When it comes to body image, or how you think and feel about your body, it can be easy to think about it in a black and white way: You either feel good or bad about your body.   

Black and white thinking can feel like a lot of pressure. If you don’t love the way you look and feel positively about your body all the time, then you might conclude that you have poor body image and self-esteem.  

The truth is, you don’t need to feel confident in your body or positive about it all the time. It’s normal for our feelings towards our body to change, just like our mood does. 

Body acceptance exists on a spectrum. There is a middle ground between loving your body and being critical of it, and this is called body neutrality.

Body Positivity

Before diving into body neutrality, let’s define body positivity. Body positivity is about accepting and appreciating your body as it exists right now, without the need to fix or change ‘flaws’ that you might see. Body positivity comes from the idea of challenging conventional beauty standards and promoting body acceptance.   

Body positivity can be challenging. It can feel like a huge leap if you struggle to accept your body. It can be a struggle if it seems like there is no middle ground between loving and hating your body. Body neutrality can be a healthy goal that puts less focus on how your body looks and helps to switch the focus to how your body functions and its purpose. 

What is body neutrality?

Body neutrality is the space between body positivity and body negativity, where you can experience being in your body instead of thinking about what it looks like.  Body neutrality can be practiced by anyone who wants to give themselves more space to exist in their body and to move the focus away from observing or judging and towards experiencing and being. This can be especially helpful if you feel that body positivity is too rigid.

Abilities over appearance

Body neutrality puts the focus on respecting and appreciating your body for what it can do for you instead of what it looks like. Below are some examples of practicing body neutrality with different body parts:

    • Your legs allow you to run, jump, and walk

    • Your skin is a protective barrier that keeps you healthy

    • Your arms and hands let you hold loved ones or play your favorite instruments

    • Your feet let you explore the world around you

    • Your body experiences the feel of the grass beneath your feet, the smell of your favorite food, and the feel of the sun on your skin

Take a minute to think about what your body is helping you do today. 

Ways to practice body neutrality

Body neutrality, at its core, is about living a happy and healthy life despite some of the negative thoughts and feelings that come up for you regarding your body. It’s important to recognize that how you feel and think about your body can change over time and through different phases of life, and this is completely normal.

If body neutrality feels right for you, here are some ways you can begin practicing being present in your body and take the time to fully experience your body’s amazing range of abilities and qualities.

  • Exercise and focus on how it makes you feel and appreciate what your body can do for you instead of working out for appearance-based reasons 
  • Practice adopting a more holistic viewpoint by noticing how your body helps you function in your daily tasks and hobbies, and how each body part plays a role to keep you safe and healthy  
  • If you notice something about your body or appearance that you feel insecure or uncomfortable about, try to look at it from a place of curiosity and observation instead of judgment 
  • Eat with the intention of nourishing your body instead of manipulating your body shape and/or weight  
  • Wear clothes because you enjoy how they look and feel, not because of how they shape/hide/enhance your body  
  • Have a curious and compassionate attitude when speaking about your body, whether to yourself or others 

Body neutrality is not a one-size-fits-all attitude; some people may enjoy the way body positivity nudges them to be more self-accepting and to have more love for their bodies, while others may feel more comfortable having a neutral stance.  Whether you’re in the body positivity or body neutrality camp, we can all benefit from having a more inclusive, accepting, and kind attitude toward ourselves and others. We can all work on reminding ourselves that our bodies are worthy of our care and deserve to be nourished and appreciated for all that they do for us every day.