Body Neutrality: What is it and how is it different from Body Positivity?

Body positivity has been around for years now, and it deals with challenging society’s view on the “ideal body type.” It refers to the assertion that all people deserve to have a positive body image, regardless of other’s opinions. 

Body Neutrality is, however, a relatively newer term coined somewhere in 2015 by bloggers, celebrities, etc., to disconnect the relationship between physical appearance and self-worth.

It is a philosophy that one should focus on what their body can do for them rather than what it looks like.

“The body positivity movement urges people to love their bodies no matter what they look like, whereas body neutrality focuses on what your body can do for you rather than what it actually looks like,” said Chelsea Kronengold, the associate director of communications at the National Eating Disorders Association.

While people that practice body positivity might say, “I love my legs, cellulite and all; they are beautiful.”

A person practicing body neutrality might say, “I love my legs because they help me run.”

Body neutrality is difficult to navigate when we have been taught that physical beauty can create happiness. But suppose a person recognizes a more petite physique or nose job won’t instantly make them happier. In that case, they can find body peace both before and after they change their body.

“When people become overly invested in changing their bodies to change their experiences of the world, it becomes a really dangerous sort of thing that perpetuates itself,” Wassenaar said. “Because oftentimes I find that you can’t ever change your body enough to make yourself happy.”

Dr. Wassenaar has also talked about how diet and fitness plans that require restriction or pushing our body past its boundaries are not body neutral. Those plans force a person to hold the diet or fitness plan’s specific rules above their body’s natural hunger or physical activity cues.

Body neutrality helps one recognize and prioritize how they feel in their body. This might mean moving your body because it feels good, and you enjoy the movement, and not to “burn off” the food you’ve eaten. It also means you listen to your body to know when to stop or take a day off.

Body Neutrality doesn’t encourage indulging in unhealthy choices; instead, it means that meals usually feature fresh, whole foods, but you also eat intuitively. That one does not have to resist the urge or suppress their cravings or “make up’ for a heavy meal by limiting yourself to salad the next day.