By now we’ve all heard of the term “Body Positivity” and consequently thought “Must be nice”, right? While it would be ideal to feel empowered and positive about oneself, sometimes that idea feels far from achievable. Body Neutrality is the concept of acknowledging our bodies for what they are and how they function for us as opposed to what they look like or how much we love them. For one reason or another many of us find ourselves holding onto standards that dictate how our body should look and how we should feel about our bodies. Really- who decides how we SHOULD be other than ourselves?! It can be so difficult to unlearn what has been taught to us by our culture, media, and even family and friends but it IS possible!
Focusing on only feeling good about ourselves can lead to a habit of toxic positivity- where we find ourselves in an endless cycle of shame for not being able to achieve the confidence that we are told will make us happy. This is the opposite of what we are all working towards! It can be so relieving to consider that we maybe don’t have to love our bodies but instead learn to respect or simply acknowledge them instead. Our body is something that fluxes and changes for a variety of reasons such as illness, life transitions, celebrations, and our environment. As we change throughout our life, so do our bodies, and being dependent on feeling happy about it all the time simply isn’t sustainable for some.
Diet culture and food myths contribute to much of how we form our automatic assumptions about what is good and bad for us. Terms like sinful, good, bad, guilty pleasure, and cheat day all carry connotation. These frequently used and heard terms are everywhere and many of us think and use them without even a second thought- but really what is the impact on us? The more we think about these terms the more we demonize certain activities or food and create cycles for ourselves that may not be beneficial or even rooted in fact.
Our bodies do so much for us throughout the course of a day. Body neutrality can start with the small practices of starting to remind ourselves of this function. We may be able to communicate, dance, breathe, stretch, or create art or music all with the bodies we have- no diet required. By changing the focus of what we tell ourselves about our bodies, we have a greater likelihood of incorporating activities that have more to do with self care than self destruction. Things like exercise can be dreaded because it is looked at as a punishment with thoughts like “If I dont exercise I wont look like X”. This relationship isn’t one that makes anyone want to engage in something that is fundamentally good for us. We can’t change our entire culture by adopting a body neutral mindset- the messaging is still out there and can be difficult to resist. You can have an effect on your own day to day life by being mindful of the word choices you use to describe yourself and practicing acknowledgement of the function of your body instead of judgement (good or bad!). Small change turns to big change and it begins with you!