Almost every single person has a moment or two when they look in the mirror and don’t like what they see. A judgmental voice looms in the back of your head, pointing out all of the things you want to change about your body. If you toned up your thighs, trimmed some fat off the tricep area, or tightened the skin around the eyes, maybe life would be better.
Perhaps it’s a momentary low, or maybe it’s an ongoing internal struggle that drags you down on a daily basis. No matter the reason for the inner dialogue, negativity affects your mood, what you wear, how you interact with people, and how you go about your day. Sometimes, negativity may force you to focus on “fixing” yourself too much. This fuels harmful habits that only worsen how you feel about yourself.
We inhabit a world where plastic surgery, injections, extreme workouts, and dangerous diets are the norm. The “perfect” body has fueled skinny culture, and low self-esteem, alcohol abuse, depression, and eating disorders resulted. Body shaming also fueled these negative behaviors, but it seems that body positivity has started to normalize all body types, regardless of size or shape.
What Is Body Positivity?
Body positivity is a movement that emerged across social media platforms around 2012. The idea behind the movement was to shift the focus away from unrealistic standards to a realistic, whole-bodied approach. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Cellulite, wrinkles, height, weight, and everything in between is normal. The idea is to abandon dangerous diet and exercise plans and focus more on loving your body.
Despite the growing popularity of the body positivity movement, it has received a lot of criticism in recent years. It’s almost impossible to avoid exercise or diet ads with #bodylove, #allbodiesarecreatedequal, and #loveyourbody when you go on social media. It seems that there is a lot of pushback about individuals who proudly showcase their imperfections.
Why Is Their Pushback?
Many people, health experts included, feel that body positivity created somewhat of an unhealthy culture. Allowing people to disregard medical complications can often lead to bouts with obesity and other life-threatening health conditions. Obesity increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and chronic inflammation, but body positive enthusiasts tend to disregard the supplementary research.
This isn’t to say that being skinny is the automatic pass to perfect health. Ultimately, people should focus on consuming a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise that they enjoy. Whether you walk your dog every day, join a gym, practice yoga, or bike, movement is beneficial. Healthy eating and exercise can not only decrease your risk of certain health conditions, but you may also feel better about yourself. This is why more people advocate body neutrality, as opposed to body positivity.
What Is Body Neutrality?
After body positivity started receiving criticism, a new movement arose: body neutrality. This movement promotes accepting the body as it is, but also recognizing the body’s abilities and non-physical characteristics instead of physical appearance. The whole idea is to develop a neutral perspective towards the body so that you don’t have to cultivate a new love for it every day. It’s perfectly fine to not love the body all the time, but you can appreciate it for what it is and does.
You are more than just your body, and beauty isn’t the only thing to value. Body neutrality may be a learning curve, but the end goal is to prioritize how you feel in your body. For example, you exercise because you enjoy the movement, not because you need to burn off the meal you ate. You may choose certain clothes not for how they look, but because they feel good on the body.
Lastly, body neutrality doesn’t mean that you make unhealthy choices. Listen to your body and let it guide you. This is why mindfulness plays an important role in body neutrality. If you drink coffee in the morning and enjoy a generous splash of cream, that’s the way to enjoy it. Drink water throughout the day because it satisfies your thirst, not because of a water challenge. Meals include fresh, whole foods, but you don’t say not to ice cream, pasta, or pizza when the mood strikes. And there’s never a need to “make up” for a heavy meal by denying yourself pleasure the next day. Build the body you desire in a mindful way, and you’ll be part of the body neutrality movement.