Why you should practice “body neutrality” instead of “body positivity”

The body positivity movement has been around for decades. It’s taken on a new form in the past few years as social media influencers and celebrities have called attention to people loving their bodies no matter what shape or size they are. But body neutrality — a philosophy that says you should focus on what your body can do for you rather than how it looks — is
a more recent shift. It’s one that urges people to see their body not as an object to be scrutinized but rather something to be celebrated for what it allows you to do.

Putting body neutrality into practice can take a bit of getting used to, especially if you’re used to beating yourself up about how you “should” look. Here are some helpful steps.

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Practice mindfulness

Focusing on mindfulness, even if it’s just for a few minutes every day, can help promote a mind-body connection. Go for a quick walk, meditate, or put on some calming music and just “be.” Take time to listen to what your body needs — be in rest, hydration, nutritious food, activity — and try to give yourself that. When you put importance on what you need rather than how you think you should look, you’ll feel more at peace with yourself. Try adding to that time every couple of days or spend time in the morning and at night so you stay connected.

Wear what makes you happy

Practicing body neutrality means choosing clothes that feel good on your body without spending much time thinking about what you’re wearing. This can be hard for women who are constantly scrutinized and judged based on their appearance, but finding clothing that honors you and all your body does for you is a simple way to take the attention away from “every body is beautiful” to “every body is.”

Stop talking about your body

Instead of berating yourself about your appearance or constantly asking friends, “Does this make me look fat?” stop talking about your body altogether. Erase it from daily conversations, and you may find you stop thinking about it so much. If others bring their body issues up, try redirecting the conversation to one about how their body feels and performs rather than how it looks. It’s not an easy transition, but over time, it can make a big difference.

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Give yourself grace

It’s not easy changing something as all-consuming as how you feel about your body. It’s something many of us do without even thinking about it every time we pass a mirror or see someone we believe looks “better” than we do. It’s ingrained in culture and society and passed down from generations. It’s going to take time and grace to begin looking at your body as a vessel to living a full life instead of simply how you look in your clothes. Make choices every single day that move you toward this goal.

Clean out social media feeds

It’s hard not thinking about your body when you’re inundated with diet ads, celebrities posting flawless selfies, and people who continuously post about their workouts. The truth is, you don’t have to look at them. It’s likely impossible to get rid of everything — after all, the diet industry is a multibillion-dollar one for a reason — but unfollowing pages and people that make you feel less-than or are too caught up in how they look can trigger feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth. Instead, try following people who you feel are inspirational or interested in the same things you are. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel.

For most, loving your body 24/7 feels impossible, especially for women. Body neutrality can help put you in a mindset of gratefulness about what your body can achieve — be it running a marathon, having a baby, mowing the lawn, or finishing a difficult hike. The movement aims to move away from deriving worth from how you look and instead be grateful for all your body can do.

Body positivity isn’t a bad concept, per se. Loving your body and feeling comfortable in your own skin is important. But body neutrality means shifting your attention away from how it looks and honoring it for all that it can accomplish.

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