When body positivity feels too much

It can feel an overwhelming pressure to embrace body positivity and to give your body 100% wholehearted acceptance. Rationally, you may feel resolute and determined to master this worthy goal but, emotionally, it’s a completely different story.


Unsurprisingly, if you’ve struggled with disordered eating or poor self-esteem, body positivity may feel a little unachievable and overwhelming. Feelings of dissatisfaction and shame may understandably still be lingering, and you may see a long and daunting road ahead.

Thankfully, body neutrality is a realistic stepping-stone to greater body acceptance and is wholly more attainable. Rather than showering your body in buckets of self-love, it guides you towards body respect and generally showing less interest in your body overall.

Although talked about for several years, the term is thought to have been created by a Women’s Eating Disorder Treatment Centre in Vermont, USA.

How can you put body neutrality into practice?

Here are four simple steps to help you embrace body neutrality.

1. Body respect

Acknowledge that your body is worthy of respect and kindness and take baby steps towards this. Gently, direct your thoughts and self-talk away from judgement around aesthetics. 

Remember that your body is your sacred home. It is worthy of basic care and simple appreciation. Think about what your body has done for you today – concentrating on health, movement or physiology. 

You might want to jot down three points in a journal to direct your focus in this direction. This helps create a habit of thinking about your body in a different way.

2. Mirrors and weighing

Avoid the behaviours that direct your thoughts and feelings towards a body bashing mindset. It’s a challenge for any human being to experience glimmers of body acceptance when the weighing scales or perceived imperfections in the mirror occupy precious daily minutes.

You might feel emotionally attached and reluctant to let go of these things, so a first step to change can be simply noticing the impact on your body image. You can then consider baby steps in a different direction.

3. Expand your world outwards

Hopefully, you will remember a time as a young child, where body thoughts didn’t even cross your mind. You would have happily cruised through your day, without even thinking about the size of thighs or flat tummies.

Body neutrality is taking steps to return to this carefree and less body-focused version of you. Then your body was not an ornament to be perfected or sculpted; it was a reliable vessel to move you around. Body thoughts were probably non-existent.

Instead of searching diets plans or wellness photos and revolving your day around food and exercise, expand your world to include other interests. You might need to get back in touch with the things that used to inspire and light you up. Whether it be travel or cats or art or something else, there is a world waiting for you, outside of a body focus.

4. Nature

Beauty is not only found in media images, perfected aesthetics or the material world. Nature offers a plethora of wonder and magic, as you step out your door. The night sky can be absorbing and enchanting. An autumn leaf can be vibrant and beautiful.

Try to get outside for short periods every day and remember to look up and around you. Absorb the mini doses of beauty delivered to us daily through the natural world and gently expand your vision of beauty towards something else entirely.

Working on body image can be a challenging proposition. Be kind and patient with yourself in this process. You may want to seek out further support through counselling.

This article was written by Harriet Frew.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Cambridge, CB1
Written by Harriet Frew, MSc; MBACP Accred
Cambridge, CB1

Harriet Frew is a counsellor specialising in eating disorders and body image. She has worked in the NHS and private practice since 2003, and is passionate about supporting and educating others through therapy, writing and social media.
Instagram: @the_eating_disorder_therapist; Podcast - The Eating Disorder Therapist

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