Body Positivity, Body Neutrality and Body Acceptance
Negative body image is a symptom of disordered eating and most eating disorders, impacting millions worldwide. Some useful tools in combatting these disorders include the practice of body positivity, body neutrality or body acceptance. These practices can even be beneficial throughout an eating disorder recovery or remission process. Many recovery stories begin with body neutrality and can naturally progress to body acceptance when a person begins to appreciate all that their body does for them. It's even possible to reach a point in this process where you start to feel confident and develop a love for your body. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, it's important to note several key differences between the terms.
The weight acceptance movement dates back to 1969 when the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance was established to end weight shaming and discrimination for those in marginalized bodies. In recent years, dieting, intense workout regimens, cosmetic treatments and plastic surgeries have all promoted smaller bodies. These all play a part in today's diet culture and have contributed to lower self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance-use disorders in children and young adults. In 2012, media channels began to challenge unrealistic beauty standards and emphasized that "all bodies are beautiful." This concept, known as body positivity, focuses on equally accepting all body types and sizes and loving your body while challenging society's perception of the human form.
Many individuals have taken to social media outlets to proudly share their perceived imperfections, but others believe the body positivity movement overlooks medical complications associated with obesity. The argument is that being overweight can result in heart disease and diabetes; however, being underweight can also have medical consequences, including hormonal imbalances or osteoporosis. Most healthcare providers advocate for balance, particularly related to diet and exercise routine.
In 2015, body positivity led to the emergence of body neutrality, a philosophy introduced as the focus on what your body can do for you. It underscores the remarkable abilities of the body while minimizing the emphasis on physical appearance. For many, it can be difficult and even overwhelming to love their body every day. Body neutrality does not assume this unrealistic expectation; instead, it encourages respect and care for your body by providing adequate nutrition, rest, and movement needed to function optimally.
You can love your body and sometimes struggle with its appearance while still appreciating it and even accepting it. This philosophy is defined by treating our bodies with respect and care while also acknowledging our insecurities but not allowing them to define our body image.
Just as recovery is rarely linear, neither is progress through these different stages of perception. All three movements are equally valuable in changing our culture, inclusive of all body shapes and sizes, and ultimately adjusting the way we view the human form.