Janina Vela on Body Neutrality: “Skinny Does Not Have to Be The Best Compliment”

Janina Vela on Body Neutrality: “Skinny Does Not Have to Be The Best Compliment”

“Body neutrality comes from praising your body for what it does and focusing more on health than aesthetics” —Janina Vela



When Janina Vela started losing weight, people began to notice. Family, friends and acquaintances, as well-meaning as they thought they were, would share backhanded comments like “Uy, Janina, pumayat ka, mas bagay sa’yo (Hey, Janina, you lost weight, it looks better on you)!” or “Mas maganda ka nung pumayat ka (You look more beautiful when you lost weight).” 


For the longest time, she refused to talk about it because she believes that “I really want my body and my physical attributes to be the least interesting [things] about me,” she shares with Wonder. “Your body is an afterthought; it’s not the main discussion.” 


After suffering from bulimia behind-the-scenes brought about by expectations from a brutal industry that labeled her as “plus-size,” it would take her years to disassociate from this mindset and embrace body neutrality. In a viral post, the content creator and youth advocate finally addressed her weight loss. But it’s not a play-by-play of how she slimmed down—none of that nonsense. She asks, “Kung maniniwala ako na mas maganda ako ngayon dahil pumayat ako, ang ibig sabihin ba nun ay papangit ako kapag ako ay tumaba ulit (If I believe that I’m more beautiful now because I lost weight, does that mean that I’ll be ugly when I gain it back)?”



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Janina Vela (@janinavela)


It’s only natural that bodies change and hers did. After identifying as a certain size for a long period of time, her weight loss gave her an identity crisis. Janina reveals, “When I lost the weight, I had an existential crisis. I was, like, ‘Wait a second, who am I? Whose body is this?’ I had this identity crisis. If I’m not the plus-sized girl in the industry—now that I’m skinny—what happens now? Who am I now?” She adds, “It’s the weirdest phenomenon, and it’s really hard to talk about because it’s so niche, but that’s actually what brought about the body neutrality idea.” 


RELATED: Janina Vela Recreates Kindness Amidst Hostility


Body neutrality is a body image movement that cultivates acceptance and awareness of our body, recognizing what it can do for us instead of what it should look like. We may not always want to celebrate it, but we do acknowledge the remarkable things it does for us.


Being surrounded by peers who “have so many different personalities and perspectives on body image” helped Janina get to a point where she could embrace her body and want to use her platform to normalize the topic of body neutrality. She reveals, “You realize that everybody somehow struggles with bodies changing, and I think that’s something I want to have normalized on social media. Bodies change, whether it’s from stress (I have PCOS, I had depression) or so many other factors that may change how I look. Still, I know the person inside me never changes. Body neutrality came about because I know how much society glorifies skinny; I know how much they discourage plus-size. And I was, like, ‘What if we de-glorify this and uplift this and get to a point in time [when] we’re all even-planed whatever body size you are?’”


She adds: “Your body is something that takes care of you, that gives you energy, that gets you from point A to B, that makes you capable and competent, empowered…Your body’s job is not to match the trends, to look good—although that’s a great plus—but body neutrality comes from praising your body for what it does and focusing more on health than aesthetics.”



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Janina Vela (@janinavela)


On the viral post, Janina ends by saying, “Skinny does not have to be the best compliment.” People might not understand why she changes the subject when they bring up the topic of her body and weight loss, but she chooses to not stay in the conversation. She shares, “It’s okay to refuse to have conversations you don’t want to have. If [they] keep talking about it, then I’m going to keep changing the conversation….Why would I have this conversation? I don’t want to talk about my body.” Especially for “well-meaning” acquaintances, she notes, “Even if it’s a small redirection, I’m hoping na tumatak sa kanila (that they remember) that I didn’t stay in that conversation.


RELATED: Why We Should Embrace Body Neutrality Instead


After years of struggling with her body image, Janina Vela’s newfound perspective on body neutrality gives her “a lighter perspective on the things that I used to feel burdened about.” She now simply exists in the body she grew up in and enjoys the act of exercising and having a healthy diet. This, in turn, makes her want to be a “great steward of the body I’m blessed with.”



Photos Instagram/Janina Vela 

Art Macky Arquilla


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