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  • deanna343

Body Positivity or Toxicity?

Our culture loves to talk about body positivity- which the concept of body positivity is a notion of being positive about your body regardless of what you look like, regardless of how society feels or cultural pressures. Unfortunately, diet culture has taken this belief has morphed into a body obsessed term that is used to sell products and loses the actual meaning of what is actually appropriate. One of the other flaws with this concept now is it is unrealistic to have true and continuous body positivity. So instead of making the goal to have body positivity, let’s make the goal body neutrality. It is expected you will have “good body image days” and “bad body image days” and this is normal and expected for everyone to feel at some point throughout their lives. Making the goal of seeing your body as more than its appearance is one of the key fundamentals someone should practice in order to build body neutrality. Too much importance is placed on the appearance of a body which is unrealistic. It is unlikely for any individual to put so much importance on the way they look without engaging in some kind of disordered behaviors to try to fit thin ideals or unrealistic beauty standards.

How Can You Make Steps to Developing Body Neutrality?

1) Focus on the Function of your Body: Appreciating the things that your body allows you to experience regardless of how you look is a key component of seeing your body as more than its outward appearance. Focusing on the things that your body helps you do is one of the main aspects of how your body serves you rather than how it looks. For example, pick the things you are the most grateful for that you are able to engage in (e.g. being in nature, smelling your favorite foods, seeing one of your favorite people, etc.) Welcoming what your body can do for you is one of the most fundamental steps in increasing body neutrality, as we often forget the many things your body as a vessel can provide for you in developing mental flexibility with the way you see your body.

2) Appreciate Others: Start identifying the aspects of your friends, family, and people within your life and the things you appreciate about them that have nothing to do with appearance. E.g., “I am grateful my friend Becky can go with me on hikes so we can enjoy the scenery together.” Often people are able to list many things about others they can value others in a more mentally flexible and neutral way than themselves.

3) Good Body Image Days: Understanding your body and the aspects you do admire about your body and the way it presents. Prompting yourself that a good body image day is not because or your weight or the way you appear, but it is about the way you feel in your body that day. Reminding yourself that body image is more complicated than having a “good hair day” and it is often linked to having positive social interactions, filling your creative needs, feeling inspired or engaged with your values. Often people will assume a good body image day is primarily linked to the way they appear- when in reality it is likely linked to how you FEEL about yourself.

4) Bad Body Image Days: Avoiding self-criticism about your body is largely important for yourself and for others around you. Normalizing that is normal for you, or others to not love the way you look every day is important. Just because you have a bad body image day, does not mean you need: a new diet, new wardrobe, or change in your life, or to fix how you feel about your body. If you are having more bad body image day than neutral or positive feelings about your body, it's important to get support and help!

5) Being Mindful of Social Media You Follow: Stop following social media that makes you feel inadequate! This includes diet pages, or pages that connect the way you look with your worth. We are in a new era where our culture is often trying to sell “self-love” which is largely counter intuitive. True self-love and self-care comes from within, and will not be bought by material things. Unfortunately, our culture can be tricky and can communicate largely the message that you will feel better about yourself or the way you look after engaging with their products, or changing something about yourself.

It is important to recognize how body image is one of the most vulnerable and difficult aspects of people to be neutral or accepting towards. Eliminating small/ larger triggers throughout the day can have large impacts on yourself in the long-run. It is important to remember that if you look at your social media and are emotionally triggered multiple times throughout the day, this can change and shift the way you look at yourself. It can urge self-critical thoughts and responses along with inspire dieting thoughts about yourself or inspire wanting to change your body with different clothing, cosmetic procedures, and diets.

I encourage all that are reading to remember the aspects of themselves they can find neutrality in. To learn to appreciate body, personality traits, and aspects of your overall self in a manner of kindness and compassion rather than critical responses. Try to make the goal for your body image to be to see all the opportunities to experience your body as an instrument rather than an ornament.

Check out some amazing books to support you on your journey of body neutrality:

The Body is Not an Apology by Sonja Renee Taylor & Ijeoma Oluo

More Than a Body: Your body Is an Instrument, Not an Ornament by Lindsay Kite & Lexie Kite

Deanna Smith, LCSW

This blog is not meant as therapeutic advice, rather to provide education. If you or a loved one is struggling with disordered eating, or body image issues know that there are many educated qualified mental health therapists and dieticians who are well-versed in these complicated issues. Please seek therapeutic & nutritional support if disordered eating or body image concerns are impacting your life.

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