As summer rapidly approaches, many of us may began to fill up our calendars with outdoor activities to enjoy the warmer weather. For those who struggle with body image concerns, this time of year can bring additional challenges and negative thoughts in managing body checking behaviors, comparisons to other people, and being present when engaging in summer activities such as going to the beach.
While many people are familiar with “body positivity” which is the idea of accepting and loving your body regardless of what it looks like, not everyone may be in the position or mental space to experience acceptance and love of their body. There are other ways we can create relationships to our bodies which feel realistic and sustainable during periods of time where distress is higher.
It is normal for body image to shift and change throughout the day, and you do not need to feel positively about your body in order to appreciate all it can do. So how else can we experience our bodies in this way? Body Neutrality is the idea that focusing on what your body can do or not do rather than focusing on its physical appearance. Here are a few ways you can begin practicing body neutrality.
Reframe your self-talk
It takes time to find ways to shift the way we talk about bodies. To begin this journey, practice acknowledging what your body can DO rather than what it looks like. For example, if you are going to the beach, talk to yourself about ways in which your body supports this activity rather than what it may look like. “My body supports me in swimming in the lake for 30 minutes” is one example of ways in which you can practice this. Body neutrality also acknowledges what our bodies may not be able to do. For example, a statement such as “My arms become easily tired when swimming for extended periods” is an example of ways in which we can remain neutral about the functionality of our bodies.
Social Media Engagement
Curating your social media feeds to better serve this mindset can be a helpful addition to practicing body image neutrality. Often times people report feeling activated or negative thoughts about the accounts they follow, whether they are people they know in real life or influencers. The people you follow should make you feel fulfilled or neutral- and if they do not, finding ways to filter by unfollowing or muting would be one way to practice body neutrality.
Sitting with distress and practicing neutrality is one way we can continue to incorporate this into our lives. Setting intentional time to reflect on all your body allows you to do by making a list can be a great resource on days where practicing neutrality is more challenging than others.
Many times exercise can feel like punishment or a way to compensate for people who struggle with body image concerns or disordered eating patterns. Creating a mindful and healthy relationship with exercise is one way to practice body neutrality. For example, finding reasons to exercise that relate to social connectedness, challenging yourself to build mastery in new skills, and to connect mindfully with your body are all ways in which you can practice and honor remaining neutral toward your body.
Find A Balance
Aligning with body neutrality does not mean we are not allowed to enjoy appearance related activities such as getting dressed up, going shopping or experimenting with new styles and makeup. Rather, it means differentiating how this makes us feel about our overall worth or prioritizing it as the key to our happiness. Body neutrality encompasses the idea that appearance is not the most significant part about us and our lives.
If you are struggling with body image concerns, there are several clinicians at CARE who can work with you to help achieve a more neutral and/or accepting experience of yourself. Click here to schedule an appointment.
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