Do you feel drained by the body positivity movement? Do you need a fresh way of approaching body image issues? Body neutrality may be for you!
The relationship we have with our bodies is complex and deep. We can’t fix everything by simply telling ourselves we love our bodies. Because we usually don’t. However, your body is not the thing that defines you. Instead, it is a small part of who you are.
The body neutrality movement first came about online in 2015 and is a brilliant way of accepting your body for what it does for us and not for what it looks like. Let’s look at how we can use body neutrality to enhance our lives and tackle our negative body image.
Why is body positivity problematic?
The body positivity movement has gone from strength to strength over the last ten years, with the rise of social media providing influencers and advocates ways of spreading the message. It has helped a lot of people to love their bodies, accept themselves, and reject the beauty standards that are put upon us.
But body positivity isn’t for everyone. Yes, it would be nice to love ourselves completely, but the fact is, most people just don’t. Constantly hearing ‘love your body’ can feel just as draining as being constantly told, ‘be thin to be happy.’ Just like the latter, the former can make us feel as if we are doing something wrong.
Body positivity has recently come under fire, with many psychologists addressing the issues with the movement. In an interview with Cleveland Clinic, psychologist Susan Albers argues that ‘body positivity is a subset of toxic positivity. Some feel that it blames people for how they feel based on their mindset. It can also push people into trying to feel something that they don’t.’
So, what do we do now? We have spent years telling ourselves that we must love our bodies to be happy and confident! What do we do when that doesn’t work?
Enter body neutrality, an exciting new movement that is here to make us feel fine about ourselves.
What is body neutrality?
How to practice body neutrality
Body neutrality sounds good, doesn’t it? But how can we work with it to feel good about ourselves?
Like any movement that focuses on body image issues, body neutrality doesn’t just happen overnight. It slowly dismantles the focus on beauty that society has been putting on us since the day we were born, and this isn’t easy! Body neutrality takes time, but if you practice it every day, you will soon find comfort in this fresh approach to your body.
If you have followed the body positivity movement for a while, the word affirmations probably makes you groan a little. The body positivity movement loves positive affirmations and tells us to repeat sentences like, ‘I am beautiful and strong’ every day to make us feel better about ourselves.
Of course, this does work for a lot of people! But what about neutral affirmations?
Working with body neutral affirmations helps us rejig the way we think about our bodies, helping us move forward on the path of acceptance.
Here are some great examples of body neutrality affirmations for you to try out:
- I accept my body.
- My body allows me to experience the world.
- My body is unique, with its own pros and cons, and this is fine.
- My body works hard for me.
- I am more than what my body looks like.
- My body is a small part of who I am.
We can work towards a body neutrality view of ourselves by reflecting daily on what our body has done for us. Journaling is a great way of reflecting, and we can write down our thoughts and feelings toward our bodies at the end of every day.
Start by reflecting on what you have experienced in the last 24 hours. Did you hug a friend? Did you go on a walk? Did you eat some really nice food? Write down the experiences you have had and how your body has helped you.
Journaling and reflection can also allow us to alter our thoughts and put a neutral spin on negative statements. Perhaps you are feeling down about your legs, thinking they are fat and ugly. Write down this thought, then add a neutral statement. Your legs allowed you to go on that hike! Your legs helped you walk to the cafe to meet your friends!
Body neutrality has links to mindfulness, as it asks us to simply be present in the world. When we practice mindfulness, we become more aware of how our body feels and interacts with the world. In turn, this allows us to notice how our body is helping us out in day-to-day life.
Body scan meditations and walking meditations are great ways to bring mindfulness into your routine and enhance your body neutrality attitude.
Reframe diet and exercise
Diet culture is an insidious part of society, and it can be difficult to change our attitudes toward food and exercise. Many of us view certain foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and go to the gym because we want to look a certain way. When we opt for video workouts we find online, they are often named things like, ‘15 minute workout to get a flat stomach’.
Body neutrality asks us to reframe our attitudes towards diet and exercise. Instead of picking foods because of how it impacts your weight, pick foods that will make you feel good and healthy. Learn intuitive eating, which helps you get to know how your body connects to food and what food does for your body.
Regarding exercise, reflect on what pushes you to work out. Is it because you want a flat stomach? Is it because you want to lose weight? It is time to change that attitude!
Exercise gives us so much. It helps us feel good in our bodies and relieves stress and anxiety. According to the Harvard Medical School, ‘exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.’
When approaching a workout, remind yourself that you are doing it to keep your body working and keep your head happy!
Avoid unnecessary discussions
Maintaining body neutrality can be difficult when we are surrounded by people and media outlets that love discussing what people look like. However, you can take steps to help you avoid these unnecessary discussions.
If your friends start commenting on other people’s appearance, gently shut the conversation down and move on. If the people around you are discussing diets and weight loss, remove yourself from the conversation.
Reflect on the media you consume and what attitudes they have about bodies. A huge amount of popular magazines have weight loss and diet sections, and others online will comment on the appearance of celebrities. This type of discourse is unhelpful to your body neutrality journey. Instead, make sure you’re only following people who talk about topics you’re interested in and spark positive emotions rather than those who focus solely on their diet and their body.
How does body neutrality impact your sexual health?
Our body and sexuality are strongly connected, and this means that body neutrality impacts our sexual health. The way we feel about ourselves can positively or negatively affect our sex life, but moving towards body neutrality can allow us to be in the moment during intimate experiences and appreciate the pleasure our body provides us with.
Body neutrality in sex moves away from how you think your partner feels about your physical appearance. Instead, it puts the focus on how sex makes your body feel good. In turn, this allows us to have more pleasurable sexual experiences. We aren’t worried about how we should look or act like in sex. Instead, we explore the sexual needs of ourselves and our partners.
Embrace body neutrality today and start your journey of acceptance
Body neutrality is a radical approach that revolutionizes the way we connect with our bodies. Instead of focusing on what we look like, this movement asks us to focus on what our bodies can do for us.
Adopting a body neutral approach takes time, as there is a lot of unlearning to do! However, it ultimately provides us with the space to accept our bodies. It helps us realize that our bodies do not define us, rather, they are a small aspect of who we are.