How Bethany C. Meyers Is Meeting Motherhood With a Body-Neutral Approach
What happens when a body-neutrality pioneer goes through the highly physical transformation of pregnancy? For Bethany C. Meyers, it’s brought a whole new value and meaning to the practice.
Body neutrality describes holding a mindset toward one’s physical form that’s free of judgment—whether positive or negative—in favor of feeling respect and appreciation. It started appearing online around 2015, largely in response to the body-positivity movement, which many feel is both exclusionary and can lead to the feelings of shame, inadequacy, and self-hate that it aims to reverse.
This ethos is something Meyers, 36, previously felt was missing from the fitness landscape, which often inextricably links feelings about appearance with exercise. As founder and CEO of body-neutral digital fitness platform and app the be.come project, which launched in 2018, Meyers has focused on promoting movement without any emphasis on “results.”
But in their latest role of “Mom,” Meyers—who has experienced years of eating disorders and disordered-eating patterns—has revisited their relationship with neutrality. Following a years-long journey that included infertility treatment and miscarriage, they and their partner, actor Nico Tortorella, 34, welcomed daughter Kilmer Dove on March 5 via home birth from within a tent of cozy- and whimsical-feeling lace.
The path of conception, pregnancy loss, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is highly physical and rife with physical changes. Meyers has been weathering these shifts and settling into their newest layer of identity while still prioritizing listening to their intuition and giving theirself grace.
“The way that body neutrality is applying to me the most now is a little bit different than how maybe you might think it would apply,” they tell me. “I’ve been so face-to-face with the physical side of everything that it’s flipped so much upside down…I’ve been really trying to use body neutrality in a way that accepts all of those feelings and allows them all to be there.”
When Meyers and I recently chatted, ahead of the June release of their book, I Am More Than My Body, it was clear that body neutrality is perhaps more important to them than ever—if in a newer, more open way.
Congratulations on baby Kilmer Dove! I have a nine-month-old myself, so I have a lot of compassion for what it’s like to navigate new parenthood. For me it’s been joyful and also often difficult and exhausting. How are you doing?
Bethany C. Meyers: Truly, I’m doing well. It’s just wild to me how fast it’s going; the first six weeks, I didn’t have anyone at the house, and I didn’t really leave the house. It was a time of super-intense bonding, which was amazing. But now, all the company’s starting to come in: My mom was here last week, Nico’s mom’s here this week. I feel like it’s like time to get back into the swing of things and I’m just like, whoa.
Time is such a precious resource during this newborn phase—it moves so fast, to your point. So I very much appreciate you sharing some of your time with us. In particular, I’m interested in chatting about body neutrality as it relates to your fertility journey, pregnancy, and postpartum period. Has this time impacted your relationship with being body neutral?
BM: In body neutrality, there is a practice of letting go of the idea that your body is the most important thing. I think it’s hard to get to a place where you’re in bliss about your body. But, I do think that we can start to reframe the way that we think about our bodies and really prioritize our mental health, our well-being, and our strength—that’s the part of body neutrality that bled into my infertility process.
So much of that felt like my body was failing me. And then I got pregnant, and my body did not belong to me. I didn’t want to say this when I was pregnant, because it took me so long to get there and I was so scared of jinxing it, but I did not like being pregnant. Now that I am holding my baby in my arms, I am so happy.
The other night, I was sitting in the bathtub, and I started crying because my body feels like it’s mine again. I’m not carrying a baby, I’m not getting shots, I’m not going to the doctor, I’m not tracking a cycle, I’m not looking at a period—I’m just in my body. And that was such a powerful moment. Finding this more neutral state is the way that the concept is applying to me the most now.
Experiencing infertility, pregnancy, and postpartum are all largely physical. How do you approach having feelings—negative or positive—about the highly physical components of bringing a life into the world, and has this affected your relationship with body neutrality?
BM: My body is so different now than before I was pregnant—I’m a different size. That can be jarring, and I’m more sympathetic to that now. Before having a baby, I was a little bit like, “It doesn’t matter, just focus on what your body has done for you.” That’s nice, and part of that is true: I do have a different relationship with my body because I’ve seen what it can do, and the life that it can give, and how it can feed another life.
I’ve also been really, really excited to do movement and to work out. I’ve wondered whether my motive for wanting to work out is because I want to lose weight. In eating-disorder recovery, it’s a big thing for me to notice motivation for working out so I can make sure that it’s not just about the physical. Literally last night, I was like, “Well, some of the motive is physical—that does exist, and I don’t know that I need to beat myself up for that or try to take that out, because I think that there is something so natural about that. My body has shifted a ton, and it’s okay to have those feelings while also not letting them be the highest priority.
Do you have any tips for how any birthing person’s partner can help foster and nourish a body-neutral environment while still appreciating their partner’s changing body? What role does your partner play?
BM: I’m so lucky to have Nico. He’s just really been there throughout the pregnancy—throughout all of it. I have a lot of support. Nico has been making sure I’m fed. I’m feeding the baby, and Nico’s feeding me, and specifically postpartum, the time that you have to feed yourself is non-existent. That has been super-helpful, because something that often would play in my eating disorder is just like not having time.
Nico is just a big cheerleader for my body, for the changes, and for loving all of the changes. That has made me feel really confident. Body positivity doesn’t necessarily work for my own self the majority of the time, but my partner is my body positivity. He’s always like, “You’re looking great” and “I love this” and helping me find clothes. It’s so helpful to have someone like that—if it’s not your partner, then a friend.
“Body positivity doesn’t necessarily work for my own self the majority of the time, but my partner is my body positivity.”
—Bethany C. Meyers
Also, I’ve been really wanting to find time for movement. That’s something that Nico has helped me prioritize, by being like, “Hey, I’m gonna take the baby. Why don’t you go and, you know, do a workout or do whatever you want to do, or go outside, take a walk, that kind of thing?” And I think having that dedicated time has been really helpful.
Last year, you wrote about the difficulty and importance of learning to accept a lack of control in reference to navigating infertility and pregnancy loss. What does the concept of control mean to you now and as you look back on pregnancy?
BM: I’m a person who likes to have things figured out. I like to know what I’m doing. I like to be in control. I run a company—I’m good at the things that I’m good at and that I know how to do. After having a baby, all of a sudden, you’re thrown into this brand-new role that you’ve only read about. That’s, that’s really where I feel like the struggle comes in sometimes. I just want to know what I’m doing for a little bit; I just want to feel super-confident. And that certainly takes time.
I’m also finding a lot of similarities between diet culture and mother culture. My Instagram now serves me Reels saying things like, “If you do anything with a baby three times, they’re going to form a habit.” What that sounds like to me is, “If you eat this amount of sugar, then you’re going to be addicted.” It is wild to me how much parent culture and diet culture connect in this way.
During the first few weeks after Kilmer was born, I was just so inundated with information like this. In my opinion, it creates fear that we do not innately know how to take care of our children, the same way that diet culture creates fear that we are going to wreck our bodies. Taking care of ourselves and our babies is what we know how to do so deep within. My practice in body neutrality is helping me weed out some of the noise and focus on body trust and intuition.
You’ve shared about all the work you’ve done to recover from eating disorders and to unlearn diet culture. Is it a similar mechanism that helps you weed out this noise of unsolicited parenting advice?
BM: I’m attuned to the red flags. Red flags for me in the diet-culture world is anything that is an absolute, and anything that follows a format of, “do this, and the problem will be fixed,” or “these three things take care of this thing.”
I’m so sensitive to that kind of information that after Kilmer was born, I started to feel something wasn’t right about all of these Reels—I’ve had to ask people to stop sending them to me. Practicing body neutrality has helped me become really aware of how I feel.
So many people are navigating or in recovery for eating disorders while pregnant or in the postpartum period. Given your experience, what advice would you offer?
BM: Having someone to talk to is probably like the number one, most important thing. Get the support you need, but know that pregnancy can also be a positive experience that can help you heal further.
During pregnancy, my relationship with food became better than it had ever been. I had to eat to not feel nauseous, I had to eat to sustain life—same thing now, but with breastfeeding. I’ve never been so much of an applauder of fat and protein. Now, all day long, I’m just like, “I need fat, I need protein, I need fat, I need protein. We’ve gotta keep this milk running.” And that has actually been really healing in the way that I look at food and consumption.
Do you have any other specific advice you’d like to offer folks in any stage of pregnancy and the postpartum period?
BM: Allow yourself the space and the time and the healing that you need, because pregnancy and birth is such a dramatic experience for your body. It’s okay to give yourself time. It can feel like we’re not allowed that time, or like we’re supposed to be out and taking walks and doing this and that, but it’s really okay to lay in your bed. Set boundaries and also allow yourself the flexibility to change them if they’re not working for you.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.