Body Neutrality: The New Body Positivity?

Is Body Neutrality a more realistic solution than Body Positivity? Lily Dosanjh discusses.

Lily Dosanjh
9th February 2021
Antonio Rodriguez
The idea that we can ignore the way that our bodies look is almost inconceivable. With tabloid journalism integrating itself more and more into social media platforms, it seems that we can’t help but endlessly focus on people’s bodies as well as our own. However, The Body Neutrality Movement aims to do just that.

Anne Poirier, the director of Green Mountain at Fox Run, holding retreats with body neutrality workshops, describes the mentality as “a way station between hating oneself and loving oneself”, where people are able to “free up all the energy and attention that women often devote to body angst so that they can care about other matters instead”. Saving time, worries and angst about one’s appearance are at the crux of this movement, displaying a way to prioritise both your mental and physical health. The aim is to value what your body does for you rather than how it looks.

Body Positivity, the movement that Neutrality is trying to replace, has been diluted into a buzzword nowadays. Originally seeking to inspire everyone to celebrate themselves and their bodies, it is a school of thought that can be rather individualistic, only centring the image of one person at a time without making a vast societal change. Selfies on Instagram of slim influencers posing with post-dinner bloats may be reassuring, but wellness recipe and fitness books can only go so far if they are going in any progressive direction at all. To counteract this, Body Neutrality tackles the issue of body-based oppression, which calls out the prejudice that people encounter due to their bodily appearances. The Body Positivity movement has been criticised as a form of erasure, ignoring the fact that people, especially women, experience employment or health-care discrimination due to their weight.

Neutrality also tries to undo the pressure to love yourself. At times, feeling positive about the way you look can be overwhelming and even utopian, an unattainable goal that is restricted by wider society. The Body Positive movement, although it has diversified the catwalk, as well as Instagram feeds, is not accessible to all. Here, it is important to acknowledge that the body holds a political weight. Not all bodies are championed due to internalised and systemic prejudices of race, size and gender. Therefore, not everyone can feel “good” about themselves. Furthermore, there is something that feels quite inhumane about being body positive. Human emotions fluctuate over time and different experiences throughout our lives, our bodies reflect and manifest these adaptations. We change, we laugh, we cry, we feel positive, we feel negative. There is no productivity in forcing yourself to feel something that you're not. Perhaps it is more important to learn to be self-aware of the damaging pressures that society puts on the body and its image.

We change, we laugh, we cry, we feel positive, we feel negative. There is no productivity in forcing yourself to feel something that you're not. Perhaps it is more important to learn to be self-aware of the damaging pressures that society puts on the body and its image.

But is this all possible? How are we supposed to ignore the way we look when it feels so engrained into us? From Adele to Rihanna, we have an obsession with speculating on celebrities’ weight. In a world full of fat-shaming, before/after pics and diet shakes, is it truly possible to suddenly not care about it all?

The concept of body neutrality is not completely unfathomable. The most revolutionary act of body neutrality is about being in tune with yourself. Julia Naftulin, the health reporter for Insider, suggests that being body neutral just means that you drink water when you realise that you’re thirsty or that you make sure that you sit in a more comfortable upright position when you’re at your desk. Jameela Jamil, creator of the I Weigh movement on Instagram tries to ignore the scales and proudly proclaims that her weight is: a lovely relationship, great friends and her financial independence. Her refusal to conform to the perpetual shame of the media means that she instead celebrates people “beyond the flesh on our bones” and seeks to find value in the things that matter, overcoming struggles, reaching goals, learning from experiences and building caring relationships with others. Admittedly, it might seem impossible to love your body at all times, but it does seem wholly possible to love your career, your achievements and those who surround you. Maybe that is what Neutrality is about, taking Body Positivity’s motto on loving your appearance and shifting the focus onto loving what you do. This movement endorses loving how you live rather than how you look while living.


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