Body positivity. Among the most popular messages you will find on Facebook and Instagram are: “to lose weight you have to love your body”, “you are beautiful inside and out, “all bodies are beautiful”.
Easier said than done when we get so many mixed messages and ads that scream “change yourself” at every corner. Even the most positive people may feel down at times. The idea of the “ideal” body has been hammered for too long to simply let go of it.
The message we get nowadays is that as an alternative to criticizing your body, you have to learn how to love it, but we are not told how we can achieve that.
Learning to love your body can take years. Just staring at the mirror repeating upbeat phrases about yourself won’t do the trick. The reality is that what really matters is how we take care of ourselves, here and now!
Can we learn to live with the body that we have been given? Can we take care of our body even though we may not like it?
Experts agree that being body positive is not always achievable or realistic and definitely not sustainable. Cue the concept of body neutrality. Body neutrality is about seeing your body as a vehicle that helps you move, work, travel, sleep, spend time with friends and family and enjoy the world. It does not focus on the aesthetic side either good or bad. It’s about treating it with the care and respect it deserves.
Benefits for mental health
Body neutrality of simply about being mindful of how you feel, no judgement and no strong emotions linked to how you look. It encourages staying present in the moment, boosting mood and decreasing anxiety. The emphasis is on feeling healthy and grateful for all the things your body allows you to enjoy.
Body neutrality is akin to meditation. When the inevitable thoughts of how a certain body part may look creep in, focus instead on its qualities. How strong your legs are, how they helped you walk around the park today, how your brain processed tones of information, the power of your arms, all the things you do every minute of every day. Acknowledge them and show gratitude.
It is possible that we may always have a complicated relationship with ourselves. Focusing on the feeling of gratitude for all the wonderful things we can do may help us heal it.