By Lynn Cadet

You probably heard of body positivity, maybe from the many posts online or the addition of its inclusivity in the media. But have you ever dove into the realm of its alternative, body neutrality? If not, you and I are in the same boat, navigating these newfound seas. Yep, body neutrality is all very new to me. And I have to say. I sort of dig it. It takes the concept of body positivity and flips it on its head. 

The movement has shaken things up for the lovers of the former trend and in many areas, rightfully so. Unfortunately, body positivity influenced some harmful lifestyles and unhealthy thinking, which brought on this newer outlook. 

However, does that mean we should adopt this new practice and throw body positivity to the wolves? That might not be the best idea. Both of these practices can merge and make for a hybrid perspective. After all, it all comes down to what you think is the best for your body acceptance journey. We’re all different. And that’s exactly what both movements preach. 

As for you who are wondering what lies within the lines of body neutrality, we’ll get to that next.

What Is Body Neutrality?

Popularised in 2015 mainly by the intuitive-eating counsellor Anne Poirier, body neutrality focuses on your body’s natural, universal purposes. Appearance is not as highlighted in this movement as its counterpart. Instead, you take a neutral stance on how your body looks and appreciate its remarkable abilities over its physical characteristics.

It removes the pressure of having to look in the mirror and love your body every day because that’s what social media told you to do. You might not like how you look all the time, and that’s okay. Body neutrality accounts for those days. It’s all about having gratitude for one’s body as it is and the ability to do ordinary tasks with it. Like if you can run down sunny hills, birth a child, or laugh for hours with loved ones, these are the parts of your body identity that you focus on according to this movement. 

Body Neutrality Vs Body Positivity

To understand the differences between the two, you should first know the definition of body positivity. Body positivity centres itself on cultivating a love for your body and accepting all bodies as beautiful over the narrow beauty standards. Sounds great? However, there are flaws to the movement. 

Body positive culture comes with some shady territory, including harassment and pushback against it. Through its commercialisation, brands and other media channels have manipulated its ideology and picked what they think is inclusive, which is not always all-embracing. The “plus-size” models all have a similar body or an hourglass frame, influencing others to chase after that look and return to dangerous diets. 

Body positivity has also made us think we must always love our bodies no matter how we feel and places a hyper-focus and obsession on appearances. For all bodies to be acceptable, appearance shouldn’t take first place all the time because it can become our identity, tied to our self-worth, and influence our mood. 

It really comes down to the topic of identity to see the differences between the two movements. In some ways, body positivity focuses too heavily on the physical as the markers for our identity. In contrast, body neutrality looks to the mental and emotional characteristics. The former rewards us for loving our outer appearance, and the latter reminds us to reward our bodies with rest and care. 

Elements To Practice

Is it valuable to show your body love and love it at the same time? Yes. But, you don’t have to feel guilty on those days when insecurities take hold. This is how applying practices from both body cultures can work wonders. 

Here are the pros for each movement:

  • Body positivity nurtures self-love and self-esteem while encouraging others to care for their bodies and feel comfortable in their skin.
  • Body neutrality places a spotlight on the often overlooked greatness and capabilities of our bodies. It also emphasises mindfulness and the purpose of our mental identity to our character. 

We should look to our bodies as vessels of our souls and minds and remind ourselves that their importance and use go far beyond mere looks. How you feel about your body’s appearance can shift with your mental health or mood. That’s why I like how body neutrality highlights the constant appeal of bodies, like their capabilities. 

Everyone’s body acceptance journey is different and unique. So, adopt what you think will be best for you and your mental health. So what do you say? Body neutrality or positivity? Or maybe a combination of both? The choice is always yours.