Do you have “bad body days?” Like a bad hair day, but instead of your hair, you feel unhappy with the way your clothes look, the shape of your body, or your overall appearance?
You’re not alone. Regardless of fitness level, we all have days like this.
However, movements like body positivity and body neutrality are all about helping us find ways to appreciate our bodies no matter what.
Here’s a quick guide to body positivity, body neutrality, and how to have a better relationship with your body.
What Is Body Positivity?
Body positivity began as a social movement encouraging the acceptance of all bodies as they are — regardless of color, shape, size, or ability. It serves as a counterpoint to the “ideal” beauty standards that are often portrayed in media — namely, thinness.
However, body positivity can also be a highly individual experience or perception. Body positivity encourages loving your body as it is, perceived flaws and all. And although body positivity on social media seems to mostly be centered around more curvaceous women, the movement aims to help people perceive all bodies as beautiful.
Why Is Body Positivity Important?
Because of the body positivity movement, huge shifts have occurred in media representation of bodies of all shapes and sizes. Likewise, more clothing companies are using curvier models or models with different body types and offering more generous size options in their clothing.
Additionally, the body positivity movement on social media has helped to normalize things that are, well, normal for many bodies, but have often been shamed as less than ideal. Like belly rolls when sitting, thighs with no thigh gap, stretch marks, skin texture and shine as opposed to entirely smooth and matte skin, and more.
On an individual level, being more body positive may also help you improve your self-image.[*]
What Is Body Neutrality?
Body neutrality, on the other hand, offers a more level approach to body acceptance. Rather than focusing on appearance to the same degree as body positivity, body neutrality encourages the adoption of a completely neutral view of your body. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is.
Likewise, it encourages this approach to your weight as well. Your weight is simply a data point, and it says nothing more about you than how much force is being exerted on your body due to gravity.
A body-neutral approach may also make it easier to accept the need for a lifestyle change to improve your health without feeling pressured to make it about weight or appearance.
Finally, body neutrality may also help you focus more on what your body can do rather than what your body looks like.
Many healthcare providers are beginning to take a body-neutral or weight-neutral approach to healthcare, where care is informed by optimizing health rather than optimizing weight or BMI. In many cases, focusing on health may result in healthy weight changes.[*]
Body Positivity vs. Body Neutrality for a Healthy Body Image
Body positivity and body neutrality have definite similarities, but overall are two very different approaches to body image. While body positivity encourages you to view all bodies (including your own) as beautiful, body neutrality encourages you to take appearance out of the equation completely.
Both approaches may help you adopt a healthier body image. Still, some body positivity advocates may encourage unhealthy habits or complacency with excessive body fat — which may put you at risk for developing conditions like type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
Body neutrality, on the other hand, may help you uncouple your weight and appearance completely from your health. This can help you make choices that prioritize your metabolic health and mental wellness, rather than your physical appearance or weight.
However, you can take the positive aspects of both movements and apply them to your life and mindset — there’s no rule against it. For example, you can embrace feeling beautiful or good-looking one day (a body-positive approach), and the next day you may not feel that way — but you can still appreciate your body for what it can do (a body-neutral approach).
Top 5 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Relationship with Your Body
Here are five tips to help you maintain (or begin having) a healthy relationship with your body:
1. Have Gratitude
Even if you’re not happy with your body or your current level of health, you can still be grateful for your body as it is right now.
For instance, you are able to read this article because you woke up this morning, because your heart is beating, and because you have eyesight (or hearing, if you are visually impaired and using a screen reader to access the internet).
Although you may feel as though your body has failed you in one form or another, it’s important to remember that the very same body has kept you alive since birth. Maybe the same body has also birthed or fed babies, recovered from disease or severe injury, or made it through to the other side of a traumatic event.
This shift towards gratefulness for what your body can do and has done — rather than disdain for what it can’t — is a good way to help cultivate a healthy body image. Appreciate your strength.
2. Be Weight Neutral and Body Neutral
If you have a poor body image, you may benefit from adopting a more weight-neutral or body-neutral approach.
Instead of focusing on your body weight, measurements, or how your clothes look, focus on things like getting stronger, increasing your exercise stamina, staying hydrated, choosing foods that make you feel good, and other things that are health-focused rather than body-focused.
You can even go so far as to hide or get rid of your scale or take down or cover up your full-body mirror if that helps you to get over a preoccupation with the way your body looks.
3. Set Health Goals, Not Body Goals
On that same note, it’s a good idea to separate body goals from health goals. Instead of your goal, for example, being “I want to lose 30 pounds,” think about the daily habits it would take to get you there and set THOSE as your goals. You may end up with a list of micro goals that looks something like this:
- Track my food and stick to my macros
- Drink at least 8 cups of water
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes
- Get 8 hours of sleep
Even if you don’t reach your initial goal of losing 30 pounds, you’ll have implemented some practices that are excellent for your overall health and wellness and made them habitual. That’s a win!
4. Avoid Comparisons
You should also try not to compare your body to other peoples’ bodies, especially on social media. As the old saying goes, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
This is extra true for social media influencers, particularly those in the fitness realm. Although they may be #bodygoals, there is a LOT of curating that goes into their photos. In addition to specific, ultra-flattering poses, they often use professional lighting and makeup — not to mention cosmetic surgery. (And while it’s totally OK to get cosmetic surgery if you want it, it’s completely unrealistic to compare a non-surgically altered body to the body of someone who has had cosmetic surgery.)
Some influencers even edit their photos to make their stomachs look flatter or their waist a little more snatched.
All that to say — what you see on social media isn’t reality, so try not to compare your body to the “perfect” bodies you may see on your feed.
5. Replace Negative Self-Talk
If you’re not happy with your body, you may also be engaging in a lot of negative self talk. You may tell yourself things like “I’m worthless” or “I’m disgusting” because of your body.
Unfortunately, this kind of self-talk can be a toxic drain on your mood and mindset.
Although it may seem hard to change the way you think about yourself, it can be done. One easy way to do this is to say or think something positive about your body every time some negative self talk pops into your brain.
For instance, if you think “I wish my thighs were thinner,” you can follow that up with the more upbeat “I’m thankful for my strong legs.” It may seem really unnatural at first — but eventually, it will help you to think more positively about your body.
Additionally, you may want to seek the support of a psychologist or counselor who specializes in body image if you are really struggling with body image or self-confidence. Finding a therapist who specializes in disordered eating will also typically have experience treating body image issues and negative self-talk. Body dysmorphic disorder or “body dysmorphia” is a fairly common condition that affects both men and women. It is defined by a preoccupation with your own perceived flaws in your physical appearance. These “flaws” are typically unnoticeable to others. The Mayo Clinic has a full list of symptoms as well as criteria for when you should seek professional help for this issue:[*]
At Carb Manager, we are here to support you in your self-improvement and self-love journey. Whether you want to lose weight, get stronger, or just be more conscious of what you’re eating on a day-to-day basis, we’ve got your back!