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What Is the Body Neutrality Movement?

Posted by Bryan Potok on

It’s no secret that a lot of people are not satisfied with their bodies. However, the physical body is just one aspect of your identity. It’s possible to accept yourself (your body included) as you are, even if you don’t love your body. This concept is at the core of the body neutrality movement, which started gaining traction in 2015.

The body neutrality movement creates space for people who may intensely hate their bodies, like persons with disabilities.

What is body neutrality?  

Unlike body positivity, body neutrality promotes acceptance. It encourages you to look beyond your appearance and recognize your body’s abilities.

The body neutrality movement aims to remove the focus away from your physical appearance, challenging the mainstream message that your worth is based on how you look. This lifestyle allows you to move away from the idea that you need to cultivate body love or make an effort to love and feel good in it every day.

Don’t get us wrong. There’s nothing wrong with loving yourself and your body. Many people have successfully taught themselves to love their bodies, despite considering themselves less than beautiful.

The body neutrality movement creates space for others who hate their bodies intensely. These people typically devote their energy toward changing their appearance and often struggle to achieve contentment or even enjoy life.

Accepting the nature of bodies  

Our bodies show various unique characteristics, which might change depending on our life experiences. A recent amputation surgery will change your physical features. A health condition, like PCOS or diabetes, could also affect your appearance.

Weight fluctuates daily. It naturally changes depending on the types of foods you eat or whether you’re well-hydrated or not. And of course, aging will no doubt change your appearance.

It’s easy to let these reasons prevent you from loving yourself, even when you make a genuine effort to cultivate body love. This is where body neutrality comes in. It offers a firm and healthy middle ground between body love and hate.   

What makes neutrality different from body positivity?  

The body positivity movement is all about feeling good about and loving your body, no matter what it looks like. It emphasizes the idea that everyone is uniquely beautiful. However, this idea can lead to endlessly striving to feel good and look good. With a focus on loving your physical traits no matter what, body positivity can easily backfire because not everyone can arrive at the same level of love for their bodies.   

On the other hand, body neutrality says that everyone is, and the body is what it is. It emphasizes that the body is just one aspect of our identity. Body neutrality acknowledges that it’s okay not to love your body 24/7, and you can accept your body as it is.

Examples of body neutrality  

Body neutrality is all about helping you prioritize how you feel in your body instead of what you think about it. This could mean choosing to workout because it makes you feel good, not because you need to burn off calories. It means listening to your body and knowing when to rest.

Being body neutral might mean choosing to wear clothes that feel good on you. It means being grateful that your body allows you to love your family and friends and do the things you like to do.

However, this movement doesn’t condone making unhealthy choices. It means allowing your body to guide you, not the weighing scale or the mirror.  

Who will benefit from it?  

Although body neutrality works for everyone, the concept particularly resonates with people who have a hard time loving their bodies. The movement encourages everyone to break the habit of connecting their physical state to their sense of self-worth.

How can you start practicing?  

It’s going to take some time before you get to the point of neutrality when thinking or talking about your body. But these tips can get you into the habit.

Acknowledge and reframe your thoughts  

Because of the messages on mainstream media, talking and thinking negatively about your body might come naturally to you. So, acknowledge moments when you criticize your body, whether in conversations you have with yourself or with a friend.

Then reframe your thoughts by considering what your body is doing for you. Focus on its innate strength and ability to heal and adapt.

For example, instead of being hard on yourself for not using your prosthetic limb properly despite being in physical therapy for many days, recognize that your body follows its timing to heal and adapt. Your body might not be ready to adapt to your prosthetic limb today, but with practice and patience, one day, you’ll be able to go back to your routine.

Redirect conversations  

A friend might bring up any discontentment they have about their bodies. Redirect the conversation and ask them how they feel instead.

Don’t restrict your food choices  

Food restrictions make it harder for us to appreciate our bodies. But as long as you choose whole, fresh foods that give your body the essential nutrients it needs, you can enjoy some snacks or desserts when cravings strike. However, if you have a health condition, work closely with your physician and indulge your cravings mindfully. 

Give it time  

Shifting from negativity or false positivity to a more neutral space takes time and conscious effort. Give yourself time and be patient with yourself as you work towards embracing body neutrality. Mainstream media and advertising may make it hard for you to make the shift but keep at it. Be mindful about the content you consume and let the people you care about know about your goal.
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