Constantly “loving your body” – no matter what – can seem impossible at the best of times. Not to mention, when you fail, it often leaves you with a feeling even worse about himself.

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So it’s no surprise that some people are starting to abandon this idea of ​​body positivity entirely, advocating instead a new way of thinking known as “body neutrality.” Taylor Swift and actress Jamila Jamil are among the movement’s biggest supporters.

Body neutrality is sometimes called “the golden mean” between polarizing messages of love for your body or hate. It is aimed at people who are disillusioned with the body positive movement and those who find it too difficult to consistently love their bodies.

There are also concerns that a body neutral approach could end up having a negative impact on body image. However, research shows how many of his ideas can improve your well-being when applied in the right way.

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about the issues that affect us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of starting a career and looking after our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore questions and provide answers as we navigate this tumultuous period of life.

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The term “body neutral” first appeared around 2015. However, he gained popularity in 2016 as a consultant An Poirier began holding workshops aimed at helping participants understand that loving their bodies is not always a realistic goal.

According to Poirier, these classes came from the realization that for some people, “it’s kind of a long leap to get to body positive from dissatisfaction”.

But body neutrality is more than just a middle ground between self-love and self-hate. And what that looks like in practice will vary from person to person.

For some, the goal of body neutrality is to change the way they think about their body — or rather, to spend less time thinking about it in general. This way of thinking is based on the idea of attentivenessencouraging people to “just be“.

Basically, the goal is to exist in your body without judgment or strong opinions about how you look. The movement encourages us to let go of self-talk about our bodies and looks, which in turn frees us to do what we love.

In this sense, body neutrality is about acceptance. The movement acknowledges that we may not love our bodies every minute of every day, but emphasizes that there is nothing wrong with that. Instead supporters of body neutrality encourage us to accept our bodies as they are and not punish ourselves even if we are not what society deems ‘perfect’.

A group of young people perform the same pose during a yoga class.
Body neutrality emphasizes what your body is capable of, not what it looks like.
BearPhotos / Shutterstock

Others in the body neutral movement want to change the meaning of beauty and appearance in society. Instead of focusing on what our body looks like and judging ourselves by our appearance alone, body neutrality encourages us to focus on what we do with our bodies.

In this sense, body neutrality emphasizes valuing your health and what your body is capable of doing, rather than simply valuing your body because of how you look.

Positive body image

Given the hype surrounding body neutrality, it might be surprising to learn that very little research has been done on the benefits of body neutrality. But some researchers are concerned that, in practice, body neutrality may even lead to a more negative body image—especially if people end up simply “tolerating” their bodies.

However, body neutrality may have similar principles to what the researchers called “positive body image“. Positive body image generally includes take care of your body, feel comfortable in it, and accept any perceived imperfections of your unique physical features. It also emphasizes valuing the body for what it can do rather than what it looks like.

Although this way of thinking is very similar to body neutrality, they are not exactly the same. One way to think about this is that body neutrality is a sort of stopgap on the road to positive body image. While both emphasize an appreciation for what our bodies do for us (rather than what they look like), a positive body image involves a more active care, appreciation, and respect for our bodies.

A a wealth of evidence shows that a positive body image is associated with a number of benefits. For example, people who value their bodies are more likely to be healthy eating habits and practice health-promoting behaviorssuch as the search for cancer prevention.

A positive body image is also associated with better performance psychological well-beingincluding fewer depressive symptoms, higher self-esteem, greater self-compassion, and higher life satisfaction.

Whether you choose to pursue body neutrality or body image positivity is ultimately up to you, and it will probably depend a lot on your life experiences and how you currently feel about your body. There are a number of resources, both online and in print, that can help you get started body neutrality or positive body image.

There are also many activities that can help you develop a greater attitude towards your body. Known as which embody activitiesit contributes to the feeling of living in or inhabiting our body.

These include feeling connected and comfortable with the body, taking care of oneself, and resisting thinking about one’s body as an object. Some examples of embodied activities include dance, yogaparticipating in various species sport and even just going for a a walk in nature.

Embodying activities are believed to lead to “embodiment” – or mind-body integration – characterized by a sense of being within and “at one” with the body.

Research shows that engaging in physical activity can promote a healthy body image. For example, one study found that compared to non-yoga participants, practicing yogis had a more positive body image and were less likely to objectify their own bodies.

Letting go of certain ways of thinking about our bodies can be difficult, especially when we are constantly reminded that our appearance matters above all else. Changing your mindset will take time, and it’s okay to stumble along the way. But if you find that body positivity isn’t working to change your self-image, maybe you should try a new way of thinking.

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