What Is the Body Neutrality Movement All About?
Everyone tells us we should love our bodies no matter what. While the intentions behind this advice are sound, many find that simply being told to love their bodies is a bit disingenuous in a world where people are still very much judged by their appearance.
Enter the body neutrality movement. What is it?
What Is Body Neutrality?
Body neutrality focuses upon developing a sense of acceptance of our bodies, instead of insisting that we must generate a far more difficult emotion of love toward your body to be healthy. While it seems that acceptance isn’t quite as warm and fuzzy as loving your every perceived flaw, to a sizable number of people, it seems to be a more honest approach to self-care. Indeed, the body neutrality movement may prove more emotionally healthy for many of us.
Why is this? One of the key objectives the body neutrality movement hopes to achieve is for people to stop focusing such an excess of mental energy on their physical appearance, so they are free to manifest it into other things in their lives. And lying, even lying to oneself, takes up a lot of mental energy.
Behavioral studies have shown that when we lie, we then spend an enormous amount of time trying to defend and justify that lie. It takes tremendous mental energy to maintain a pretense we sincerely disbelieve to be true. Unless we suffer from a mental illness, lying even to ourselves creates feelings of guilt, which also eat up our mental energy.
Therefore, if a woman who has always been, say, self-conscious about having thighs she deems too large, insists upon telling herself she truly loves her legs just as they are, she may actually unknowingly create more mental and emotional turmoil for herself, not less. This is the opposite of what body neutrality hopes to achieve.
With the body neutrality mindset, that same woman doesn’t have to lie to herself in saying she loves her thighs. Instead, she can tell herself she appreciates them for what they are and what they can do, and then immediately focus her mental energy on something else, such as her career or her life goals.
Body neutrality aims to be more inclusive than the body positivity movement, as well. Many critics of the body positivity movement have noted that members of that movement seem to all share similar characteristics. They are overweight — but not severely so — and generally able-bodied. People who are too thin or too obese, or who have a physical disability, have often reported feeling left out by the body positivity movement in the past.
Body neutrality aims for the acceptance of all sizes, shapes and forms.
The body neutrality movement also gets a boost from recent similar changes in the world of fitness. For years, people had a singular idea of what a fit body should look like — thin, but not too thin, and muscular, but not too muscular. The definition of what a fit body looked like for women specifically was further narrowed by old-school height and weight tables that featured a level of thinness that just is not realistic for many. As a result, many women stayed out of the gym if they didn’t fit the old Jane Fonda body ideal.
Newer fitness techniques focus more on strengthening and improving the overall health of people of all shapes and sizes, and are turning the focus from working out simply as a means to enhance one’s appearance. Many gyms and fitness organizations are now creating more inclusive mission statements and programming differently since we all “have different bodies, needs, and goals.” These new programs focus on improving overall strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health. By finding inclusivity at the gym, many people are now leading much healthier lives.
What’s Wrong with Body Positivity?
Simply put, there’s nothing at all wrong with the body positivity movement. In fact, many have benefited enormously from it. Plus, the body positivity movement did pave the way for more people to start loving the bodies they have, and there certainly isn’t anything wrong with that!
However, for some, the body positivity movement just wasn’t inclusive or honest enough. People with physical disabilities, for example, may find it difficult to generate a feeling of love for a limb that doesn’t work the way it should. Likewise, women who lack the look of “cute but a little heavier” that many body positivity activists possess felt a bit left out. This created yet another unattainable standard for many women with glandular disorders that keep them too thin or too heavy to strive for, leading to more frustration.
Simple acceptance of one’s body is easier for people of all shapes and sizes to achieve. And, as anyone who has been in a long-term friendship that got off to a rocky start knows, acceptance can sometimes blossom into love. But even if it does not, body neutrality allows us the freedom to simply accept our bodies body as they are and focus on other, more important parts of our lives. And that is something to celebrate.