Still care about what you look like?
You will probably not be surprised to hear that “body neutrality” is a huge buzzword in anti-diet spaces at the moment.
Body neutrality first gained popularity in 2015 as an alternative to the often-toxic “body positivity” movement. It pushes back against beauty ideals and the promotion of appearance as the ultimate success or failure; instead, the key ideology of body neutrality is that how you look is not what makes you an amazing human being.
However, this begs the question – can you practice body neutrality and also put time and effort into how you look?
In short: absolutely!
Adopting a neutral perspective of your body doesn’t mean that you are suddenly blinded to your own appearance and aren’t allowed to put any thought towards it – instead, it means that your goals shift from aiming to conform to beauty standards to aiming to achieve contentment within yourself.
To learn more about the fundamentals of body neutrality, you can check out our blog “Four Ways to Practice Body Neutrality” here. As noted in that article, this concept is relatively new and as such, scientific research in this area is limited. However, you can learn more about body neutrality from people such as Anuschka Rees (find her on Instagram @anuschkarees and check out her book, Beyond Beautiful) and Jameela Jamil (follow @iweigh on Instagram and take her free course on FutureLearn, Exploring Body Neutrality and Body Image).
In this article, we’ll unpack three ways you can care about your appearance AND live a life of body neutrality.
ONE: Remember that self-worth is not reliant on appearance
Although your self-esteem may change from day to day, your self-worth is unalterable. Just like the value of a £5 note can’t be changed by the perceptions of others, neither can yours!
To practice body neutrality, you must disconnect your identity and worth from the way you perceive your appearance. The way you look does not define who you are.
Remove the pressure to feel positively about your body! There will always be aspects of your appearance that you like less than others – that’s okay! Body neutrality isn’t about feeling neutral about your appearance; instead, it’s about neutralising the impact of how you feel about your appearance on your mood, self-worth, identity and actions. In other words, focus on not allowing negative thoughts about your body stop you from living your life to its fullest.
TWO: Take care of your body
Another component of body neutrality is the idea that regardless of how you feel about your body on any given day, it’s important to show it care and respect.
Some days, this might take the form of brushing your hair, applying skincare or putting on clean clothes in the morning. On other days, taking it easy and staying in your PJs all day might be how you take care of yourself. Your appearance doesn’t need to change in order to care for your body!
This moves the focus from how you look at your body to how you feel within your body.
THREE: Utilise your appearance as a source of self-expression
The way we choose to show ourselves to the world is an incredible opportunity for self-expression. Through our clothes, makeup, hair and jewellery, we get to experiment and experience joy.
When you get ready in the morning, choose to present yourself in a way that makes you feel powerful, without an emphasis on how you look or how other people might perceive you.
In her book, The Curate Closet, Anuschka Rees writes ‘If something is your style and you love it, I believe you should wear it, regardless of whether it supposedly “flatters” your body or doesn’t. Plus, if we are being honest, to flatter almost always means “make you look thinner”, and that definitely shouldn’t be your prime objective when it comes to getting dressed’.
When you practice body neutrality, you can still feel a sense of peace in your body on days when you don’t get dressed up.
There is such a stark difference between using our appearance to conform to societal pressures and using it to show our uniqueness! This shifts the balance from your body having the power over you to you having the power over your body.
The take home message from all of this is that you can absolutely still take pride in your appearance while practicing body neutrality! Your body is simply a tool for you to use as you desire.
If you’re experiencing body image concerns, we’re here to help! Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can support you towards introducing body neutrality in your own life.
Karli Battaglia MDiet, APD
EHL Team x