In a direct response to diet culture and societal pressure to be a certain size, body positivity quickly became an internet buzzword, and today it is used in everyday conversations to challenge negative body image and promote a more inclusive and body-diverse society.
On the face of it, body positivity sounds… positive. It is a social movement and a cultural shift that advocates for self-acceptance and appreciation of all body types, sizes, and shapes, regardless of societal beauty standards. So what is the problem? Unfortunately, despite the welcomed messaging, body shaming and negative opinions (often intentionally hurtful and mean) about people’s bodies prevail, especially online, and this makes the concept of feeling great about your body every day not sustainable or effective. Thus, when people think and talk about their bodies, health, and nutrition, they can feel stuck between forced positivity and shame. The extreme and inflexible nature of the messaging from both sides has tangible effects on our mental health and self-esteem.
Photo by nappy
What you might try instead? Body neutrality–the concept of accepting and valuing one’s body for what it is, regardless of its size, shape, or appearance, and not constantly seeking to change or improve it. It emphasizes the idea that a person’s worth is not determined by their physical appearance, and encourages individuals to focus on their physical, mental, and emotional health, rather than striving for an unrealistic beauty standard or an unattainable level of love and positivity for their own body.
So how do we strike the balance? Practicing body neutrality involves:
- Recognizing and challenging negative thoughts and beliefs about your body, and reframing them in a neutral or positive way.
- Taking care of your body through healthy habits, such as eating well, without using these activities as a means to change your body size or shape.
- Engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, regardless of your body size or shape
- Reframing why exercise is important to you – move your body because it feels good, not to burn off the chocolate you ate after dinner.
- Celebrating and appreciating your body for what it can do, rather than what it looks like.
- Considering the way you look as one small part of who you are, and accepting that your weight doesn’t define your worth.
- Surrounding yourself with messages and people who are not diet-focused and body-or-image-orientated. Shut those conversations down.
- Cutting off ruminations, and if you start spiraling, pause and ask yourself: “Are these thoughts helping me right now? Am I going to continue to engage with them? Just because I am having a thought, doesn’t make it true.”
- Respecting your body, even if you don’t necessarily admire it, and observing your body without judgment.
- Practicing patience – body neutrality isn’t a destination or something we “achieve”; it’s a work in progress and something that we constantly have to bring ourselves back towards.
It is important to note that body neutrality is not about being indifferent to your body, but rather about accepting and appreciating it as it is, without judgment or comparison to others. This is a lifelong journey, so be kind to yourself and persistent in your efforts to cultivate a healthier way to view your body. Both your mind and body will thank you for it.
Disclaimer: all blog posts are intended to be used for educational purposes and cannot replace direct consultation with a licensed provider. Please feel free check our provider page for more information on our team of talented clinicians who can help you identify and challenge your negative thought patterns.