LET'S TALK: BODY NEUTRALITY
We aren’t born hating our bodies. We are taught to hate them, to criticise and to change them. We have been fed an idea for generations upon generations that to be valued as people we must look a certain way; a very specific, male-gaze-dictated and euro-centric type of way. The body positivity movement has been on an upward swing since the inauguration of social media, yet this movement is a warped version of its true origins. Stemming from the fat acceptance movement in the sixties, body positivity was originally coined to amplify the voices of marginalised bodies. The budget twenty-first century version has been hijacked by slim white women flooding our social feeds with indirect body shaming tagged as ‘fitspo’ and masquerading as body positivity. While the appropriation of the term for influencers to profit off of ideals that exist in stark contrast with the very foundations of the body positivity movement haven’t gone unnoticed, the origins of the self-love and fat acceptance movements are becoming reacquainted with contemporary society; this time in the concept of body neutrality.
This article is one half of a collaboration on body perception with Nakedly Dressed, to check out her piece on body positivity hit the link at the end of this post →
WHAT IS BODY NEUTRALITY?
In relative terms, while body positivity encourages us to actively and constantly love our bodies without restraint, body neutrality is ultimately about being at peace with your body and respecting what it does rather than how it looks. Body positivity, although fundamentally a well-intentioned movement, can just be a lot. It’s a lot of pressure to love something that society has always taught you to hate. It’s a lot of performing, at least in the initial stages of self-love; a fake-it-til-you-make-it kind of mentality. For lots of people, this movement is empowering. It has become a cultural buzzword, replacing the diet trend with a different narrative. Body neutrality is a newer concept challenging the enforced feel-good attitude that devotes itself to body positivity; an attitude that for many people is still forcing us to stay trapped in a body-obsessed space.
To be body neutral is to lead a life that is not body-centric. Those who embrace this mindset and lifestyle aim to reduce the focus on body politics overall, instead inserting their energy into other aspects of life that offer less potential for toxicity and self-doubt. Described as “offering a safe space for those who find self-love inaccessible, body neutrality encourages body acceptance without the pressure”.
GOALS OF BODY NEUTRALITY
To respect our bodies at all times, when self-love is inaccessible
To deconstruct the cultural obsession with bodies and set a more neutral narrative
To value what our bodies do for us rather than how they appear, to ourselves and others
To see our bodies as instruments instead of ornaments, capable of amazing things
Many credit Jameela Jamil, founder of the @i_weigh community, with the introduction of body neutrality to the mainstream. In an #Unfiltered interview Jamil explains her own struggles with loving her body, favouring neutrality and the prioritisation of happiness over beauty.
WHY BODY NEUTRALITY COULD BE PERFECT FOR YOU
To be successfully body neutral is a feat easier manifested verbally than in actuality, quite similar to body positivity in that sense yet this approach is perhaps more attainable for most. As the correlation between physical beauty and happiness is so ingrained in our cultural consciousness, a body neutral way of thinking and being will be difficult to navigate initially, though no more difficult than conjuring love for a body you fervently dislike. Body neutrality could be a far healthier approach for those who find it challenging to love their body unequivocally all the time and can actually lead to a much better body image.
HOW TO PRACTICE BODY NEUTRALITY
1. Honour your body's needs
Nourish and hydrate your body regularly – try intuitive eating (a style that promotes a healthy attitude towards eating and body image)
Practice enjoyable body movement, whether that's hiking, dancing, yoga, anything that gets you moving and brings you joy
Rest. Be still, let your body replenish
Expose your body to sunlight at least once a day and soak up all those good vitamins
2. PRACTICE BODY NEUTRAL SELF-CARE
Focus on your mental and emotional health, acknowledging and working through your feelings and anxieties in healthy ways
Develop effective methods for managing your stress
Practice mindfulness and meditation, you could do this in your mind or in a journal ^These are all self-care practices that promote health and wellness yet have nothing to do with our body's appearance
3. APPRECIATE YOUR BODY'S PURPOSE
Our bodies are constantly healing, replenishing and renewing themselves
Our bodies allow us to walk, run, jump and dance
Our bodies gift us our senses so we can interact with the world
Our bodies allow us to hug the people we love
Our bodies carry us through life, they allow us to live
4. RESPECT YOUR BODY, ALWAYS
Speak to and about your body in kind and respectful ways, absent of any harsh criticism, as if you were speaking to a friend
Honour and fulfil your body's needs, giving yourself enough rest and nourishment, without resenting your body for having those needs
Take care of your body, never intentionally or consciously harming it ^You are allowed to struggle with body image as long as, even on the toughest of days, you can respect your body
5. REDIRECT YOUR ENERGY
Move your focus away from concerns with bodies, both yours and others'
Pull back from behaviours that are harmful or draining to engage with
Invest your energy into aspects of your life that provide deeper meaning; family, relationships, careers, interests, or anything that offers you wholesome joy and meaning – and if you can't think of anything, focus your energy on finding it!
How do you practice body neutrality? Let us know in the comments ✨
Although this approach may not be a perfect fit for everyone, it's a step towards a society founded in acceptance and value that goes beyond bodies. Read the other half of this collaboration on body positivity by Nakedly Dressed here, it's not to be missed!
REMINDERS AND AFFIRMATIONS
The moon is an example that no matter what phase you’re in, you are still whole
Always say ‘yes’ to your needs
Your energy is your currency, invest it wisely
Don’t ruin a good today but dwelling on a bad yesterday
Ask yourself: “Am I doing this for me?”
Prioritise intelligence, humour and happiness above beauty
Written by Emily Dudley