How do you feel about your body? How do you think you are “supposed” to feel about your body? There is body hatred, body love, body positivity, body acceptance, body confidence, and more.
As the fitness-obsessed, diet culture beast(opens in a new tab) continues its rampage through our social feeds and consumer products(opens in a new tab), a debate is once again stirring in comment sections: More or less body talk? Is self-love the route we should take, or should we avoid talking about our appearance altogether?
In this article, we shall discuss the steps to practice body neutrality.
While body positivity was once considered an ideal way to cultivate relationships with our bodies, a newer term, body neutrality, is now considered a healthier way of engaging with our physical selves. This is because body positivity can be a difficult task for people with marginalized bodies, and also because the movement was co-opted by influencers who were cisgender, non-disabled, thin White women.
Table of Contents
What Is Body Neutrality?
Body neutrality is the idea of accepting your body as it is in its current state. Unlike the body positivity movement, it does not need to involve self-love talk or mantras about your body. Body neutrality encourages the acknowledgment of all your body is capable of doing, as well as the acknowledgment that it may not function or fit you perfectly.
Body neutrality stresses a lack of attachment to how exactly your body looks at any one moment and discourages time spent fretting about your physical self.
Additionally, body neutrality encourages you to see your body as a functional vessel. Because of these reasons, people with marginalized bodies have resonated better with this notion than that of body positivity.
- Focuses on appreciation of the body as it is and what it can do
- Encourages people to accept their bodies because they simply exist
- Might be more comfortable for those with marginalized bodies
- Focuses on outward appearance (i.e., everyone is beautiful)
- Encourages people to love their bodies for how they look
- Can often exclude those who don’t fit typical beauty standards
How To Practice Body Neutrality
If you’d like to start practicing body neutrality, you may be wondering how to begin. Here are ways that you can begin integrating this practice into the various parts of your life.
Feeling neutral about your body doesn’t necessarily happen quickly or feel natural at the start. Your best chance of easing into this mindset lies in how you communicate with yourself about your body.
Adopting a neutral mindset with yourself can eventually become second nature with the following regular tasks:
- Acknowledge the ways your body functions well by saying things like, “My arms are strong, “My legs can ride a bike for an hour,” or “My brain thinks very quickly.”
- Acknowledge the ways your body doesn’t work well for you, and remove the emotional charge from those things by being matter-of-fact. For example, allowing yourself to acknowledge facts like “my knees don’t bend easily,” or “my body doesn’t fit comfortably into restaurant chairs,” can help you to accept those things as a part of your life, without trying to hide them or feel ashamed.
- Perform self-love activities only when it actually feels uplifting, and not when it feels like effort or untrue.
Conversations With Others
We are a society centered around a body ideal that is unattainable for most people. Conversations with others about bodies are common, but we are slowly beginning to understand that no one benefits from these unrealistic standards.
Many people are uncomfortable having their physicality discussed, and it can be traumatic for them to hear input about their bodies from anyone, be it strangers or loved ones.
It may seem harmless to point out to a very tall person that they are tall, or to a thin person that they are thin, but these words can be deeply unsettling for the people receiving them.
To practice body neutrality when in the company of others, do not initiate discussion about bodies, and steer the conversation away from that subject when it arises. You are free to offer any reason, or no reason at all. A simple explanation for why you are shifting the conversation is, “Talking about people’s bodies can be a harmful experience for them.”
Food and Diet
To eat in a manner that is neutral about your body, it makes the most sense to concentrate on what foods work best for your physical self and your taste buds. Choosing foods that you digest well, that you enjoy the flavors of, and that fuel you with energy is the most straightforward way to practice body neutrality in eating.
The concept of intuitive eating fits perfectly with body neutrality. There are many resources to get started with this, and it can be a process to tap into what does and doesn’t work for your body. Little by little, you’ll become more in tune with what works best for you.
Body neutrality has no one diet that fits it. You can choose to follow a specific eating plan if there’s one that makes you feel great, or eschew them entirely and rely on trusting your gut when deciding what to eat, and when.
You have every right to wear clothing that is comfortable to you and that you enjoy the look of. We have judgmental notions about that, such as the 1980s era claim that “spandex is a privilege, not a right.” Though others may be judgmental about what people wear, you don’t have to be.
To dress from a space of body neutrality, choose clothing you like the look of, and that feels good on your body. Deciding what you are emotionally comfortable wearing may be a balancing act. That’s because if you know you’re wearing something the mainstream population won’t approve of, it may lead you to feel self-conscious.
Since body neutrality is about not focusing excessively on your body, clothing choices that make you feel extra focused on it aren’t the best idea. Instead, find a middle ground of clothing you love that way you can stop thinking about your clothes once you put them on.
All bodies benefit from movement. However, the exercise industry at large unfortunately has a focus of losing weight, changing the shape of your body, and burning fat.
To practice body neutrality in relation to exercise, you’re best served by not having a goal beyond moving your body because it feels good and healthy to do so.
Accepting your body at its current size and shape frees you from performing exercises you might not enjoy, but do anyway for the sake of burning calories or fat. Instead, to practice body neutrality in exercise you should choose activities that you enjoy doing, and then stop doing them once you are tired or sore.
If you don’t enjoy standard workouts like lifting weights or running, you could instead stick to activities that use your body in ways more subtle than a gym workout would. Some examples of these forms of exercise include:
- Roller skating
- Dance class
- A home dance party
- Live action role-playing
- Playing a musical instrument
Social media is a complex thing: on the one hand, it can help us stay in touch with and up to date about our friends and loved ones. On the other hand, people only share parts of their lives they want others to know about, and that can lead to an unrealistic presentation.
If you follow people on social media, whether they are people you know in person or not, seeing what they are up to should make you feel good and happy. If it doesn’t, and instead makes you feel down on yourself, the body neutrality approach would be to stop following them.
Because you may not want to offend a friend or loved one, you can choose to mute them, rather than unfollow them completely, so that they aren’t aware of the change. You deserve to be inspired by the people whose lives you see, not feel worse about yourself.
If you find yourself comparing your life to that of others, and especially if you feel like yours come up short when you do, the best idea is to not see what that person shares.
In summary, body neutrality is a safe and manageable way to have a healthy relationship with your body. By practicing these steps, you can begin your journey to a relationship with your body that frees your time and emotional energy up to enjoy your life.
I hope you find this article helpful as well as interesting.