There are always many movements going on, it can be hard to keep track of them all and know which one is right for you. When it comes to body movements, terms like body positivity, body acceptance, and body neutrality get thrown around. So, what is the difference, and how can you pick which movement is right for your needs and outlook on life?
Let’s start by breaking down what each of these movements is about, based on my perspective and understanding, recognizing that these words may have different definitions for different people. Body positivity refers to people who view their body with love and positivity regardless of look, size, etc. Body acceptance highlights not having to view your body with positivity but rather you accept where it is at. This includes accepting parts that you do not like and acknowledging why you do not like them. Similar to body acceptance is something called body neutrality, this perspective views the way your body looks as not a positive or negative thing, it just is what it is.
The benefit of being body positive is that it incorporates self-love and empowerment. However, being positive about your body is not for everyone. Some people find facing parts of their body with a positive mindset challenging, especially those who face societal expectations to look a certain way, those who have experienced a change in their body that was out of their control, and/or those living with a disability. When you have a part of your body that does not function the way you want it to and/or it has changed due something uncontrollable, it can be hard to look positively at those parts. For some people, unconditionally loving yourself is just not a realistic goal for the moment. Thus, some people opt for body acceptance or neutrality. They shift their perspective from I must love this part, to I accept this part, and it is okay to view parts of my body as neutral. As time goes on, viewing your body with neutrality, acceptance, and compassion, maybe you will become body positive, or maybe that movement will never fit with your needs. Regardless of what label and perspective works, viewing our bodies in a way that serves our health is most important.
I think a common misconception about these body movements is that wanting to change the way you eat, or workout is viewed as a negative thing, as if you want to make a change it means you are not accepting of what you currently have. However, you can accept and be proud of where you are at and still strive to become a better version of yourself. Wanting to make a lifestyle change has wrongly become associated with not being body positive or body neutral. Whether you love your body, accept your body, or view your body as neutral you can want to make changes. What matters is how and why you want to make those changes. If you want to shrink your body due to a partner’s expectations for how you look, you may find yourself creating unhealthy habits. Habits like skipping meals and feeling guilty for eating certain foods. In contrast, incorporating more veggies and walks into your daily routine to feel more energetic, is a body positive and body neutral change. You are not making changes to change the way your body looks; you are making a change to improve your mental and/or physical wellness. For some, a healthy change might even be allowing themselves to eat cake without guilt or take a day off from going to the gym without becoming angry at themselves. Making these types of changes may change the way your body looks, or it may not. From a body neutral perspective, either is okay because the way your body looks is an unimportant part of yourself. From a body positive lens, regardless of the changes or lack thereof, you view your body with love and appreciation.