If you’ve been active on Instagram, you must have noticed before-and-after photos, with posts and hashtags about body positivity. The body-positive movement took social media by force, and everyone was for the ‘love yourself, no matter what’ message. About a decade ago, loving one’s body was not the norm, hating it was. But, thanks to the body neutrality movement, we’ve seen fashion lines become more inclusive, and people have started to celebrate and appreciate their bodies, both on TV, social media, and real life.
What is Body Neutrality?
Put simply, body neutrality is feeling impartial about your body and eliminating the perception that your body is meant to look in a certain way. It’s acknowledging what your body does, not how it appears.
The term “body neutrality” first popped up on the internet around 2015. Soon it gained popularity on social media when Anne Poirier of Colby-Sawyer College started teaching classes based on being body neutral at the Vermont wellness retreat Green Mountain at Fox Run in 2016.
According to Poirier, it was high time “people acknowledged that loving their bodies isn’t always realistic.” Sometimes it’s okay to land in a middle ground – in a more neutral place. The movement provides an opportunity for acceptance, instead of hating or loving them.
How Is Body Neutrality Different from Body Positivity?
Body positivity is quite different, and people realized that loving one’s body is too demanding and quite an unrealistic goal. Body neutrality, on the other hand, is a welcome relief, and it encourages us to celebrate our bodies as they are, not as they will (or could) be. It is a more manageable goal for anyone dealing with body issues like eating disorders, body-based trauma, and those battling dysmorphic disorder. Body neutrality is more about focusing less on our bodies and focusing more on what we can do. One book, “Beyond Beautiful”, by Anuschka Rees, differentiates body positivity from body neutrality this way:
- Body positive – “I feel good about myself, because I know I’m beautiful.”
- Body neutral – “How I feel about myself has nothing to do with my appearance.”
Alison Stone, a psychotherapist based in New York, explains that “When we spend less time thinking about our bodies, it affords us room to focus on other things.” She adds, “Obsessing, silently judging ourselves, and self-criticism takes up a lot of mental energy. More importantly, these types of thoughts prevent us from enjoying experiences and being fully present in our lives.” Body neutrality can help to encourage mindfulness, which as (research found out)( https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner), can help reduce stress and emotional reactivity. ”
How Can We Embrace Body Neutrality?
When you think too much about your body, it can be stressful. But when you learn to embrace body neutrality, you can simplify things by taking a step back and viewing your body from a different perspective. Our bodies are our homes, we live in it, work in it, walk in it, work out in it, and even go on vacation in it. Therefore, try to shift your focus away from trying to love your body, and instead make your body image a smaller part of your entire focus. The body neutrality movement wants you to avoid putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Not everyone can reach that point where they can say “I love my body”. But, we can try to find a middle ground, where we can leave all those destructive thoughts of self-hate behind and take a different path of neutrality. But here’s the thing, embracing body neutrality doesn’t happen overnight. It is a journey that starts by recognizing harmful thoughts that would hurt you or your loved ones. For example, ask yourself, “If I made ugly negative comments about my mom, sister, or daughter’s body, how would she feel?” Would she respect me?” If the answer is no, then you need to dismiss those thoughts and comments about yourself.
Bobbie Wegner, a Boston-based psychologist suggests that when you feel negative thoughts creeping in, engage in a small exercise and notice the physical feelings instead, like the pressure of a waistband. “Notice the emotions without judging them” he adds. And once you’ve acknowledged your thoughts, try to shift your thinking back to the neutral mindset.” Additionally, turn off or unfollow social media posts that trigger negative thoughts and feelings about your body. Instead, start following podcasts and social media accounts that practice and encourage size acceptance and intuitive eating. Forget those before-and-after photos. They only train us to focus on our future selves, making it difficult to feel at peace with our bodies in the present. Instead, try to focus on mindfulness at least a few minutes every day to help you develop a body-neutral mindset. The ultimate goal is for your body to feel peaceful rather than going with other people’s perceptions of you.
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