Upon entry to the Body Neutrality Workshop, run by program director Anne Poirier, BS, CSCS, CIEC, each female participant is prompted to consider “what their body felt like and looked like at different times in their lives.” Poirier listens to the varying accounts and shares the program’s core belief “there’s a whole movement [body positivity] talking about loving our bodies. But it’s kind of a long jump to move there from dissatisfaction. Some people are just going to land in body neutrality, which is the term we utilize here for somewhere in the middle.” It’s a kind of détente, a white flag, a way station between hating oneself and loving oneself.”
Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, author of Face Value: The Hidden Ways Beauty Shapes Women’s Lives, reports that while the body positive movement has its perks, in general, a “body love” movement keeps the focus on the body. She writes, “the times I am happiest are when I’m not thinking about my body at all! The way that we feel about our bodies is not a simple upward graph where one day we vow to love ourselves –It’s a topographical map, it’s fluctuating. And that’s normal and healthy.” The Body Neutrality movement would suggest that there should be little to no direct focus on an ideal in relation to the body and body image.
Joan Chrisler, Ph.D. at Connecticut College writes, “the image that we should be in bliss all the time is so strong in our culture.” She reports that what may be more successful and realistic is a thought that says, “you have the body you have and accept what you have. It’s an essential part of yourself.” If you’re not there quite yet, that’s just fine, too. Remember, body neutrality may be something worth working towards.
In sum, body neutrality isn’t a license to throw caution to the wind in respect to wellness and health, but rather a process of shifting the focus from an emphasis on body positivity, or an overly-critical stance (e.g. yo-yo dieting, crash-dieting, frequent weigh-in’s), to doing what feels good, for example: hiking, biking, shopping seeing friends, going for a rejuvenating massage, deep breathing, cooking. Along the way it is likely that you will find a healthy balance that works for you!
At Columbus Park Eating Disorder Center in New York City, our treatment providers assist those struggling with eating disorders on the journey toward a healthier relationship with food via individual and group counseling, Family Based Therapy and meal support. From here, we can help guide our clients down a path to healthy body image and a well-balanced life!