The body positivity movement has rapidly gained steam in recent years. Originally created by women living in marginalized bodies, body positivity has been co-opted into mainstream wellness and fitness spaces. Body positivity encourages women to love their body just as it is, regardless of their shape or size. It celebrates stomach rolls, cellulite, stretch marks, and curves in the “wrong” places. Body positivity teaches women to feel beautiful in the face of a society that continues to say you must look a certain way in order to be deemed beautiful.
However, in order to truly gain peace with your body and to unchain yourself from a toxic relationship to diet and exercise, body neutrality is a much better practice, and what we as wellness enthusiasts should be striving for. Self-love is a difficult and lifelong journey. Putting pressure on ourselves to love our bodies unconditionally, perhaps when we are not quite there yet, just adds to feelings of failure and incompetence. Rather, instead of turning negative thoughts about our body to positive ones, it serves us better to simply view our bodies through a neutral lens.
We don’t need to have any feelings about the shape of our thighs. Our legs let us walk, run, dance, explore. Our arms let us clap, cheer, cook, hug. Our bellies hold delicious food, protect our organs, provide a comfortable place for a loved one to rest their head. Our bodies aren’t good or bad, regardless of what they look like. They just are. By not forcing ourselves to engage in thoughts about our body, whether good or bad, we are already doing ourselves a disservice by putting thoughts about our body so present in our minds.
What if we didn’t think about our bodies? What if instead we got dressed in the morning and put on clothes that made us feel happy and comfortable, without thinking of how they make us look? What if we went for a walk with a friend and didn’t think about the calories we’re burning, but instead how great the conversation is? What if instead of looking at another woman’s body and comparing ourselves, we simply acknowledged that she looks different than us, and we move on?
Author Glennon Doyle once said, “Rebellion is as much of a cage as obedience. They both mean living in reaction to someone else’s way instead of forging your own.” Rather than constantly fighting our own thoughts, wouldn’t it be easier just to exist peacefully in our own bodies? Body neutrality gives us the tools for that freedom, something we’d all be much better off for having.