If you have been following lifestyle influencers on the ‘gram, you are probably familiar with the terms’ Body Positivity’ and’ Body Neutrality.’
Body positivity is a movement that encourages one to believe that they are beautiful irrespective of their size, shape, color, or skin tone. It tries to break society’s stereotyping and strives for inclusivity of all types of bodies, disregarding the popular definition of perfection.
On the other hand, body neutrality is about not having any strong feelings associated with your body’s look, as how you look is irrelevant to your happiness, health, and well-being.
This concept allows us to focus on the job our bodies can do instead of what they look like. Your body’s job is to keep you safe and get you moving. As long as it is doing its job in the best possible way, it does not matter how it appears!
Society can be a harsh judge. You could spend all your time and efforts on achieving ‘perfection’ in the eyes of society. But, it would still not be enough. Don’t you think it is time we stopped trying to conform to society’s standards of perfection? The ONLY opinion that should matter is your own. You were born on this planet to accomplish your special purpose. You are unique in your own quirky way, and there is so much you can give back to your community.
So, it is essential to have a positive image of one’s own body as a difference in the perceived image, and the ideal image can cause a lot of dissatisfaction, stress, anxiety, eating disorders, and mood disorders. Having a negative body image can also cause depression and self-loathing, hindering one from reaching their maximum potential.
Sometimes, it is normal to feel distressed and helpless, but mental health counseling may be a convenient option to improve confidence levels. Going out, socializing, meeting like-minded people, involving oneself in volunteering work, working out at a gym, or joining a dance or fitness club have shown to be effective methods in providing long-standing results.
Body positivity can be great, but some people can’t love the way they look due to diet culture, eating disorders, and marketing gimmicks. Affirmations such as ‘I love my body just the way it is’ feel fake to them. They feel shallow for feeling one thing and outwardly saying the opposite. Also, there may be highs and lows – days where they have a positive body image followed by days of negativity.
This is where Body Neutrality comes into the picture. As a concept, it offers a middle ground. You do not have to love or hate your body – no extremes. It’s the one you’ve got. It may change over time. It may sag and get all wrinkly. That’s normal and okay!
Human bodies undergo changes constantly. You may not be at a healthy weight. But, there is no reason to beat yourself over it. You may never be Victoria’s super skinny size, but why would you even believe that it is a healthy size in the first place?
Our bodies are only one aspect of our complete identity – only the physical vessel that carries our mind, soul, and spirit. It does not represent our true worth in any way. This attitude can also allow us to focus on better achieving our health and fitness goals.
How to focus on having a positive or neutral image of our body?
- Shift the focus of exercising away from how the body looks to how YOU feel. You may actually start enjoying your workout instead of stressing about it.
- Be less critical. Although challenging, keep working on dissociating looks with the personality. Rather than judging people based on their ‘imperfections,’ we can develop our sense of empathy. This could open up new interactions and experiences in life.
- Eat what your body needs. Learn to be intuitive about what foods suit you as opposed to eating’ right’. Blindly following a diet, fad, or having foods someone told you to eat isn’t the best practice. This step, in itself, can be life-altering.
- Express gratitude. Focus on tasks you are able to perform every day, things you cherish doing. For example, reinforce positive thoughts such as – my body allows me to indulge in dancing; I am able to take part in gardening, it allows me to enjoy playing my favorite sport. This ‘gratitude exercise’ will help you tune into your positive interactions with the world and your immediate surroundings.
- Seek help. It is alright to fail. If you find it hard to accept your body the way it is, talking to a licensed therapist may help you find a way to overcome this. It can change your relationship with your body.
Be mindful that the transformation in mindset and changing your perception of body image is a long process. It could take loads of practice and self-affirmations to get to a comfort zone.
Meanwhile, it is essential that we keep reminding ourselves that we are:
2. A work in progress
3. Much more than just how we look.
Love every bit of your body. Be on your own team. Focus on loving your body, no matter what stage it is at. Work on growing stronger, both physically and mentally.
Workouts can be enjoyable. It helps you feel good about yourself. Fitness is not a moral obligation and is meant for ALL bodies. Also, the workout is not meant only for weight loss. Break that perception!
Reminder: Exercise is a celebration of what the body can do and not a punishment for having eaten. So, honor that body, cherish it, and most importantly, show it some TLC.