How do you feel about your body? Are there days you hate it, love it, compare it, or all the above? From extreme workouts and diets to plastic surgery and filters, impossible beauty standards everywhere influence how we see ourselves. But thankfully, a new movement is emerging that helps us value who we are from a different perspective. Body neutrality encourages you to take a neutral stance – there are days you may not like your body, and that’s okay. The important thing is how you feel versus what it looks like. It teaches you that it’s possible to accept and love yourself, even if you aren’t happy with your appearance. Let’s dive in and determine if body neutrality is the right movement for you.
What Is ‘Body Neutrality’?
Your body is far more than how society views it. It keeps you alive, helps you make decisions, form relationships, achieve goals, and so many more important aspects that create your identity.
Body neutrality encourages you to acknowledge these non-physical traits and value yourself beyond your appearance. “It concentrates on who we are on the inside, not our external vessels” states Anne Poirier, an intuitive eating coach and author of The Body Joyful. Seeing yourself through this perspective helps you learn that who you are as a whole is so much more valuable than your physical body.
Body Neutrality vs Body Positivity: What’s the Difference?
Body positivity encourages the narrative that all bodies deserve love and respect. It challenges societal beauty standards and reinforces the belief that everyone has the right to embrace their bodies as they are regardless of their size or weight. And while there is nothing wrong with loving your body, it can be difficult for people that don’t love their bodies to accept themselves immediately. Body neutrality provides a realistic middle ground. On the days you might not feel confident, you can focus on things you’re grateful for, who you are beyond your appearance, and what your body does for you. It encourages self-love while allowing you to have bad days.
4 Examples of Body Neutrality
Body neutrality can encourage how we think and feel in various empowering and inspiring ways;
- Reframing self-talk. I may not like myself today or how I look, but I will try not to put myself down or judge how I look.
- Focus on health. You decide to go for a jog for the sake of moving your body, not to try to burn any calories from any of the meals you ate.
- Have fun. You eat nutritious and healthy meals, but it’s also more than okay to have burgers, fries, and chocolate.
- Rest days. Instead of shaming yourself for taking a rest day from the gym, you intuitively know and accept that a rest day is beneficial for your health.
How to Practice Body Neutrality: 9 Tips
To begin your body neutrality journey, ask yourself what you appreciate about your body. For example, you might be grateful for your hands and how they allow you to write, touch, feel, and climb. You might love your legs and all the places they take you. Focusing on being grateful for your body, its functions, and what it does for you encourages you to honor it from a space of non-judgment.
2. Focus on your health
Think about how exercising will improve your overall health. Instead of focusing on your goal weight, ask how running today would make you feel? Perhaps it might make you feel productive because you’re training for a marathon. Or think about the benefits running would provide for your heart, circulatory system, and muscles.
3. Eat what you want
Instead of focusing on a diet solely of nutritious and wholesome foods, allow yourself to eat what you want without the guilt. Society standards deprive us of indulging and eating foods we crave because deep down we’re afraid our value will change if our appearance does. Let yourself have a meal you really want without the outside chatter influencing you.
4. Listen to your body
Your body is constantly communicating with you throughout your day. It engages with a network of stimuli and responds to every habit, movement, meal, and interaction you have. Tune into these conversations and ask yourself, what does my body need? If you need a rest day, take one and focus on how it would nourish your body.
5. You are more than your body
Go beyond the false societal programming and look within. You are more than your body image. While society, culture, and media all magnify the connection between our image and worth, your thoughts, beliefs, values, and emotions are more than how you look. Undoing this conditioning is a challenge but worth the effort.
6. Be honest about how you feel
If you don’t like your body right now, that’s okay. Being honest about what you don’t like is part of the body neutrality movement. Honesty helps us bridge how we currently feel and how we want to feel. Instead of pushing positivity on days you don’t feel your best, acknowledge your current state and let yourself feel all the feelings without the pressure.
7. Reframe how you speak to yourself
After being honest, slowly start catching how you speak about your body. We often don’t recognize how much we look at our bodies, compare, and make self-judgments. While these thoughts are normal, they do present challenges to creating a good relationship with your body. Instead of trying to ignore these thoughts, which will only make them worse, observe your self-talk. When you catch yourself saying how much you don’t like a particular body part or how you wish you could look different, try focusing on what your body does for you instead.
8. Redirect body conversations
So often, we discuss how someone looks rather than how they feel. We say “You look amazing” rather than “How are you feeling?”. While these comments often have positive intentions, they continue to make our appearance the forefront of conversations. If these comments bother you, you can redirect the focus and say, “Thank you. My body feels great, I am grateful for what it does for me”. If people question your statement, help increase their awareness and the benefits of body neutrality. When we help one another, we’re all better able to make positive changes.
9. Be patient
It takes time to shift and reframe years of conditioning, especially in a society that’s not ready to completely change. Give yourself love, patience, and grace for the wonderful changes you’re making during your body neutrality journey. You’re learning to love your body for what it does for you every day instead of focusing on how it looks. It keeps you alive and allows you to give hugs, eat delicious meals, go on adventures, laugh, cry, smile, and so much more.
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