What is Body Neutrality?
Body neutrality is a movement that has gained momentum with people who don’t quite subscribe to body positivity or those who are exhausted by constant body talk.
The term “neutrality” refers to a balanced acceptance of our body, rather than being either positive or negative about our appearance. It moves emphasis away from how we look and instead shines a spotlight on how our body works for us.
There is a sense of mindfulness related to body neutrality, whereby we show respect for our bodies by nourishing it with good nutrition, treating it to pleasure, and knowing when it needs to rest and when it requires movement.
Rather than obsessing over how it looks, we acknowledge what it needs to function well and feel good.
Body neutrality encourages us to move our feelings of self-worth away from our physical appearance and onto what makes us unique and individual.
Why do we need a body neutrality movement?
Body obsession is everywhere. Whether it’s positive or negative, if you spend time on social media or even have a conversation with a friend, chances are you’ll be exposed to body hate, body love, body shaming, body envy, body, body, body!!!
Body obsession is reaching epidemic proportions, and it can become overwhelming.
Body neutrality takes the emphasis away from appearance and channels it into acceptance. There’s no need to celebrate or berate your body’s appearance. There’s no need to mention your body at all.
With body neutrality, a bikini pic transforms from #bikinibody #bodypositive #selflove into “I had a great day walking along the warm, sandy beach and swimming in the crystal-clear ocean. It felt amazing.” This better describes your experience than obsessing over whether your body looked good or bad in a swimsuit.
How does body neutrality differ from body positivity?
While the body positivity movement has the best intentions and works for many individuals, it still emphasises physical appearance as a marker of self-worth.
For some people, loving their body for how it looks can be near impossible. We know ourselves that some days you just don’t feel it, but there’s a pressure to love yourself no matter what.
Body neutrality relieves the pressure to always feel positive about the way you look. It allows you to acknowledge your bad days, enjoy your good days and feel gratitude for the functioning body you have.
Obsession with body positivity has the potential for us to disregard the other important aspects of our life and individuality, leaving us feeling like we have nothing else to offer the world.
Who is Body Neutrality for?
Body neutrality really is for everyone. We should all value and appreciate our bodies for what they provide us beyond their appearance.
If you’re struggling to love your body for the way it looks, or you feel you have more to offer beyond your appearance, body neutrality could be for you.
Body neutrality is simple. The neutral aspect of the term means you can choose not to acknowledge your body at all and just get on with your day. Or you can show gratitude for the small or great things your body is capable of.
“Thanks, legs for allowing me to explore the beach today” or “How good are my lungs? I could swim for hours without getting puffed.”
Body neutrality is inclusive. Everyone, regardless of size, colour, race, ability, sexuality, and gender, can practice body neutrality.
Who Champions the concept of body neutrality?
The invention of the body neutrality movement has been credited to blogger Gabi Gregg and further promoted by wellness coach, Anne Poirier, who created a Body Neutrality workshop for women struggling to make peace with their bodies.
Anti-diet culture activist, Jameela Jamil, took the concept of body neutrality to create a challenge for her community, I Weigh. I Weigh encouraged followers to post photos of themselves with what they “weigh”. Not a number, but non-visible attributes that make them unique. Personality traits, professions, skills, relationship roles, and any other characteristic that defines them beyond the physical.
Encouraging her community to look beyond their physical appearance for what defines their identity, Jamil has created a group of body neutral campaigners.
The most recent I Weigh body neutral initiative is the “Thank You, Body” challenge. Community members are encouraged to share a video of themselves showing gratitude to their body. The essence of body neutrality.
How to practice body neutrality
Establishing a sense of body neutrality can take time, especially if you have been stuck in a negative space for any length of time. If you are interested in exploring body neutrality, there are simple ways to begin your journey.
Body obsession, both positive and negative, can be exhausting and freeing up our time and energy to focus on other parts of life can feel like a weight has been lifted.
Stop talking about your body. With years of programming causing us to obsess over our bodies, removing “body talk” from our conversations can be a challenge. Conversations with ourselves can often be the hardest to shut down, but are the most important.
For example, heading to the beach might make you think about wearing swimwear that will show off your body or hide it. Be mindful when these thoughts pop up and train yourself to think about which swimsuit will be the most practical or comfortable to wear for the activities you have planned.
Change the conversation. We are all guilty of body talk. Whether we’re complaining about our own or being envious or critical of someone else’s, redirecting or switching up our body talk can be helpful.
When talk of weight or size comes up in conversation, try to emphasise how yourself or your friends “feel” rather than being obsessed with appearance.
Bringing the conversation around to how our bodies work for us rather than what they look like, will guide us on our way to body neutrality.
Eat for pleasure. Or nutrition. Or just because you need to satisfy your hunger.
If you are able, choose foods for taste or nutrition without thinking of the consequences relating to weight management.
Body obsession can affect our relationship with food, but a neutral stance can guide us to a healthier approach to eating and nourishing ourselves.
Listen to your body. Movement is something we can be grateful to our body for. Participating in joyful and pleasurable activity rewards ourselves and our bodies, with positive health outcomes.
Choose to move your body when you feel like it and rest when you need to. Exercise and activity shouldn’t be used as a punishment, but to use your body for enjoyment and health.
Be patient. Working towards body neutrality can take time. Undoing years of programming to obsess about the way our body looks takes work.
Start with small changes to the way you approach your day and allow yourself to gradually work towards a happy medium when it comes to body talk and acceptance.
Negative thoughts about our body are damaging and trying to maintain a consistent positive outlook is exhausting. Settling into a neutral mid-way point allows us to reclaim time and energy spent on body obsession, so we can focus on more important aspects of our identity and our lives.