those needs during the COVID quarantine? Do you find it easy to connect with people from afar?
Have you learned anything new about yourself and your needs for communication and connection during this time?
I really thought that I was going to struggle without seeing people, or going out and doing things… I thought my extrovert was going to go crazy. But my introvert has really shown itself during this time - because a lot of it, I’ve really enjoyed. It has been nice to be able to calm down and to have time. I’ve been upstate, which has been a big part of this - not being in the city. The energy in the city versus the country is very, very different. I’ve enjoyed the peace and quiet of upstate much more than I thought I would. As far as connecting with people - lots of FaceTimes, and taking moments. I have one friend in particular who I make sure we have a FaceTime and connect in that way every single weekend to touch base. There is a piece of me that misses all the hustle and bustle, but there’s another side that really likes the peace and quiet.
I have become more comfortable with the duality of my own personality. Before it felt more like, it’s either this or that - now I've become with it’s this and that. Two pieces of myself can exist in one - I can both miss my friends and enjoy being with myself at the same time. COVID just shook up everything for so many people - I don’t want to negate the fact that this has been really, really hard for a lot of families, difficult for parents, balancing work with kids home from school - but I also think it’s shaken up so much that we’ve been given the chance to re-imagine different pieces of our lives.
Check out the be.come project HERE :