How to practice body neutrality: six steps and exercises
Body neutrality is the concept of being at peace with your body. Your body may not be exactly as you wish, but body neutrality allows you to accept and respect it for what it is able to do. It suggests you focus on your body’s abilities, rather than concentrating solely on physical appearance.
Body neutrality gained traction in response to the body positivity movement: while body positivity asks everyone to have an unwavering love of their body, the rise of body neutrality recognized that this isn’t realistic for many and, in fact, can lead to feelings of failure when individuals struggle to love what they see in the mirror.
If you're interested in how to practice body neutrality, the following six steps offer a starting point.
Question your mindset
To practice body neutrality requires a shift in mindset. Rather than focusing on what you dislike about your body, it asks you to appreciate what it can do. An example of body neutrality: say you don't like the shape of your legs – rather than focus on their appearance, body neutrality encourages you to think: ‘If it wasn’t for my legs, I wouldn’t be able to run or go for a walk.’
Reassess your wardrobe
Body neutrality suggests you evaluate your wardrobe and question whether your clothes fit well and are comfortable. If you're routinely wearing things that don't fit simply because they have a certain size on the label, this can lead to feeling self-conscious. Choose clothes that fit you well and make you feel good.
Reframe why you exercise
A body neutrality workout isn't focused on changing your shape; body neutrality advocates enjoying exercise simply for exercise’s sake. The movement recommends that if you enjoy exercise, you're more likely to want to do it and reap the health benefits. Body neutrality also suggests you listen to your body and not push yourself to exercise if you feel tired or unable.
Stop body talk
Do you have friends who fixate on their perceived flaws, either making you feel worse about your body, or leading you to engage in negative talk, too? If so, consider how you could redirect these conversations. Try offering a simple segue that will re-steer the discussion: "I’d rather focus on something besides our bodies – have you done anything fun recently?"
To practice body neutrality, move away from feelings of guilt or shame around food. Instead, eat foods that make you feel good, that nourish you and give you pleasure. Body neutrality encourages followers to be in tune with which foods work best for their bodies and advises them not to deny cravings, staying aware of when they are full and their bodies feel good.
The shift to body neutrality won’t happen overnight, particularly when we’re surrounded by an abundance of media purporting unrealistic body images. If you find yourself spiraling into negativity, stop and remind yourself that negative or intrusive thoughts are simply thoughts, not absolute truths. Make a choice to recognize this and move the focus to your body's strengths instead.