A Love Letter to Move UBC

Happy Valentine’s Day, UBC!


Valentine’s Day also happens to coincide with Move UBC, which is UBC’s month-long physical activity campaign that takes place every February on both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses. In honour of this day of love, I wanted to write about an important relationship that Move UBC has helped me heal and nurture: the relationship with my body.

(Content Warning: Body Image)

Since I was little, I have been bombarded with messages of what my body should look like. As an impressionable tween, I succumbed to trying social media fitness trends that were far from scientific. It certainly did not help to hear relatives comment on my body even if they were well-intentioned. Unfortunately, these pressures led me to viewing physical activity as a chore or strategy to compensate for dietary choices. What makes me the most sad in retrospect is that these pressures led younger Chelsea to speaking negatively about and to her body.

This is where Move UBC comes in. Move UBC focuses on getting campus members moving for the benefit of their everyday health and functioning. With so many free movement opportunities to choose from, Move UBC has reminded me of fun ways to exercise. During Move UBC 2021, I learned how to move my body without depending on my vision while playing goalball at Adaptive Sports Day. During our kickoff event for Move UBC 2023 “Recess”, I was reunited with the parachute that I adored playing with from PE class in elementary school.

Participants playing with parachute at Move UBC Recess 2023


What I took away from these activities was how grateful and happy I felt to learn a new sport,  reminisce playing like a child, and experience the blood rush of happiness hormones. Unlike younger Chelsea, I was not consumed by how my body looked or how hard I exerted my body. Instead, concerns about my body were replaced with appreciation towards my body’s function, which lends me to my next point: body neutrality.

Growing up, I heard lots about body positivity. Body positivity is a movement that encourages folks to extend love and acceptance towards their body no matter what they look like (Pellizzer & Wade, 2023). While well-intentioned, not everyone is receptive to body positivity. Pellizzer and Wade outline a number of critiques in their 2023 article, one of them being that some folks find it difficult to tell themselves to love their bodies. This makes sense especially if an individual has been used to being dissatisfied about their bodies.

An alternative to the body positivity movement, however, is the body neutrality movement. One way in which body neutrality is different from body positivity is that it promotes mindfulness towards how one’s body functions without assigning value or judgment instead of appearance (Pellizzer & Wade, 2023). 

To distinguish the two, body positivity might sound like: “I love how my arms look.” In contrast, body neutrality might sound like: “My arms help me carry groceries from the car in one go.” The former forces positivity onto someone who might not be ready to believe the compliment, while the latter acknowledges the function of their arms and offers the individual a reason to be grateful for their body. Please note that one movement is not necessarily better than the other, but rather both movements have their pros and cons (Pellizzer & Wade, 2023)!

Tying things back to Move UBC, this month has helped me adopt the perspective of body neutrality. With a month that focuses on function and health, I have grown an appreciation of what my body can do without stressing over what it looks like. This month has allowed me to reframe physical activity as a privilege to move through space and on Musqueam lands. Most importantly, this month has allowed me to develop a healthier relationship towards my body, one that younger Chelsea deserved from the very beginning.

In closing, Move UBC is not just a campaign. It is a celebration for all types of bodies and how different bodies can move in different ways! If you haven’t already, I encourage you to celebrate with me and check out the Move UBC Events Calendar to learn about the different fitness classes and events.

And to Move UBC, I thank you and I love you.

2023-2024 Move U Crew Team Leads Chelsea (left) & Sam (right)
Photo Credit: Tandem Photography