Four Ways to Practice Body Neutrality
Self-love is incredibly empowering and aspirational, but it is also a radical concept for many people. When your body image is far from perfect, the idea of loving your body can seem unachievable or even laughable!
If this sounds like you, your time might be better spent working towards body neutrality instead.
What is body neutrality?
When you get down to basics, body neutrality is the belief that your body is neither good nor bad – it simply is. It’s a relatively new concept that replaces the idea of loving yourself because of your body, which is what we see in self-love ideologies. Instead, it focuses on loving yourself in spite of your body. It separates your identity and your worth from your physical appearance and emphasises compassion towards oneself. Since body neutrality is a relatively new concept, the research in this area is limited – however, there are some incredible resources that can be accessed, such as ‘Beyond Beautiful’ by Anuschka Rees and the associated Instagram page, @beyondbeautifulbook.
So how can you practice body neutrality in your own life?
ONE: Shift your mindset
Often the first step that needs to be taken towards achieving body neutrality is a change in the way you think about your body and yourself.
You and your body are completely separate entities.
By this we mean you are not your body. Your body does not define or even influence your identity – it is simply the vessel that contains you.
In that same vein, your body and your self-worth are not connected. You are so valuable and loveable regardless of what you look like, and your body is not the most important thing about you – not even close!
TWO: Find peace in your body
A fundamental principle of body neutrality is accepting your body the way it is. This means understanding that every person’s body is different, and that that’s more than okay! Even if we all ate and exercised in exactly the same way, we would all have entirely different bodies, thanks to genetic and environmental factors.
When you accept what your body looks like as simply factual rather than a problem to be solved, you can move away from behaviours that harm it, such as restrictive dieting and excessive exercise.
THREE: Appreciate your body for its function
One way to see your body in a new light is to think about all it does for you, rather than what it looks like. Your body was made to be functional! It lets you explore the world, play with your children, hug your loved ones and so much more. Try focusing on all things you can do regardless of how your body looks.
FOUR: Treat your body with respect
The final (and arguably most important) principle of body neutrality is that of unconditional respect.
When you think about your body as being separate from you as a person, this becomes a little easier. As a general rule, we treat all the people in our lives with respect, regardless of our personal feelings about them. We should think of our bodies the same way.
You might try to treat your body the way you would a child’s – not with criticism, but with loving kindness.
In practice, this looks like taking care of your body physically in terms of nutrition, movement and rest, regardless of how you feel about yourself on any given day. It also means taking care of your emotional needs by refraining from speaking negatively about your body, both internally and out-loud. Negative body talk has been shown to exacerbate negative body image, so this is a habit we really want to break!1
How we can help
Our dietitians at Embody Health London would love to support you on your journey towards a better relationship with food and your body. Please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how we can help!
Karli Battaglia, APD
EHL Team x
- Sharpe H, Naumann U, Treasure J, Schmidt U. Is fat talking a causal risk factor for body dissatisfaction? A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 2013;46(7):643-652.