Body Positivity and Body Neutrality

This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

Posted: November 10, 2023

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

In This article

What Can We Learn from Body Positivity & Body Neutrality?

Body positivity is a term used heavily in society and in social media. It is hard to go on any social media platform and not see posts dedicated to this movement.  Body positivity is the practice of accepting your body and treating it with love no matter how it looks (Juby, 2022). Body neutrality is also an increasingly popular way to view one’s body. Whereas body positivity would promote love of one’s body no matter how it looks, body neutrality would promote acceptance of one’s body due to what it can do (Baylor University, 2022). For example, a body positivity statement would sound like: “I love my curves and my size.” On the other hand, a body neutrality statement would be: “I am thankful for my arms because they allow me to hold my children.” Both movements have positive and negative feedback from the medical and mental health professions. What can we learn from these movements to improve our own body image? Is one more beneficial than the other? I hope to provide some answers to these questions.

Is the Body Positivity Movement Helpful?

While it may seem the body positivity movement is a relatively new concept, it actually dates back to the 1960s (Juby, 2022). It began as a way to protest the diet industry and obtain equal rights for individuals who are of higher weights (Juby, 2022). Only more recently has it become a movement that promotes compassion and acceptance for how one’s body looks.

So is it helpful to adopt this viewpoint? On the one hand having a positive outlook of one’s body decreases negative thoughts and pressures to have to look a certain way. It can be more inclusive of different bodies and accepting these differences as beautiful. Body positivity says there is no one perfect or beautiful body: they all are beautiful!

What’s the downside? Ironically, even though the body positivity movement is supposed to be inclusive of all bodies, in actuality there is a lack of diversity. Many of the people who support this movement are young, white, non-disabled females; many of which are examples of the ideals this movement wanted to destroy (Juby, 2022). Also, critics of this movement state that acceptance of all types of bodies could promote carrying too much weight which increases the likelihood of health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure (Juby, 2022).

Is the Body Neutrality Movement Helpful?

Body neutrality takes the focus off of what one’s body looks like and places it on how it functions. This movement accepts and even normalizes that many people do not like the appearance of their bodies and most may not at some point in their lives. Even though one may not like the appearance of one’s body, the body neutrality movement states that it is still important to care for and treat your body kindly, no matter how you feel about it. (Baylor, 2022). Your body’s value is not in appearance, but on its function.

So is it a helpful viewpoint? What is helpful about this viewpoint is it is realistic about how most people feel about their bodies. Let’s be honest, most of us struggle with how our bodies look! Yet, they deserve to be taken care of and appreciated for what they do for us every day. The body neutrality movement says that despite our dislike of our bodies, we can still live happily and well (Raypole, 2021). Also, our focus should not be on needing to change our bodies to meet a societal standard, rather the focus should be on how amazingly our body functions.

What’s the downside? The body neutrality movement is a difficult one for those who feel their bodies are the the enemy or they are struggling with serious health issues. A person who struggles to view the natural functions of their bodies as positive makes it extremely difficult to adopt this way of thinking. If you have serious health issues, it may feel impossible to focus on or find the ways your body functions correctly.

A Combination is Best

Learning from both approaches and incorporating them into how one views and talks to oneself is best. Acceptance and love of our flaws is a great goal to have. Instilling the belief that no one body is perfect or right promotes a healthy view of ourselves and others. When this is difficult, being thankful your heart is still beating, you can walk, and you can have a conversation with others puts life into perspective. If one only focus on how their body looks, they miss out on the complexity of that body. We also loose out on the joy that is available to us every day. More on that later…

What Does Combining These Two Approaches Sound Like?

    • I appreciate my eye sight because it allows me to see the beautiful sunrise.”

    • “I do not need to focus on how I look to feel good about myself.”

    • “My legs look so huge! Wait, I am thankful for the muscles I have within my legs to be able to play sports and get me to my classes and job.”

    • “The curves of my body are a combination of both of my parents’ heritages.”

    • “I may be late to work, but I am thankful that my lungs helped me breath through that sprint across the building!”

    • “It is amazing that my body still has some energy after a long work day and taking care of my children.”

    • Can you think of others?


The Truth

It cannot be possible to talk about acceptance of the body and thankfulness for its functionality, without discussing the Lord’s handiwork in it. In Psalms 139, the Bible states we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (v.14). Ephesians 2:10 states “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” These verses indicate how intricately God made our bodies. When we forget this, we loose out on being able to celebrate the amazing body God created.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus talks about the greatest commandment. Jesus states in Matthew 22:37, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Then in verse 39, Jesus states “And a second is like it: “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus is saying we have to love ourselves to love others. He is saying it is okay to love yourself (Pattenden, 2020, para 18). “The love we are to show our neighbor as well as ourselves is uniquely demonstrated by the one who bought us and our bodies, at a great cost” (Pattenden, 2020, para 18).

Therefore, while combining body positivity and body neutrality to promote self-esteem, neither of these view points do the Lord’s “workmanship” justice. These two viewpoints will help us accept and appreciate our bodies, but only realizing what Christ did for us on the cross can truly help us love ourselves. For the vast majority, even thinking positively about our ourselves and our bodies is difficult, to say the least. Adopting the perspective of Jesus, who was willing to give everything to save us (including our bodies), is the only way we can know and appreciate the intricacies our unique bodies.

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