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Body Neutrality: learning to accept your body as it is

Social media has been shown to affect body image and self-acceptance, body neutrality offers a new way to look at yourself and your worth

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While scrolling through Twitter, a picture of Kim Kardashian pops up. People often criticize the Kardashian-Jenner family for presenting unrealistic beauty standards many young women compare themselves to. // Photo by Torie Wold

The journey of self-acceptance is a long one for most. With the rise of social media, our society has created an extremely toxic culture surrounding body image.

Given the oversaturation of our media, people are constantly force-fed unrealistic, Eurocentric beauty standards that can make it seem nearly impossible for most people to accept themselves and their flaws. 

Body image refers to the perception of your body's appearance and how it compares to societal standards. Issues with negative body image can often stem from someone’s relationship with social media

Social media itself is not the issue, but the way in which our society uses and interacts with it is. 

Social media pages have become highlight reels, where people only showcase the good in their lives. The good photos of themselves, with beautiful lighting and flattering angles. This is where a false perception of reality persists because people are taught to believe that is how they should look. When in reality, nobody looks how they do on social media all the time. 

It all starts with being mindful of the content appearing on social media. Analyzing how certain posts and content affect feelings surrounding the body and its worth can go a long way.

“The number one tip for social media is looking at your feed and being more thoughtful about how [you] feel about posts,” said Janet Lydecker, director of the program for Obesity, Weight and Eating research at Yale University. “Are there posts that make [you have] negative comparisons to your own body? If so, consider either blacking out your social media or not following those certain accounts.”

People of all sizes, genders and races experience negative body image to varying degrees. Our society has pushed the idea that beauty is being thin, beauty is being white and beauty is being able-bodied for a very long time. Given someone’s identity, they might experience higher levels of criticism against their bodies given societal standards. 

People often see these harmful displays of beauty throughout their social media feeds and assume because they don’t fit those molds, they should criticize and fix themselves. This can lead to weight-based bullying, disordered eating, over-exercising and problems with mental health, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, Lydecker said. 

This is a mindset that the body neutrality movement is actively trying to counter and solve. 

According to Insider, body neutrality places the value of your body on what it does for you, not on how it looks. Instead of holding positive or negative feelings about someone’s body, it allows people to purely appreciate their body for getting them through the day. 

As opposed to the body positivity movement, body neutrality addresses that not everyone can feel good in their body all the time. 

Karen Koenig, an eating disorder psychologist, commented on how this movement is much more sustainable for people, as it doesn’t place significance and value on physical appearance. 

“The concept is fabulous because it defocuses on the appearance and the whole looks thing,” Koenig said. “Instead, focusing on what your body does for you and how good you can feel in your body.”

Someone’s appearance does not dictate their worth. This new wave of self-acceptance brought on by the body neutrality movement works to dismantle society’s beauty ideals and shift the way people view their bodies with a new sense of appreciation. 

Practicing body neutrality consists of strategies like dropping body talk from conversations, and instead redirecting them to other positive conversations not involving weight or body image. 

It also includes eating intuitively by listening to body signals and not denying cravings. This goes for exercising as well. By just listening to your body and not overexerting it, exercise won’t feel like a punishment but instead a normal function of life. 

Personal reflection and changing the language used to talk to oneself are critical in forming neutral thoughts about one’s body. It starts by acknowledging negative thoughts and reframing them into neutral ones, focused on what the body can do rather than the way it looks.  

Fourth-year Western student, Genevieve Castle expressed her excitement for this new way of thinking. 

“Instead of body love 100% of the time like with body positivity, I love that body neutrality focuses more on body respect,” Castle said. “Being grateful for it functioning and letting me eat yummy foods and have fun with my friends, not focusing so much on its physical appearance.”

Working toward body neutrality is a long process that requires hard work but it can be extremely rewarding. Switching an ingrained way of thinking takes time and a lot of reflecting on past emotions. 

Social media’s evolution has told people everywhere they are not enough and it’s exhausting. It is now time to cut out the toxicity and negativity presented on social media and work towards healthier, happier mindsets surrounding self-worth and body image. 

Torie Wold (she/her) is an opinions reporter for The Front. She is a second-year student, majoring in Visual Journalism. Her work focuses on creating an open space for students, faculty, and community members to be able to share their experiences and views on current news. You can contact her at toriewold.thefront@gmail.com.


Torie Wold

Torie Wold (she/her) is an opinion reporter for The Front. She is a second-year student, majoring in Visual Journalism. Her work focuses on creating an open space for students, faculty, and community members to be able to share their experiences and views on current news. You can contact her at toriewold.thefront@gmail.com.


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