Embracing Body Neutrality to Support Lasting Health

In the ever-evolving discussion around body image and how we perceive ourselves, body neutrality has emerged as a very powerful and liberating approach to our health. Unlike the more well-known body positivity movement, which tells people they should love their bodies no matter what, body neutrality offers a more realistic approach. 

The goal of body neutrality, as the name suggests, is to take a more neutral approach to how we view ourselves. Rather than thinking we can bully ourselves into better health or that we can love ourselves so hard our bad body image days will never come back, this approach acknowledges some days we just may not feel great in our body and that is completely okay. This offers not only a more realistic approach, but also a much more sustainable one.

This perspective also aligns with the principles of Health at Every Size (HAES) and Intuitive Eating, both of which are important to us at Paragon. 

What is HAES?

Health at Every Size (HAES) is an approach that promotes health and well-being without focusing on weight. It challenges societal norms that equate thinness with health, and emphasizes behaviors that support physical, emotional, and mental well-being regardless of body size. HAES principles align closely with body neutrality by advocating for respect and appreciation for one’s body, which ultimately fosters a healthier relationship with food, movement, and health. Want to learn more? Click here. 

So, why does body neutrality matter?

First, body neutrality acknowledges the complexities of human emotion and feelings. We aren’t going to constantly love ourselves and it is okay to acknowledge that you’re having a bad body image day. Often times, body positivity leads to a form of toxic positivity. This leaves people feeling like they’re doing something wrong because they don’t always feel good in their skin. 

Overall, this approach alleviates the pressure to constantly feel positive about your appearance. The expectation to always love your body is pretty overwhelming and unrealistic. By taking a neutral stance, it becomes acceptable to have neutral or even negative feelings about one’s body without it impacting self-worth and respect for our body.

We also know from the current literature that body weight does not directly correlate with better or worse health. Read more on that here. Body neutrality removes the constant desire and need to shrink your body when you get down on yourself. Instead, it helps develop sustainable habits by promoting health behaviors that are enjoyable and respectful towards our body. Here are two example scenarios to envision the support body neutrality gives us:

  • Scenario #1: Kathy is having a tough body image day. She tried on a pair of jeans that no longer fit, which made her feel not so good in her skin. She ruminated on it all day and told herself how disgusting she let herself get. She skipped lunch and dinner and added onto her workout in order to feel better. She tries to continue these extreme habits for a while, but eventually falls off the wagon and gets caught in this cycle over and over. 
  • Scenario #2: Kayla is having a tough body image day. She tried on a pair of jeans that no longer fit, which made her feel not so good in her skin. Although she wasn’t feeling great, she knew that she still needed to show respect and care for her body. She made it a priority to nourish her body with adequate nutrition, participate in a workout she enjoyed, and get to bed at a reasonable time to ensure she gets enough sleep. She acknowledged the difficult emotions, but reminded herself that taking care of her body is a must and bad body image days are normal. Because she cared for her body in a respectful way, she is able to continue these health promoting behaviors long-term because they are empowering instead of being a punishment. 

In case you were wondering, scenario #2 is the body neutral approach.

The bottom line: your body deserves respect at all times. Even if you are having a bad body image day, body respect is a non-negotiable.

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