You’re probably wondering, WTF is body neutrality?
(Guest post by intern and Nutritionist, Lyndsay Brooke, MS, RYT)
“Imagine a life where you stop hating your body and start living your life.” This was a post I recently saw on Instagram.
In a sea of body positivity, body love, and body acceptance, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged by the movement in its entirety.
But…how important is it to love our bodies? Can’t we just not hate them?
Hear me out – I am all about loving ourselves and taking our power back from the patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy that is constantly telling us our bodies are wrong.
What I also know is that feeling good about our bodies can be an enormous task, and honestly, why can’t we just know that we have a body, blah blah blah, and move on? Insert body neutrality.
But first, I want to acknowledge that as a thin, white, cis, able-bodied woman, I live in a body that benefits from a lot of privilege. I do not personally understand someone’s lived experience of being in a larger body.
It’s important to acknowledge the challenges that come from being a larger bodied person in our society. Let’s work together to center your lived experiences. I want to do my part in creating change towards a more fair and equitable landscape across the health and wellness industry.
What is Body Neutrality?
Body neutrality is just as it sounds – not wasting your time hating your body but also not feeling required to love it either. It isn’t a destination, but a constant journey, a work in progress. And it takes time.
“Often times, clients do such great work to heal their relationships with food, learn to take care of and respect their bodies, but then they say ‘But Lexy, I still don’t love my body.’ To which I answer: that’s okay,” Lexy says.
The key of body neutrality is to not let how you feel about your body on any given day impact whether you DESERVE to eat or not, or whether you MUST workout or not.
Body Neutrality vs Body Positivity
One of the tools Lexy uses with her clients is asking them to rate how they feel about their bodies. It’s a scale from -10 to 10, not 1-10.
Meaning, she understands that we can have negative or positive thoughts and feelings about our bodies but that the goal is essentially to become NEUTRAL with our bodies.
Like, the goal isn’t to love our bodies, it’s to just acknowledge that we have bodies and go on with our lives. Can you imagine?
Ijeoma Oluo says this so perfectly in her article, “You Don’t Have to Love Your Body”, when she says,
“The real victory is not in loving your body, or refusing to hate your body. The real victory is owning your body, and letting it be whatever you want it to be.”
Let’s not forget that loving your body in a culture designed to make you hate it is a big ask. This is something Lexy reminds her clients – that maybe if we lived in a society that accepts and celebrates body diversity, we could aim for body LOVE.
But, we have to be realistic about what we’re surrounded by on a daily basis. (Aka, a fat phobic society).
How to Move Towards Body Neutrality
All humans, but women especially are taught from a young age that our worth is based on our bodies and our overall physical appearance.
We come from a society that tells us it’s our duty to “look pretty” for men, to serve men, while men are taught that their worth comes from their ideas and talents.
The average American is said to have seen over 3,000 advertisements a day and spends roughly 2 years of their lifetime watching tv commercials. And, at the core of these ads, there continues to be a large focus on the “ideal female”, one that is thin, tall, and light-skinned.
(Did you know that for every weight loss ad in a men’s magazine, there are 10 in a women’s magazine??)
This has ultimately created internalized fat-phobia or a weight-biased lens from which we make all of our decisions. Ugh!
It’s all about shifting the viewpoint into the realization that we are SO much more than our bodies. I mean, who are we really? There are a multitude of things far more interesting about each and every one of us than our freaking bodies.
Stop the Self-Bullying
I often think about this question (after years of working through my own shit), “What would I say to my bestie if she told me she hated her body?” I think about how I would never say to her the things I have said about my own body.
Our bodies can and should be whatever the f*uck they are. Bodies that nourish ourselves. That take care of loved ones. And dance until 2am. Bodies that run marathons. That change with age. Bodies that rest when they’re tired. Bodies that do what they do.
Why is it so difficult to believe that all bodies are different? That they’re just bodies?
Could it be that the vast majority of media we are being fed at any given moment is saturated with one type of body and one way to look, so much so that we have programmed our entire being to believe that we are less than if we don’t look like the “ideal”?
Your Body Neutrality Homework
Lexy has clients practice two things when shifting the focus from our bodies:
- When you notice yourself being mean to your body, start by asking where the thoughts are coming from – because we know we aren’t born with these thoughts, they are learned. Now, give this internal voice a name like “leech, satan, etc.” and tell it to sit in the corner. Then ask yourself – what would you say to 5-year-old you or a friend who was saying this to themself? Practice saying this to yourself.
- Work on saying “so what, who cares, that’s not the point of this…” in regards to negative body thoughts. For example, a recent client had thoughts of feeling fat in an outfit she was going to wear to a friend’s bridal shower. So, the practice is to focus on the point of the event – to be present with friends and loved ones, to celebrate – and to just aim for feeling “good enough” in the outfit. Lexy adds that it’s also helpful to give yourself enough time to get ready for the event so you can pick an outfit with the least amount of stress, etc.
On the contrary, spending less time getting ready may be what works best for you since this can take the focus away from your appearance and more on the event. You do you!
Another helpful tip is to practice what Lexy calls Body Karma.
You/society has sent your poor body TONS of negative energy throughout your life. It’s time to attempt to even that out a bit by sending loving energy your way. Try this exercise for at least a week. It WILL feel weird at first, but that’s normal!
1.) when you get out of the shower/bath, pick your favorite lotion
2.) rub it on your body – starting with the parts you feel less negativity towards (maybe shoulders, arms, neck) and send your body kind loving energy.
3.) do this for a few days if needed^
4.) then, start extending the lotion/kindness to the parts of your body you feel more negative towards (maybe stomach, thighs)
You can even say, hey (stomach) i’m not sure if i like you or ever will but i’m working on accepting you, respecting you, and caring for you.
Point is, you’ve likely been sent lots of negativity toward your body (hello – toxic body culture) and it’s time to balance that out with some good lovin’.
Ps – make sure you LOVE the lotion! This brazilian bum bum (pronounced boom boom, to my surprise haha) cream by Sol de Janeiro is Lexy’s FAVE!
Media Cleanse (the only cleanse we’ll be recommending around here!)
While I hope we can all agree by now that detoxing isn’t something we need to be doing (we understand your body does all the detoxing it needs on its own, right?), I highly recommend a media cleanse.
In her article, “How to Feel Normal When the World Says You’re Too Big”, Virgie Tovar says to start by taking inventory of all the different media we consume on a day-to-day basis like tv shows, social media, and magazines and then decide if they are promoting body diversity or not. Virgie also suggests spending some time adding in body-diverse accounts to your social media.
If you want to read more about how to do this, including a list of some kick-ass accounts to follow, Lexy wrote a social media detox blog post earlier this year. It’s SO good!
Tune Into Internal Cues
It can also be helpful to practice mindfulness when discerning what media is supportive and what is not. You can do this by noticing any negative physical or emotional feelings that may come up when consuming such media.
So, if watching your favorite show has you constantly comparing yourself to the people on the screen or has you feeling bad about your body, scrap it!
Journaling Body Neutrality Affirmations
Instead of positive affirmations, the goal here is to write down 3-5 things your body did for you that day. Or you could choose things you appreciate about your body. Again, this can be as simple as “my body got me out of bed today.”
Wear Comfy Clothes
Clothes have a BIG impact on our ability to achieve body neutrality. No big explanation here other than to put on those clothes that make you feel good! Now, I don’t mean the clothes that you feel the most attractive in. I mean the clothes that are literally the comfiest to wear.
And while you’re at it, it helps to buy clothes that fit – meaning we may have to buy different sizes in items. This was a concept I pushed back on for such a long time, but after I finally just bought a bigger size, I instantly felt ridiculous that I was so scared to do this for so long.
Especially, because my clothes were way more comfortable!
Exercise can help you towards body neutrality. When we stop exercising to change our bodies, we can prioritize how the movement makes us feel. Does it help energize you for the rest of the day? Or help you sleep? Does it relieve stress? Or allow you to be present with yourself? Does it enhance your mood? Shifting the focus of why exercise is important to you can be such a powerful tool.
For some, like myself, it can make physical exercise a much more enjoyable experience.
Still Hate Your Body?
It’s okay if you still hate your body.
This is hard work. It’s gonna take time. Instead of putting all the emphasis on getting it right, focus on building habits that you can do consistently.
Maybe some of the steps mentioned above resonate with you. Maybe you focus on one a week and see what sticks. The goal here really is to not let how you feel about your body (even hating it) hold you back from experiencing life.
Before You Go
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