Body Positivity vs. Body Neutrality

by | Sep 2, 2020 | Eating Disorder Recovery, Mental Health, Personal Growth, Self Love | 0 comments

It’s been three months since I’ve shared my story about my eating disorder and the journey of my recovery. Since then, I’ve learned so much and continue to educate myself on ways that I can sustain the recovery too.

When I first started sharing, I wanted to talk about the struggles I experienced and create a community where others experiencing similar issues didn’t feel so alone.

I wanted to spread a notion of self love and body positivity.

As my journey continued, I learned about body neutrality.

What’s the difference between body positivity and body neutrality?

Body positivity is the advocacy of loving the way your body looks.

Body neutrality is the advocacy of accepting your feelings, regardless of how your body looks.

I’ve come across many influencers that are about the idea of body positivity, which I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to love my body and help others to love their bodies too. But what about the days that are more difficult than others where you don’t love your body? There is a lot of pressure when you assign yourself a task that doesn’t always fit your narrative. How can you promote body positivity when you aren’t always in love with the vessel which you live? Does it make you a hypocrite?

The answer: A Hard No.

When Shira Rose shared her story about having an eating disorder, it was because she felt like she felt like a fraud. Promoting body positivity when she herself was suffering from her own inner demons.

Her story changed my perception. I commend her for sharing the fact that she felt like she wasn’t being honest with the people she promoted body positivity with, because the truth is that as humans, we are not always on point 100% of the time. It’s not feasible and it’s way too high of a bar to set for yourself.

I think it’s still incredibly important that we continue spreading a message of self love when it comes to our body and there are still people out there that need to continue advocating for a change in the way our diet-centric culture works.

But I think there is also another side of the spectrum that I want to dive into deeper: body neutrality.

Body neutrality sends a message of acceptance. It removes the pressure needed to validate that you have to love your body by the way it looks. It reinforces the acceptance of what your body can do regardless of appearance.

The message: Your feelings are not tied to appearance.

Body positivity vs. body neutrality

For a long time, I was guiding myself to say that in order for me to love myself, I had to love my body (which I of course still want to do). But I also want to better understand the difference when it comes to my feelings and ensure myself that my appearance is not a reflection of them. To turn off the self-hate and accept that my body is something that achieves great things each and every day, even on the not-so-great of days.

When my ED comes at me in full force, it hones in on the negative feelings I have which in turn, causes me to feel negatively about my body. It causes me to act out in behaviors that make me feel like I’m in control again so I can hopefully “love” my body (which is in no way a version of loving your body, but rather a punishment).

What if I could separate the feelings from the ED?

Whether I’m emotionally binging or emotionally restricting, each one is tied to an emotion.

When I can put a name to the emotion (example: I feel sad), I can start to work backwards. I can ask myself the questions to figure out why it is I feel sad. Rather than rejecting my body and all of its achievements as a way to deal with those emotions, I can glorify my body for giving me the mental capability for being able to differentiate between the two.

“Rather than rejecting my body and all of its achievements as a way to deal with those emotions, I can glorify my body for giving me the mental capability for being able to differentiate between the two.”

It’s not an easy process, but since practicing the idea of body neutrality, it’s been incredibly helpful as I continue my recovery journey. I will continue practicing body positivity so I can continue loving the skin I am in, but I also want to continue practicing body neutrality so I can continue to learn to respect it.

Body positivity vs body neutrality

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Meet the Author

Hey, I’m Lauren Dow. Author, advocate, and feeler of the big feels. I’m here to provide a safe space to normalize the conversation about mental health and reinforce self-love. Thanks for joining me on this wild ride.

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