Let’s be honest with ourselves: we struggle to have a good relationship with our bodies in this modern society. Even if there are instances we get to love it, that’s not the case every day. In general, love is a journey that takes time to work through. It’s almost like we have hit one end of the spectrum every day: to love or hate our bodies. And on the days we don’t feel that way, guilt can consume us.
But what if we told you that there was a way to be in the middle of the spectrum? You don’t have to appreciate your body or dislike it. That’s how body neutrality works.
Let’s plunge more into this encouraging movement and how it can benefit us through the various daily practices we listed down below.
What is Body Neutrality?
Verywell Mind defined body neutrality as a movement focused on “the body’s abilities and non-physical characteristics.”
Following this movement shows how accepting you are of your body as it is and what it can do for you to make you feel good and healthy. It also serves as the middle ground between times you love your body and times you may not like it. Or in other words, body neutrality puts you in the grey area. It’s accepting our bodies and having respect for it rather than loving all of them. As much as possible, we stray away from negativity.
This movement was first mentioned and talked about in 2015, but became popularized by a body image coach and author named Anne Poirier. She used this term through a workshop to help her patients develop a better relationship with food and exercise. Yes, patients. Poirier is also a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and Eating Disorder Specialist.
She defines Body Neutrality as “prioritizing the body’s function and what it can do rather than its appearance.” For example, you choose to work out because it makes you feel good. Not because of the weight you’re going to lose the more consistent you become.
Your body is only a part of your being, not your entirety.
Goal of Body Neutrality
Feminist writer Anuschka Rees expressed in her book Beyond Beautiful that the goal of body neutrality would be “to dial down the enormous significance that has been given to physical attractiveness in our society.”.
She also added, “It’s not just about pushing back on the specific beauty ideals or standards of our time, but on all aspects of society that continue to promote beauty as essential, consequential, and the ultimate accomplishment of worth.”
In other words, the fixation on our physical looks to feel worthy, happy, and confident is something we need to lessen. Looks should be of lesser importance if not for societal standards. We shouldn’t feel hindered from living our life and truth to its full extent if our looks aren’t aligned with those standards. Our true value lies from within, in what our body does for us to keep us alive. We must learn to acknowledge and honor those functions that keep us breathing.
Easier said than done, but everything about this movement is a lifelong journey for whoever chooses to follow it.
Body Positivity vs. Body Neutrality
These two movements are often quoted together, but what makes them different from each other? Let’s break each of them down.
1 Body Positivity
Body Positivity is about having a “positive” outlook on your body, no matter its shape, size, gender, or skin tone. It’s in feeling good in your skin and body, loving it even if we go against society’s unrealistic standards. You also work through giving mental strength from negative thoughts.
Started in the 1960s as a movement to stop the mistreatment of fat people in America, this belief pushed the idea that everyone deserves the same amount of respect and dignity. However, over time, there have been criticisms. Firstly, going beyond your average weight can negatively impact your physical health without further action. Even if this movement encourages someone to love themselves no matter their height, weight, skin tone, etc., it doesn’t encourage obesity.
Second, there’s a lack of diversity. According to Medical News Today, most models advocating this movement on social media are “white, young, conventionally attractive, non-disabled and cisgender females.” This leaves people of color, people living with disabilities, and the LGBTQIA+ community out of the conversation. Males and those with eating disorders are also affected. This lack of diversity applies in media, where the main characters are of the same standards.
Third, it can be toxic or lead to toxic positivity because you bury your real feelings. It’s also like you’re already being blamed for having such a negative mindset in the first place. You’re constantly constructing only good thoughts about yourself, filtering the bad ones when they come without hesitation rather than acknowledging them for a moment before letting them flow and go. Because of this, you begin to lack honesty in yourself. The more you do that, the bigger the issue becomes. Your journey to self-love no longer feels authentic.
In other words, having unconditional love for our bodies is a challenging journey. We always find something about ourselves we don’t like, even if it’s something others don’t notice. Plus, society wants to establish dominance over our feelings and mindset. If they weren’t so interfering, we wouldn’t need this movement in the first place.
2 Body Neutrality
So how can we go around these disadvantages? That’s where you could give Body Neutrality a shot.
In contrast to body positivity, its main focus is putting more value on what your body does and provides for you, as mentioned earlier. By doing such, you’d feel better about the habits your body picks up and eventually work through your authentic feelings day by day. You’d even have a better recognition for your genetics rather than feel ostracized by them.
Body Neutrality is a stepping stone to self-acceptance, as moving toward body positivity right away may feel like a long jump from dissatisfaction.
Additionally, Maria Sorbara Mora, a Registered Dietitian and Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist, quoted that Body Neutrality “communicates that our bodies are vehicles-that when treated with care- can become vibrant vessels for life to move through them.”
Benefits of Body Neutrality
Following body neutrality in your life can help you view yourself in a more uplifting light. Here are some benefits to look out for.
1 Your anxiety levels decrease.
The more stress you put on your body when you don’t feel too confident or good, the more anxiety will arise in your system. Thoughts surrounding what to change about yourself or how to attain any unrealistic beauty standard would put you on the brink of hopelessness and misery because you fear the judgments of others. Or maybe, they’re impossible to achieve. However, that will change once you apply body neutrality to your life.
Modifying your mindset from concentrating too much on your physical appearance to your inward personality and functions instead can lift the burden from your shoulders. Finding those various strengths in yourself can reduce your stress levels one by one. It can be how your eyes make you capable of seeing your favorite movies or how your legs can take you to numerous places.
2 You have more patience towards yourself.
Love may be a big step for some if it doesn’t come from a real place or they’ve felt negative about how they look for a long time. Thus, establishing positivity instantly without much thought may lead to toxic mindsets and actions that’ll only worsen how they feel over time. But thanks to body neutrality, you give yourself some leeway when negative thoughts flood you. Yet there’s still that goal to lessen them to live happier lives.
Also with body neutrality, you can cut yourself some stress and self-guilt. We’re human. We have our good and bad days. When bad days happen, making you want to curl up in bed and be alone, it’s okay for you to let them happen. There’s no such thing as a perfect journey to having more appreciation for our bodies, but we give ourselves grace in acknowledging and validating each feeling we get each passing day.
3 You’re focusing on yourself as a whole.
Your physique is merely a part of who you are, so you don’t have to revolve around that only. You also have traits, quirks, and talents that are unique from others. Through body neutrality, you’re putting all the light on your non-physical characteristics of the internal aspects of your body that we don’t see.
Let’s provide a few examples. You may have a sense of humor that gets everyone on the floor laughing or in tears. Oh, you can morph your tongue into a cloverleaf! Or perhaps, if not for your stomach, you wouldn’t be able to eat delicious food.
We begin to grasp and accept that there is much more than our looks, which disconnects that link between our value and physical appearance.
4 You’re more mindful and intuitive.
Mindfulness is an important factor in making body neutrality work in your life. It allows you to zone into your inner self, picking signals on what it needs and figuring out what must be prioritized. You’ll then let them guide you into living to your full potential and into good health. In becoming more mindful, you become more aware and listen to your body much better. From there, we can provide for it.
By being more intuitive, you’re in touch with your body the most. You won’t let anyone else dictate how you live your life. For example, if someone tells you the “right ways or options” to eat to be healthy and happy, going against them feels like an empowering move. You live how you please based on whatever makes your body feel good. This would also be beneficial when making life-changing decisions in the future because you have more trust in yourself and your guts.
5 You practice gratitude a lot more.
Body neutrality strays away from viewing the physical aspects of our bodies and concentrates solely on what they do and provide for us. Often, those can be things that we don’t give enough recognition and take for granted because it’s what they were meant to do. But when we do give them attention, it opens the door to more realizations.
For example, you may not like your legs because they’re quite thick and have no gap between each other. However, these are the same legs that can bring you to your favorite destinations and see the people closest to you. Or maybe you don’t like your tummy, but they’re also responsible for nesting and carrying a child you hold dear before giving birth to them.
From this kind of mindset, we acquire a newfound joy that reminds us of how capable our bodies can be for numerous things we view as normal.
6 You have more empathy for yourself and others.
Since we’ve become more judgemental and criticizing of our bodies, we may unintentionally pass that on to others because it’s how we project our insecurities. It may be people we see in passing or are acquainted with, yet we choose to act negatively to release the chains of our strains. However, it shouldn’t be like that. So when we decide to slowly (yet surely) distancing from such a negative mindset and move towards body neutrality, it can lead us to a room of empathy.
We can create healthier connections with them and open up to each other. We even allow ourselves to be vulnerable too without fear or setbacks. It can also be natural to spread kindness because we are all on our journey of self-acceptance and take care of each other more.
7 Those marginalized by society are included in this movement.
As mentioned earlier with body positivity, there’s a lack of diversity. In making a world movement, you must include all ways of life to make it work. Not just that, you can’t force someone to like their bodies. It’s a trap to think that way to lead to toxic behaviors.
Healthline put this benefit into a deeper perspective. For someone who has physical disabilities, you shouldn’t coax them to love their body when it’s also the very thing hindering them from living and moving as they please. Then for transgender people, they can’t tap into a more optimistic mindset if their physical body doesn’t align with their gender identity.
With body neutrality, those physical blemishes or impairments wouldn’t matter. What matters is how we take care of it so we can live a more improved life and notice what internal traits make us special. Whether it be within ourselves or towards others.
8 You have a calmer state of mind.
Since you’re releasing all that stress and guilt you acquired towards your body over time, the calm waves flow through within you. There’s a break between that evil tiny voice in your head stamping all over your self-esteem when your body isn’t up to par with the various societal standards. Why? Because you’re redirecting your energy elsewhere. Just make sure to also remind what non-physical quirks you like about yourself when that voice wants to become dominant.
9 Your daily mood gets boosted.
All the previously mentioned benefits due to body neutrality result in lifting your mood and spirits up. From feeling zero because of all that negativity, you could raise your happiness level even by 1% at a time. You’ll also lessen the amount of time you spend pondering on your body and focus more on what gets your body to move and groove the way it does. You’ll go along your days better, even if they aren’t necessarily 100% yet. Again, it’s okay to be in the middle when you’re following body neutrality.
10 You learn to accept everything that makes you who you are.
Or in other words, body neutrality advocates self-acceptance! Because achieving self-love is something that requires a lot of time and patience, it’s a long journey ahead. And at the same time, we don’t love our bodies daily. We have those dark moments.
Body neutrality teaches and motivates us to accept our body with its changes, challenges, and strengths. From there, we drop that stress of pressure to pretend that we like it. We get to be honest with our feelings, fully taking them in, then letting them go.
According to Anne Poirer via Livestrong, we also lessen any pessimistic talk or punishing behavior towards our body, which leaves more room for self-respect.
How to Apply Body Neutrality in Your Life
Now that we know the good aspects of body neutrality, what practices or approaches can we do to bring them to life and make our lives easier? Browse through this creative list below to get started on your journey.
1 Listen to your body and what it needs.
Tired? Rest or sleep.
Strained from sitting down too long? Stand up and take a walk or stretch your body.
Need more motivation or drive? Play music that lifts your spirits up.
Easy as that. There’s always a solution to every dilemma your body feels at the moment. You should also take this time to notice how your body serves you, from the small to the big ways.
2 Give away clothes that are too big or tight on you.
This approach on body neutrality tells you that you can style your body any way you want as long you feel confident in them. So as much as possible, declutter items that you think don’t suit your figure. Focus on wearing items that are comfortable on your skin and bring out the best in you.
3 Watch how you speak to yourself.
This practice is crucial when embarking on your journey through body neutrality. Even if you joke to yourself about your appearance, jokes are still half meant. The world is already harsh for many of us, so why must we continue that pattern within ourselves? Practice kindness within yourself so that only gentle words can impact your well-being. Reciting body-neutral statements out loud is a big help too!
This makes you pause and reflect, especially if any pessimistic words appear unprovoked.
Some examples you can refer to include:
- I deserve to enjoy my life.
- My body keeps me going.
- I respect my body and what it does for me.
- I am more than my physical appearance.
- My body is healing.
- I release all judgment and negativity towards my body.
4 Switch any body-related topics to something else.
This approach on body neutrality applies to both yourself and others. Rather than focusing or whining about how your arms look when wearing a spaghetti-strap dress, choose a dress that makes you feel amazing and pretty for the day ahead. Or if the polo you have on is too tight on your chest, pick another shirt with your favorite color or style.
In a situation where you are with other people, and they decide to bring up how much or less weight you have on your body, redirect the conversation by talking about you feel about yourself lately. Or if they choose a ruder approach and share mean comments about your figure, always choose kindness no matter how hard it is. Whatever they say about you is a reflection of themselves.
5 Focus on your strengths.
We all have characteristics about ourselves that we’re confident and happy with. If you haven’t checked in with yourself, it’s time for self-reflection.
What makes you special?
Do you have any talents are you proud of?
What are things about yourself that others like or admire?
How do you make others feel loved?
Not everything about you is tied down by your body. It’s also on your inner identity and how you treat others around you.
6 Reframe your idea of working out.
Hearing the words “working out” can be dreadful. Perhaps we are lazy to break into a sweat, or it means that you need to start losing weight. And if you skip, you feel punished. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. So rather than thinking of working out as a way to shed pounds, consider other possible reasons people would work out. Because quite frankly, working out due to wanting a change body image is only one out of many.
It’s up to you to find those reasons that’ll get you up and moving instead of complaining.
For example, work out for the sake of feeling those endorphins. Get into exercising because you want to live a long, healthy life. Plus, there are many exercises out there! It’s up to what makes you feel motivated.
7 Detox any irrelevant aspects of social media.
Not everything on social media is real! People whom you think are living the good life, especially celebrities and influencers, only show what they want others to see. You can always deactivate all your social media accounts if you please, but if you think it’s too much of a stretch, going on an unfollowing spree is an effective solution. Clicking the “not interested” option is also helpful on content that doesn’t align with your views or makes you compare your life to theirs.
You become what you consume, so be smart and absorb content that only serves you good.
8 Shift your thoughts on food.
This approach can be a tricky one. But as much as possible, provide your body with food that nourishes your body and soul. Prioritize your fruits and vegetables, but remember to give in to your cravings for desserts and snacks every now and then. At the end of the day, food keeps you alive and running.
Want that croissant as a mid-day snack? Buy it!
Eager for orange juice to get that Vitamin C? Get it!
Curious to try a new salad? Give it a shot!
Stop the punishing behavior when diving into your cravings, and eat as you need and please in moderation.
9 Surround yourself with people or things that provide good vibes.
They say that your friends or the people you’re constantly with are a reflection of yourself. If your friends are sex-positive, you are also open to discussing anything related to sex. If your friends love social drinking, you’d never turn down a late night of fun. And the list goes on.
If you’re with people who always hype you up no matter what you look, only caring about how you treat others, those are people you should keep with you. Not only are they give you uplifting energy, but they prioritize kindness in a friendship. Anyone who only talks badly about others is someone you shouldn’t be involved with.
But if you’re in a situation wherein your circle of friends or family are mean and only bring you down, you must put yourself first. You can either cut them off or minimize contact with them. Life is too short to be surrounded by people who only bring out the worst in you.
Aside from people, you should engage in energy-giving activities or activities that bring you much joy. Whether it be dancing, baking, or painting, always carve out time to partake in them.
10 Seek professional help.
Practicing body neutrality may be extra difficult for those who struggle extra with their body image, have mental illnesses, or have eating disorders. To combat that, consulting with a medical professional would make a great first step. Whether it be a therapist, a dietician, or a nutritionist, having an expert guide you through improving the way you look at yourself can manifest healthier habits and view towards yourself over time.
If you have the financial means to afford this approach, take that chance and make a huge change for yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still eager to learn more about Body Neutrality? Check out this section as we answer common queries about this shifting movement.
1 Can you practice fat acceptance and body neutrality together?
According to Healthline, these two movements are separate, yet they can be tied together. With fat movement, it normalizes larger bodies and advocates size inclusivity. It also further pushes the idea that being fat isn’t bad or ugly, nor is it a reason to hate yourself. With body neutrality, it’s okay to have neutral feelings with your body that change daily.
2 Are there any disadvantages to body neutrality?
There’s not enough information or research on this movement because it’s fairly new, and it can move someone away aimlessly to disregard the health risks of being overweight or obese. It’s also possible that consistent toleration of your body may result in a more negative attitude towards oneself.
3 Can I practice both body positivity and body neutrality?
Yes! Suppose you’re feeling good right off the bat and want to amplify that feeling. In that case, you can adopt body positivity practice by reciting affirmations or complimenting how you look through a mirror. But if you’re in the grey area for the day, you can check out the previous section for a list of actions that you can do to adopt body neutrality.
4 How can body neutrality help those with eating disorders?
People with an eating disorder have a distorted view of their bodies. Along their journey of healing and recovery, improving said view is included. Instead of leaping to positive thoughts or words of love for your body right away because it’s unrealistic, body neutrality allows one to be neutral with their feelings. It lets go of the idea of feeling a certain way toward their body as they recover. It also focuses on self-acceptance, shedding more light on what their bodies do for them and lessening the shame and guilt they’ve had before.
5 What’s an easier way to break down body positivity and body neutrality?
Body positivity is rooted in self-love, while body neutrality is rooted in self-acceptance.
Body neutrality is a helpful tool in redeveloping how we view ourselves. Because its main focus on one person is recognizing the wonders our body can do for us and other non-physical aspects of ourselves, how we look doesntý matter. So if you think spreading self-love is still a challenge, being on the neutral side through body neutrality would make life a lot more honest and authentic.