Have you heard of the new body neutrality movement? Wondering how this concept differs from body positivity?
Hi, I’m Kristen. I’m a registered dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating and reconnecting with your body's natural cues. I work within the Health At Every Size (HAES) framework, which demonstrates that positive health goals can be achieved regardless of weight. Continue reading to learn more about body neutrality and how this movement can positively impact your life.
Disclaimer: The author of this blog is a registered dietitian, but she is not your dietitian. Please check with your doctor or dietitian for personal recommendations, or book a free exploratory call with Kristen.
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What is Body Neutrality?
Body neutrality is where we strive to keep a neutral description of our bodies that is free from judgment. The aim is to see the body as a body. Full stop. With body neutrality, we do not assign positive or negative judgment to body parts. Instead, neural body acceptance is the goal.
A frequent question clients may ask is: What is the difference between body neutrality (Körperneutralität) and body positivity (Körperpositivität)?
Body Neutrality vs Body Positivity
So what is the difference between body positivity and body neutrality? Body positivity is about seeing our body in a positive light. The goal is to love all areas of your body and have total body acceptance. For many years, the body positivity movement has become more mainstream.
The body positivity movement was, and still is, a vital conversation to have in our society. But the messages of body positivity may not align with some folks. We can think of body neutrality as the cousin of body positivity.
A criticism of the body positivity movement is that the practice can be challenging for folks who struggle to find joy and self-acceptance in their bodies. Engaging in body positivity might make people feel shame or sadness if they have negative thoughts about their bodies. This is when body neutrality steps in.
Body neutrality aims to see the body as just a body. This concept can help people ease into body acceptance, even if they don’t feel ready for a positive body image. Think about this question for yourself: do you connect more with body positivity or body neutrality?
Is Body Neutrality Right for Me?
Body neutrality can be right for anyone! If body-positive affirmations (eg. “I love my curves” or “My body is perfect the way it is”) are not your favorite, then body neutrality can be a fit for you. Practicing body neutrality can be helpful if you struggle to accept certain areas of your body.
There is no harm in trying to adopt a body-neutral mentality and seeing if this practice is helpful for you. We should always remember: we do not have to love or hate our body, but it is the only one we have.
Let’s talk about ways to practice body neutrality in your daily life.
How to Put Body Neutrality into Practice
Below are a few simple body neutrality exercises to incorporate into your daily life. With a few small practices of physical self-respect and self-love, you can begin to feel more comfortable in your skin.
Body neutrality is not always an intuitive practice. Our brains are wired to assign judgment to ourselves. If negative thoughts arise when practicing body neutrality, remember that we are a work in progress and patience is key. Always be kind to yourself.
Focus on what your body can do for you
Your body is an incredible machine. Even as you sit here reading this article, your body is able to read the text, keep you breathing, and you can feel the air around you. Instead of focusing on what you wish your body could do, focus on what it already does for you. This is called healthy body awareness.
Mindfulness can train your body to focus on the present moment. What do you currently look like? How do you currently feel? How did your body serve you today? Asking yourself these questions can help you become more mindful, more body neutral, and have a healthy body relationship.
Ditch the diet culture!
Diet culture is the villain in our story. The primary role of diet culture is to be judgmental so we have a desire to change our bodies. Freeing yourself from diet culture is a step toward body neutrality and can help you become more mindful.
Let’s Try It Out! A Body Neutrality Exercise for You
Now that we know what body neutrality is, it’s time to put the concept into practice! Below is a simple mindfulness exercise that you can do in 1-2 minutes. The practice is called a body scan.
The body scan requires you to focus on one part of your body and describe it in a neutral way. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do a body scan:
Start by sitting or standing in a comfortable position and location. If it feels right, looking in a mirror can be helpful, but this is not necessary.
Start by bringing attention to your head and face. Describe your face in a neutral, non-judgmental way. For example: “I have brown hair”, “I have a forehead, and there are a few wrinkles”, or “I have brown eyes.”
Slowly move your attention from your head and face, down to your shoulders, to your chest, stomach, hips, legs, and feet. The exercise may become challenging once you reach a part of your body that you frequently critique. Try your best to describe these body parts in a neutral way. For example, you might say “I have legs, they help me walk.”
A tip: start slow and build to a whole body scan. Start with only doing a scan of your face, and then move to other parts of your body.
The purpose of the body scan is to practice seeing your body without any judgment. While completing this exercise, some judgmental automatic thoughts may arise. The key is to be patient with yourself. Notice the judgmental thoughts, and then release them.
Do you struggle with intuitive eating and wish to find food freedom? Then your next step is to apply to work with Kristen, a board credentialed Registered Dietitian! Kristen is an English-speaking nutritionist in Germany who specializes in intuitive eating. Break free from diet culture by having a non-binding chat with Kristen. Your body (and your mind) will thank you.
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