who loves to lift and explore and break all the ways diet culture has tried to box us in. She loves to ask, “How could your life be different if you unlearned your all-or-nothing food rules?”, which is something we whole-heartedly agree with and support. Check out her work and learn more here.
With these intentions, this movement has brought much-needed attention to the harmful effects of body shaming. Love that!
In addition, it has helped countless individuals feel more confident and comfortable with their skin. Nevertheless, body positivity has various potential limitations and problems like any other movement. This blog post explores the potential issues with body positivity and an introduction to the concept of body neutrality as a more sustainable approach to promoting body acceptance.
The Problem with Body Positivity
Body positivity has been a valuable movement in many ways. Despite being a valuable movement, it can be problematic in certain contexts. How is body positivity potentially problematic? One issue with this relationship with food is that it can create pressure to be positive about one’s body. The pressure is mainly harmful as it may force you to suppress negative feelings about your body. Thus, it can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy, if you’re not able to be “positive” about your body at all times.
In addition, the emphasis on body positivity can also create a culture where you start feeling the need to validate others’ appearances constantly. You may start validating your peer’s experiences, especially those you consider “obese” or “overweight”. With this feeling, you’ll start assuming that all larger-bodied individuals must have low self-esteem and that it’s necessary to complement them in order to boost their confidence.
Body positivity can also be exclusionary. This aspect may become exclusionary, especially for individuals with disabilities, illnesses, or medical conditions that affect their bodies. It’s important to acknowledge that not everyone can always love their body. Thus, it’s absolutely alright to have negative feelings about one’s body – having acceptance is a key part of body neutrality.
Body Neutrality: A More Suitable Approach
While body positivity has been a valuable movement, the concept of body neutrality has emerged as a more sustainable approach. Body neutrality is comprised of elements from intuitive and mindful eating, amongst other modalities, which makes it the best approach to promoting body acceptance. With this idea, you can’t determine one’s worth by their physical appearance. Instead of focusing on loving or hating one’s body, body neutrality encourages you to see your body as a neutral entity (neither good nor bad).
The idea of body neutrality can be particularly helpful if you’re struggling with body image issues. How is it a helpful idea when struggling with body image issues? This idea takes away the pressure to be positive about your body constantly. Importantly, it allows you to recognize your body without feeling the need to evaluate or judge it.
In addition, it recognizes that our bodies are complex entities. Being complex entities, various factors like genetics, environment, and lifestyle can easily influence it. Body positivity acknowledges that our bodies are constantly changing. With constant changes, it’s always challenging to control how the body feels or looks.
Incorporating Body Neutrality into Your Life
With the positive insights of body neutrality, you may want to incorporate this aspect into your life. But how do you incorporate body neutrality into your life? Here are a few strategies to help you incorporate body neutrality into your life:
Instead of criticizing yourself for negative feelings about your body, try to be kind and compassionate to yourself. Understand that it’s okay to have negative feelings and that you’re not alone in your struggles. Get curious and ask, “where did this criticism or negative self-talk come from?” You may be surprised at the memories, moments, and people who come to mind, but greet those thoughts and feelings compassionately, too. One way to do this is for each person or memory or feeling that arises and feels extra harsh, ask yourself, “Did that person even know they were being [insert negative thought]?” and if you find anger or other negative emotions behind that question, ask yourself, “Has this anger helped me in any way? Has this anger made me more fulfilled?” We’re guessing not. And if so, now you know what to work on.
Focus on What Your Body Can Do
You incorporate body neutrality by focusing on what your body can do, not what it looks like. Rather than considering its appearance, appreciate your body for its abilities. This tip can help you shift your focus away from appearance-based judgments. It could be as simple as stepping out of the shower in the morning and saying to yourself, “I really like my eyes” (or shoulders, or nose). Just pick one body part and say thank you to it.
It could be in the kitchen, saying thank you to your hands for making food you can eat. Or, another good one is when you wake up in the morning, right as your feet touch the floor but before you stand, say “thank you” to your feet, legs, hips, back, for standing up in the morning. Just saying this one act of gratefulness, silently in your mind or out loud, can really shift your perspective over time.
Various aspects of mindfulness, like mindful eating, can help you become more aware of your body and its sensations. How can you practice mindfulness? You can start by paying attention to your body in a non-judgmental way. Begin appreciating your body for what it is rather than focusing on what it looks like.
Often what helps, if you’re struggling with being mindful, is simply close your eyes. Breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and breath out through your mouth for 4 seconds, until the very last breath is gone. Do this just 3 times, and while you’re doing it ask yourself what parts of your body feel good? Where do you feel tension, tightness, or pain? This can be a guide to understanding what your body needs, and practicing this can help with mindfulness in other areas of life, too.
Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others
Comparing yourself to others can lead to negative feelings about your body. Remember that everyone’s body is different. With these differences, comparing yourself to others may not be productive.
“Comparison is the thief of joy”, was a quote famously by Teddy Roosevelt.
When we compare ourselves to someone else – at work, in life comparing happiness, and especially in our bodies – we’re disconnecting from ourselves, which makes it very hard to feel our own body, listen to your body, and know your body. When you catch yourself comparing to anyone else, remember first not to criticize yourself. In those moments, one tactic that can work in your mind is, just like in a conversation you don’t want to have – distract yourself. Change the subject, look at something else, something you like (preferably not on social media, because it’s full of comparisons). Walk outside, in nature if you can. Or start reading something, doing something, and keep your attention fully on it.
As you practice distracting yourself, you’ll hopefully start to naturally develop other ways of not comparing yourself, or simply acknowledging the comparison in your mind, without indulging in it.
Surround Yourself with Positive Influences
You can incorporate body neutrality by surrounding yourself with positive influences. Positive influences include having people who support body acceptance and positivity around you. This aspect can help you feel more confident and comfortable in your own skin.
Integrating Body Neutrality with Intuitive Eating Principles
At Way, we believe that body neutrality is a valuable philosophy. Thus, we strive to integrate it with intuitive eating principles to help individuals find peace in their relationships with food and their bodies. Intuitive eating is a popular non-diet approach to eating that emphasizes listening to your body’s signals, honoring your hunger and fullness, and rejecting the diet mentality.
Body neutrality and intuitive eating work well together. They work well together as they both prioritize listening to your body’s signals and respecting your body’s needs. It’s important to start focusing on what your body needs rather than what it looks like. This aspect helps begin a more peaceful relationship with food and your body.
How can you integrate body neutrality with intuitive eating principles? You can integrate body neutrality with intuitive eating principles by focusing on intuitive movement. It involves listening to your body’s signals and engaging in movement that feels good rather than exercising to change your body’s appearance. Focusing on how movement makes you feel instead of how it makes you look helps you develop a more positive relationship with exercise and movement.
Practicing body scanning is another way to integrate body neutrality with intuitive eating principles. Body scanning involves taking a few minutes each day to scan your body and notice how it feels. You’ll become aware of your body and its needs by doing body scanning daily. Understanding your body and its needs helps you make choices that honor your body’s needs.
Body positivity has been important in promoting acceptance and combatting body shaming. Despite its importance, it’s important to recognize the potential issues with body positivity. These issues include the pressure to be positive all the time and the exclusion of individuals with disabilities or medical conditions.
Body neutrality offers a more sustainable approach to promoting body acceptance. It achieves this goal by encouraging you to see their bodies as neutral entities, neither good nor bad. You can develop or have a more positive relationship with food and your body by incorporating body neutrality with intuitive eating principles, listening to the body’s signals, and respecting its needs.
At Way, we believe in promoting body acceptance and positivity through a non-diet approach to mindful eating and intuitive movement. Start your journey to finding peace in your relationship with food and your body by focusing on listening to your body and respecting its needs.