You have probably heard of the body positivity movement from friends or social media. In fact, we created a Body Positivity Tool Kit in July for those looking for tips. Another popular health movement is body neutrality. Similar to body positivity, it's a way of changing your thinking to help make health and life more approachable. But what exactly is it and why does it matter?
What is Body Neutrality?
Body neutrality is a focus on what your body is capable of, rather than how your body looks. It is a way of looking at the whole picture of what your body does on a daily basis outside of its appearance. Your body may be capable of walking the dog, giving your child a hug, healing itself from illness, and so much more! Additionally, body neutrality encourages the idea that there is more to a person than their body.
One of the main goals of body neutrality is recognizing that we may not always love our bodies- and that’s okay. It is not realistic for everyone to love their body 100% of the time. The body neutrality movement certainly doesn’t advocate for hating your body either. Negative thoughts about your body may happen, but they can be managed to not constantly disrupt your day.
As a whole, body neutrality offers a way to help you feel less biased in regards to your body. Removing that bias can positively improve mental health and enable you to accomplish more than you may have previously thought.
How is Body Neutrality Different from Body Positivity?
Body positivity promotes self-love and affirmation no matter what a person’s body looks like. Body neutrality encourages individuals to accept their bodies for the simple fact that it exists instead of focusing on the way it looks.
Body neutrality advocates certainly aren’t dismissing the body positivity movement. However, they recognize that this thinking may be more helpful for some folks because it removes the pressure to constantly think or feel a certain way about their body. Most importantly, there was a noticed trend that some populations, such as people of color and those with disabilities or eating disorders, did not feel included in the body positivity movement. These same communities have expressed they feel more at home in the body neutrality movement.
Why is it Important?
It is very natural to have feelings about your body, whether they’re positive or negative. But body neutrality can be an important approach for stopping those feelings from becoming overwhelming.
Focusing too much on how our body looks can distract us from being able to focus on other more important things. Taking a neutral stance on your body allows you to fully engage in and enjoy experiences within our lives.
Additionally, advocates for body neutrality have pointed out that if you’re having negative thoughts about your body, it may be easier to approach body neutrality rather than positivity.
How can you practice body neutrality?
There are several ways you can get involved in practicing body neutrality. Some ways you can practice this movement are through self-talk, food, and exercise.
Self-talk includes acknowledging both how your body functions well and how it doesn’t. The ways your body functions well could include phrases like “my legs allow me to run 3 miles,” or “my body allows me to take care of 2 kids every day.” The ways in which your body doesn’t work well for you includes phrases such as “my knees don’t allow me to walk very far,” or “my arms aren’t able to lift heavy objects.” The reason that it is important to acknowledge these feelings is because it allows you to accept all aspects of your body rather than feeling ashamed about certain things.
Food and exercise are a bit easier to address. Body neutrality recognizes that a well rounded diet and enough physical activity are important components of health. However, they should not become overwhelming parts of your day. Making time for meal prep and regular activity is just as important as grabbing a meal with friends and taking a rest day.
Overall, body neutrality can be a powerful way of thinking for people. By removing the idea that you have to love or hate your body, it leaves you with the idea that your body simply “is.” As we did with our Body Positivity Toolkit, we encourage members of our community to take time to reflect and connect with themselves. If you find you’d like to make a change, the body neutrality movement may be right for you.