What Is Body Neutrality? How It Can Help Improve Body Image and Confidence

Apr 19, 2024

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For many of us, body image may be a lifelong struggle. As much as many of us would love to embrace our bodies as they are, it can feel challenging not to compare ourselves with others (or what we’d consider idealized versions of ourselves) and be comfortable with the skin we’re in.

Many people are embracing body neutrality, a new perspective that takes a more neutral stance on body image. It can truly transform how we look and feel toward our bodies and appreciate all they do for us!

What Is Body Neutrality?

Body neutrality can look different for different people. However, there are a few key elements:

  • Taking a “neutral” approach: Rather than taking an approach where we tell ourselves we “love” different parts of our body, body neutrality encourages us to appreciate them as they are and look at them through a more neutral lens.
  • Focusing on body functionality: Instead of focusing on appearance, this practice emphasizes all the amazing things our bodies can do for us — like allowing us to feel emotions, move through the day, and go places with friends and family.¹

Body Neutrality vs. Body Positivity

People may use the terms “body neutrality” and body positivity” interchangeably. However, there are a few key differences between the two.

Body Positivity

  • Practices radical acceptance for the body and emphasizes loving all parts of ourselves exactly as we are
  • May include more focus on physical appearance and loving all of our so-called “imperfections”
  • Affirmations often include “I love…” statements about the body

Body Neutrality

  • Shifts more toward what our bodies can do for us and how they allow us to move and experience the world
  • Focuses less on appearance and acknowledges that we may not feel excitement or love for all parts of our bodies but can accept and appreciate ourselves as we are
  • Affirmations may include “I am grateful that my body…” and similar statements

How To Improve Body Image and Self-Esteem With Body Neutrality

Navigating how to improve body image and self-esteem can be challenging, especially if you don’t feel positively toward your body.

The thought of loving your body may feel impossible. However, when we have spent years surrounded by messages that tell us our bodies aren’t okay as they are — and feeling that way about ourselves — it may take some time to shift our thoughts and feelings.

This is why body neutrality is so amazing. Instead of telling ourselves we “love” different aspects of our bodies, it practices acceptance. It’s much easier to shift toward a more neutral way of thinking than to jump into a mindset opposite of what we may think or feel in the present moment.

If you’re looking for ideas on improving body image, here are a few ways to start embracing body neutrality.

Connect With Likeminded Individuals

In a world that often fixates on appearance and where social media and society make us feel we have to look a certain way, it may not feel natural to talk or think positively — or even neutrally — about ourselves. We may feel like we aren’t okay for existing as we are.

However, you deserve to give yourself permission to exist in the skin you’re in!

Connecting with others who want to embrace body neutrality is a great way to cultivate more of this mindset:

  • Search for Health at Every Size (HAES) professionals: Rather than focusing on weight or weight loss, many healthcare providers have begun to embrace HAES, a movement that embraces existing in our bodies as we are and living a lifestyle that matches that. Discover more about HAES here.
  • Change up your social media feed: Social media and society often push one body type on us — and diet culture is generally very intertwined with it. Be intentional about seeking out diverse creators and have your social media reflect more of what we see in the real world — rather than in just edited and curated photos.
  • Focus your time on others with shared values: It’s no secret that those we spend time with can impact how we think and feel. Finding others who have shared values for body diversity, body acceptance, and being anti-diet is a great way to help cultivate a body neutrality mindset.

Practice Body Neutrality Affirmations

Body neutrality affirmations are a great way to help build thinking pathways associated with self-worth and our core values.²

If you notice yourself thinking something negative about your body, replacing it with a more neutral affirmation focused on your body’s abilities and what it does for you can help.

A few examples of body-neutral affirmations include:

  • “I am so grateful for all the wonderful things my body allows me to experience.”
  • “My body tells me exactly what it needs.”
  • “It’s okay for my body to look differently in different seasons.”
  • “My body allows me to feel so many different emotions.”
  • “I appreciate how my body allows me to move through the world and spend time with family and friends.”
  • “My legs allow me to walk, run, and jump.” “My arms allow me to hug my loved ones.”
  • “Listening to my body is a gift.”

However, these affirmations aren’t only for a bad body image day. Repeating them over time helps reinforce these more helpful thoughts and can transform the way we feel about ourselves for the better!

Tap Into Intuitive Eating Principles

Intuitive eating principles encourage us to listen to our bodies, do movement that feels good, and overall, give ourselves permission to exist as we are. Moving away from diet culture and into intuitive eating is an amazing way to heal our relationship with food and our bodies.

Discover the 10 principles of intuitive eating here.

Cultivating Neutral Body Language and Confidence

Embracing a body neutrality mindset is an amazing way to build body confidence and acceptance.

Taking small steps to be intentional with how we speak and think about our bodies will help us feel like the best version of ourselves — as we already exist!

If you’re looking for a professional who can help you dive deep into body neutrality, working with a HAES dietitian like those at Life Cycle Nutrition is an amazing first step to food and body freedom!

Other Helpful Articles:

Diminishing the Eating Disorder: Restoring Your Child’s Health with Family-Based Therapy

Eating Disorder Treatment: How To Know the Right Level of Care for Your Child

Noticing Changes: Signs Your Child Has an Eating Disorder

How To Help a Child With an Eating Disorder: Your Role in Your Child’s Recovery

Citations

  1. Pellizzer, Mia L., and Tracey D. Wade. 2023. “Developing a definition of body neutrality and strategies for an intervention.” Body Image 46 (August): 434-442. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2023.07.006.

Cascio, Christopher N., Matthew B. O’Donnell, Francis J. Tinney, Matthew D. Liberman, Shelley E. Taylor, Victor J. Stretcher, and Emily B. Falk. 2016. “Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 11, no. 4 (April): 621-629. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsv136.

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