My experience embracing a body neutrality mindset

This spunout contributor talks about how they became more comfortable with their body image when they embraced a body neutrality mindset.

Written by Anonymous


My hatred of my own body took over my childhood and teenage years. Unfortunately, I developed an eating disorder which made me lose sight of what was important in life; my whole life revolved around my body and what I looked like. This was not only extremely time-consuming but also damaging.

Finding a way to accept my body

Body positivity seemed like an unattainable goal for me as someone who had been dealing with an eating disorder for so long; professionals kept telling me “One day you will love yourself”, and I just knew that wasn’t true.

I had tried to be body-positive for years, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shift my mindset. I thought that you had to be one extreme or the other- you either had to love your body or hate it; there was no in-between.

It wasn’t until my therapist mentioned to me that it was possible to have a neutral perspective toward your body that I understood this to be a possibility. This truly changed my outlook and gave me hope that I could one day recover from my mental illness.

Accepting my body how it is, instead of constantly trying to manipulate and change it, is the best thing I’ve ever done. I realised that my body doesn’t define me, it’s only a tiny part of who I am. My happiness shouldn’t depend on what I look like, it should come from spending time with the people I love and doing the things that I love.

How I learned to listen to my body

In the past, instead of being grateful for all of the things my body could do for me, I punished my body by engaging in restrictive behaviours and over-exercising because I didn’t like how I looked.

I eventually developed a mindset in which I am grateful for all the things my body can do for me rather than worrying about what it looks like. For example, it digests food which gives me the energy to be able to live my life to the fullest. My body allows me to do one of my favourite things, playing sports.

My eating disorder removed these possibilities from my life for a while. Playing sports again after not being able to for a long time made me so grateful for my healthy body. Now I move my body because it makes me feel good, not because I want to change it.

I’m a strong believer in body neutrality because it helps me to listen to how I feel rather than basing my decisions on how I look. Now, I understand that I need to eat regardless of what I ate yesterday or what I look like today. I can now take rest days if I’m tired or injured. I truly believe that establishing a body neutrality mindset was a pivotal moment in my life.

My body neutrality mindset helped me go deeper in therapy

In my experience, body image is only a part of eating disorders, and often there is an underlying cause that is far deeper than wanting to change your body. The main focus in my life became my body because I wanted to distract myself from other things going on. I believed that if I changed my body, my mental health would improve.

In reality, trying to change my body only made my mental health worse, not better, which I eventually realised. Adopting a body neutrality mindset helped me take the focus away from my body and back to the things that really matter to me, such as my family and friends.

When I became well enough, I was able to work on the deeper issues that caused my eating disorder. These were things like my other mental health issues. Without body neutrality, I would have never been able to get to that point and would have been trapped in my eating disorder for far longer than I was.

I think the body positivity movement may even put people off recovering from eating disorders as it can seem so far-fetched. Body neutrality is a great place to try and get to; it doesn’t mean you’ll never reach a place in which you are satisfied with and/or love your body, but even if you never get to that point, body neutrality could be seen as a worthwhile destination in itself. It saved my life and opened a world of possibilities for me.

Ultimately, you must live in your own body for your entire life, so you may as well treat it with the respect it deserves.

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