Body Neutrality: The New Way to Loving Your Body

On paper, loving your body sounds like a wonderful, aspirational goal. Popular mainstream movements like the body positivity movement puts your body as the focus of the conversation — something that doesn’t work for everyone.

Enter the body neutrality movement: a mindset that shifts the focus away from physical appearance to an emphasis on fitness, health, and non-physical characteristics. This rising movement places emphasis on staying fit and keeping healthy rather than measuring self-worth based on superficial appearances.

The origins of body neutrality came about as a response to the feel-good ideals of body positivity, the concept of loving your body no matter what it looks like. Body neutrality, emerging from the margins and challenging the key concerns of body positivity’s focus on aesthetics, values the facts of what your body does for you over how it looks.

Perhaps this welcome mindset might even suit you better, like it has for an increasing number of people. Looking to make the switch? Here’s what you need to know to find out if body neutrality is right for you.

Body Neutrality vs Positivity

Body neutrality may sound similar to body positivity, but the most significant distinction between the two is body neutrality’s reduced emphasis on the aesthetic component of our bodies.

Body positivity calls for a celebration of every superficial physical feature—even our perceived flaws. An example of body positivity could include the practice of looking in the mirror and saying out loud all of the things you like about your physique. You might say: “I love the way my arms look in this shirt”, or “Even though my tummy isn’t flat, it is still beautiful”. But this doesn’t sit well with everyone, as it is near impossible to always feel good about yourself, much less having it forced upon. We are human, after all!

Body neutrality, in contrast, shifts our perspective about ourselves towards health instead. An example could be saying to yourself: “My body is great because I am healthy and able to engage in activities I enjoy”, or “I love myself not because of the way I look, but because of my qualities as a person”. To be body neutral is to step away from self-judgement and to treat our bodies with respect rather than criticism.

Valuing ourselves based on our capabilities has even been shown to promote a healthier attitude and better self-esteem.

Who is Body Neutrality For?

Body neutrality can benefit everyone, but the movement particularly resonates with people who find that loving their body does not come as naturally.

The journey to recovery or self-love might already appear out of reach for such people. Body neutrality has been proven to challenge the black and white thinking, all-or-nothing definition of body positivity to achieve the end goal of self-acceptance.

With over 90% of women disliking their bodies and 97% of women have an “I hate my body” moment every day, body neutrality can benefit people of all walks of life and varying levels of self-esteem.

Dietitians at NourishRX, a practice in Massachusetts, suggest that a more realistic approach is taking smaller steps towards acceptance is less daunting and more successful, making it an encouraging and attainable goal for people who may struggle with eating disorders.

It is perfectly okay and normal for any of us to have days where we don’t feel particularly great in our bodies and days where we don’t love the way our body looks. According to Therapist Ashlee Bennett: “Not experiencing body love all the time doesn’t mean you’ve still got work to do — nope! Just like goals around happiness 100% of the time, our experiences in our bodies are varied…trying to hold a single view or feeling about your body is an exhausting job.”

Steps Towards Practising Body Neutrality

So what does body neutrality look like in practice? This means you’ll take a holistic approach to your body.

Firstly, it is important to drop body talk from your conversations. The focus on self-acceptance is proven to consciously affect your mood and the way you perceive yourself. For example, instead of squeezing into your usual clothes that don’t fit as well, you might simply choose something else that feels more comfortable for you to move in.

Instead, place emphasis on your strengths as a complex person, such as your unique talents and areas of success encourages a sense of gratitude. This perspective change towards your positive values promotes greater purpose and self-appreciation.

When it comes to exercise, make sure to always listen to your body. This means opting for fun physical activities instead of ones that might feel more like a chore. When you feel tired and drained from physical activity, do not give yourself a hard time for taking it easy with exercise. Always be forgiving and gentle with your body!

Finally, eating well can also make you feel good about yourself. How and what we eat often reflects how we feel and treat our bodies. Just like the goals of body neutrality, eating well is not about following a fixed set of rules, but rather about learning what your body needs. Ask yourself: Am I meeting my nutritional needs with a healthy mix of whole foods? Is my diet balanced?

The End Goal

Everyone has different ways of approaching body neutrality, and part of embodying the practice is figuring out what works for you.

Practising the mindset of body neutrality takes time, the shift to a more neutral midpoint is not immediate. Practise patience with yourself as you embrace neutrality, and remember that you are not alone on this uphill journey.

Ultimately, your health comes first above everything. Caring for your body should always be a priority—we are more likely to be able to appreciate something we take good care of. Consistently eating regular satisfying meals, engaging in joyful movement, and getting enough rest build a strong foundation for a healthy and fulfilling life.