Body neutrality rocks and it is a game-changing mindset that can help us all improve our body image when being “body positive” feels a little too hard. In this blog post, you’ll learn about the body positivity scale, why you need to try body neutrality, and 6 practices you can start right now to heal your body image.
The Body Positivity Scale
Sentence one: “I love my thighs, and booty – cellulite, and all, they are beautiful!”
Sentence two: “I appreciate my thighs and booty because they allow me to lift the things I love, exercise, and experience the world.”
Do you notice the difference between these two sentences?
The first sentence is centred around body positivity, a movement that celebrates and accepts bodies for all that they are while being inclusive of everybody and size. Body positivity strives to flip society’s obsession with the appearance of white, petite, able-bodied people on its head and focus on the beauty of diversity.
Throughout life, many people waver on the body positivity scale. On one end of this scale is body dislike/hate and ends in body positivity/love, with body neutrality somewhere in the middle.
Some people dislike it so much about their body, that they devote plenty of energy and time to trying to change and “improve” it. So much so, that they forget to live their life. That can be exhausting.
So can the other end of the spectrum, body positivity. Body positivity is not always accessible to everyone. The journey to loving and knowing your body is lifelong and very dependent on individual experiences and opportunities.
Some people – okay, let’s be honest – many people find it nearly impossible to reach that stage with a body they have fought against for so long. And that is okay! Body positivity is not for everyone for many reasons, and it doesn’t make you a bad person for not being there (that’s toxic positivity speaking). It also doesn’t make you a bad person for being there.
Remind yourself that everyone is on their own journey and accept where you are without judgment or shame – it’s the only way to move forward and grow!
What is Body Neutrality?
I’m going to remind you of sentence two from the beginning of this post: “I appreciate my thighs and booty because they allow me to lift the things I love, exercise, and experience the world.”
That sentence centres on the true functionality and purpose of the thigh… In a way, it humanizes your body and focuses on praising it for what it allows you to do. “I love my arms because they let me hug my nieces and nephews,” “I appreciate that my nose lets me experience the sense of smell,” or, “I love the feeling of grass against my sand in my backyard,” are all examples of body neutrality.
Body neutrality was first coined in 2015 by author Anne Poirier in her book, “The Body Joyful,” after the previously mentioned body positivity movement received some negative backlash. At its core, body neutrality promotes and discusses accepting and appreciating your body for the non-physical properties instead of the physical. It aims to unlink self-worth with physical appearance.
The word ‘neutral’ is key. Being neutral towards your body means removing the expectation that every day you “have to” love yourself. Or that you “should” feel comfortable and happy in your body every day. Body neutrality focuses on meeting your body where it’s at, accepting it for all that is & does, while encouraging you to cultivate a feeling of gratitude for its abilities.
Why Body Neutrality Rocks!
Body neutrality rocks for many reasons!
Firstly, it helps us take better care of our bodies. With more awareness of all the things our bodies do for us, we are more likely to give them the food, rest, and activity it needs. We’re can in turn more attuned to our bodies needs. And when we physically feel good, it’s easier to think more positive thoughts about our bodies!
Body neutrality helps us heal. When we’re stuck in a cycle of self-judgment based on appearance, shifting the focus away from appearance toward utility can give some of the more disarming & difficult emotions around our bodies time to settle.
Body neutrality is easier than body positivity. Nobody’s asking you to scream to yourself in the mirror: “I have a sexy bod” or “I love my *insert the body parts you struggle with most, (usually arms or tummy)*”
Body neutrality is a fabulous starting place for people who aren’t quite ready yet to love the way their body looks. It’s an amazing tool and practice for people who don’t feel at home in their bodies such as people overcoming illness, surgery or people who are living with, overcoming, or have suffered from eating disorders.
Body neutrality rocks because it takes away a lot of pressure and empowers you to value it for what it does, rather than force yourself to love the way it looks.
Body Positivity VS Body Neutrality: Is One Better for Body Image?
Nope! They both have interesting takes on loving and appreciating the body we are in, but neither “wins.”
What wins is whatever feels best for you on your journey to understanding the complicated relationship we have with our bodies. Remember, when it comes to body positivity, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with loving your body.
Some people can easily practice body positivity about parts of their body they love, but then they practice body neutrality with the parts of their body they struggle with. I know I’m somewhere in the middle!
The thing with learning about your body is that subconsciously you hold on to little indignities about body image that has been passed to you, experienced, witnessed, and learned since you were a child. Every dig about weight gain or weight loss, every unrealistic body in the media, every joke about bodies, discussions about valuing certain bodies over others – they have a way of sticking with us and helping to form our opinions of ourselves.
It can be exhausting. If you are feeling exhausted with the journey, take a step back and try body neutrality and see where it takes you.
How To Practice Body Neutrality
If you know me, you know I am a huge advocate for mindfulness. I meditate, do mantras and affirmations in my personal life regularly and every single boudoir photoshoot I do with women, we start with a grounding, mindful meditation together. If you want to learn more about practices I like to use in photoshoots, you can read my blog, What Is a Body Positivity Photoshoot?
One of the things I love most about body neutrality is that it involves mindfulness! When you are patient and polite to your body, you give it rest, compassion, nutrition, movement, and laughter – you can begin to mindfully be aware of what it does in return to you, and just how well it functions.
- Feed your body right – fill your plate with fresh, whole food that provides nutritious fulfilment, but that you also enjoy the taste of. Try not to shy away from enjoying desserts and lean into cravings instead of denying them. Try finding new, exciting recipes from different cuisines around the world so you can challenge yourself in the kitchen and enjoy a home-cooked meal with good friends.
- Listen closely to what your body is telling you – Movement and exercise are important, and it should be something you look forward to because of the many benefits – it shouldn’t be a form of punishment that you dread. On days you feel drained, opt for a warming nap or resting, without feeling guilt.
- Prioritize sleep – Most people I know struggle with getting the full recommended eight hours of sleep every single night, which is a shame because sleeping helps our bodies to heal and rejuvenate. Make it a habit to dim the lights at 9 pm, igniting the natural sleep hormone melatonin, and ditch technology for a book, so that you can get tucked into bed for a full night’s sleep.
- Focus on reframing your thoughts – the next time you find your mind sliding back to negative thinking about your body, try to bring your thoughts back and invite a positive change. “I am so glad I can go hiking with my legs,” “I love that my arms are strong enough to lift my children,” “I appreciate my tongue and lips because they allow me to taste coffee,” etc. You may wish to read my blog on 30 Journal Prompts for Body Image for further inspiration!
- Dress in outfits you love – No, it’s not vain! Outfits that showcase your personality and allow you to express yourself are incredible and can tell the world around us a story about who you are. Opt for something more comfortable on days you aren’t feeling it but don’t shy away from dressing up on days you are and don’t be shy to be bold!
- Remind yourself it takes time – Like anything, there will be days you don’t feel good, and that is okay. It will take time to develop new, positive habits. Be easy on yourself!
“It’s All About The Journey, Not The Destination”
We’ve all heard that saying before, right?! While it might be a little cheesy (okay, a lot) and overused, it does have merit while talking about the journey we are all on with our body image.
If we can adopt new practices that take the load off and help make the trip a little easier, we should lean into that. It’s time to meet ourselves where we are – wherever that is – and appreciate our bodies for all they do for us.
What is your favorite thing your body does for you every day?