She received her Bachelor of Science in Human Development from Cornell University, and her Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition from New York University, where she also completed her dietetic internship. In her private practice, Nicole Groman Nutrition, Nicole helps you reconnect with your body. She encourages prioritizing your body over your mind, having faith that your body will tell you what it needs, what it doesn’t, when it’s had too much, or if it hasn’t had enough. She’s been quoted in Vogue, Women’s Health, and Well+Good. Check out her work and learn more here.
Body Neutrality: A Sustainable Way of Viewing Our Bodies and Relationship with Food
Recently, “body positivity” has gained significant attention in the media and popular culture. Body positivity is the idea that everyone, no matter their size or shape, should love their body and feel confident in themselves.
While this movement has undoubtedly helped to challenge harmful beauty standards and promote self-love, it is not without its criticisms. Some argue that body positivity can be problematic, especially when it emphasizes the need to be positive about one’s body at all times, even when that may not be realistic. Here, we’ll discuss the potential issues with body positivity and how adopting a body-neutral approach can be a more sustainable and healthy approach to our relationship with our bodies.
Body Positivity and Its Criticisms
At its core, body positivity is all about promoting self-love and acceptance. It encourages people to move away from strict beauty standards that say certain body types are more desirable than others and helps create a more inclusive society. This movement has gained momentum in the media and popular culture in recent years, with countless celebrities speaking out about the importance of loving and accepting one’s body.
Despite its positive intentions, body positivity can be problematic in certain ways. For one, it often emphasizes the need always to be positive about one’s body, even when that may not be realistic or helpful. This can create pressure to feel good about ourselves all the time and lead to guilt or shame if we fail to live up to this ideal. Additionally, it can be exclusionary in practice, as it may not fully represent those who don’t fit certain body types deemed “worthy” of love and acceptance.
Further, focusing on “positive” feelings can lead to overemphasizing appearance-based affirmations, leading to a superficial understanding of body acceptance. This can be damaging, as it may encourage behavior based on external validation rather than true self-love and appreciation.
The Concept of Body Neutrality
As an alternative to body positivity, the concept of “body neutrality” is a sustainable approach that considers everything good. The ideology is taking root amongst many of the top dietitians, assuring everyone of inclusivity in sharing joy and happiness while considering the mental, emotional, stressful, and social aspects of eating. Body neutrality means accepting and respecting one’s body as entirely neutral – not necessarily positive or negative. While it does not eschew self-love and acceptance, it emphasizes understanding one’s body without placing judgment on it.
This approach can be particularly helpful for those who have difficulty being positive about their body, as it can allow them to move away from the seemingly impossible expectation of loving their body at all times. Instead, it encourages simply accepting how our bodies look, feel, and function without emphasizing “positive” or “negative” labels.
Body neutrality focuses on self-care and self-compassion rather than self-criticism or perfectionism. It encourages people to practice mindful eating, allowing them to listen to their bodies and cultivate an understanding of what they truly need to feel their best.
At the same time, body neutrality encourages us to recognize our bodies as part of the bigger picture, rather than the focus of it. It emphasizes that our worth is not tied to how we look or feel about ourselves. Instead, it encourages us to pay attention to and celebrate other aspects of our lives such as our successes, relationships, and personal interests.
The Role of Intuitive and Mindful Eating in Body Neutrality
At its core, body neutrality is about cultivating a healthy relationship with food. Through the principles of intuitive and mindful eating, we can learn to respect our bodies’ needs while also creating an environment that is conducive to better self-care.
Intuitive eating, in particular, encourages us to be mindful of our bodies’ hunger and fullness cues, allowing us to make conscious decisions about what we eat and when. This approach helps us become more in tune with our physical needs and feelings, which can help prevent overeating or undereating and promote healthier eating patterns. The practice of this can aid the practice of looking at certain negative body image thoughts in a neutral way.
On the other hand, mindful eating helps us create an awareness of our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations related to food. This allows us to become more mindful of our choices and understand why we make certain decisions to meet our needs better. Mindfulness can also help us recognize when we are eating for emotional reasons and learn to understand and be compassionate to those emotions. This practice, too, can help make the ways of body neutrality easier.
Together, intuitive and mindful eating can help us develop a harmonious relationship with food and our body that is rooted in self-care and respect, while making the practice of body neutrality easier to adopt. By learning to listen to our bodies cues as guided in the Way App, we can decide what, when, and how much to eat without feeling deprived or like we are denying ourselves anything. Just like intuitive and mindful eating, the sessions in Way can help us create more peace in our relationship with food and our body that is based on self-love, rather than guilt or shame.
Building A Peaceful Relationship with Food
In order to truly cultivate a nourishing relationship with food, it’s important to understand the emotional and psychological aspects of eating. This includes recognizing how our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs influence our food choices and learning to identify any triggers that may lead us to seek comfort or solace in food.
Self-awareness and reflection can also be incredibly helpful when relating to food. Considering how certain behaviors affect our relationship with food, we can become more mindful of our choices and create an environment conducive to better self-care.
Mindfulness practices such as meditation and journaling can also be great ways to gain perspective and insight into our relationship with food. Taking a few moments each day to reflect on our eating habits, feel the type of food we eat, and the memories we share eating certain foods can help us better understand why we make certain choices and how they impact our overall health and wellbeing, as well as how they affect our self-talk about our body image.
Steps to Adopt a More Body-Neutral Approach
1. Prioritize self-care: Practice positive self-talk, engage in activities that make you feel good, and set realistic health goals.
2. Mindfully eat: Listen to your body’s hunger cues and be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations while eating.
3. Respect your body’s needs: Allow yourself to enjoy food without judgment and be mindful of portion sizes.
4. Follow an intuitive approach: Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full, and don’t deny or restrict yourself to foods that make you feel good.
Overall, body positivity and neutrality both have their benefits. While body positivity allows one to celebrate and accept their bodies in all shapes and sizes, body neutrality encourages people to recognize that our worth is not tied to how we look or others perceive us, and that it’s okay to not feel “positive” or “amazing” about our body, 100% of the time.
Achieving a peaceful, sustainable relationship with food and oneself involves a combination of body positivity and neutrality. We can strive towards a more holistic approach by focusing on our inner strengths and understanding and respecting our bodies’ needs. This includes promoting self-love, listening to our hunger cues, being mindful of our eating habits, and celebrating other aspects of our lives separate from our physical appearance.
As we adopt a more body-neutral approach, it’s important to remember that creating new habits takes time and commitment. But with the proper guidance, patience, and self-awareness, anyone can learn to foster a more accepting relationship with their body and ultimately find peace within themselves.