You may have grown up with people telling you that you were too short, too fat, too dark or for a while you may have been in the middle of a journey trying to find self-love made of steep highs and lows. Now at midlife, it’s time to unpack your beliefs about your body and where they came from by focusing instead on what it is doing for you, rather than what it looks like.
It’s called body neutrality and it differs from body positivity because it helps us focus on things like being grateful for what function our bodies do possess as opposed to what features we don’t have. In other words, practising body neutrality involves recognizing our value as an overall, multifaceted being.
The term body neutrality was popularized by Anne Poirier, a body-image coach, leader of The Body Joyful Revolution Community and the author of The Body Joyful, who began using it in 2015 to help her clients build a healthier, more in-tune relationship to food and exercise.
There’s a whole movement talking about loving our bodies. But it’s kind of a long jump to move there from dissatisfaction- she explains-. Some people are just going to land in body neutrality, which is the term we utilize here for somewhere in the middle. Body neutrality prioritizes the body’s function, and what the body can do, rather than its appearance. You don’t have to love or hate it. You can feel neutral towards it.
I found that illuminating. Finally, a perspective that helps us to give more of a sense of purpose and self-appreciation to our body and who we are. A chance to shift the focus from controlling it to finding gratitude for it: while we may not like our stretch marks, we appreciate that our body was able to give birth to a child. And even if those legs have cellulite they still are able to take us on a stroll. And what about those scars? They might not be pretty but for me, they are badges of survival.
Of course, trying to establish a new relationship with our body, is not so easy and it takes time. That’s when Anna Poirer comes to the rescue suggesting to start with cleaning up our social media feeds, for example.
“If there are people or sites that make you feel bad about yourself, or that you compare yourself with, delete them – she explains-. Follow feel-good feeds“.
What’s more, she suggests counteracting our negative self-talk with some body neutral phrases such as: “Thank your body, for taking care of me today” or “My weight does not define my worth” while focusing on our strengths.
According to the body-image coach, it’s also very important to call a truce on the war with our body if we want to make peace with it. Instead, we’d better start a daily body appreciation practice, for instance by writing down 5 things every day that it can do.
By taking a break from any body conversation (whether self-loving or not), you will be able to free up energy and brain space to focus on what you really care about. Slowly but surely you’ll soon accept your body as it is, and you will just move on because you will realise body neutrality goes beyond what our body looks like and into what it has to offer, and how it can be a channel and vehicle to living a full and joyful life.