Skip to main content

Body Neutrality

The Impact Body Image Can Have on Eating Disorder Risk

While this blog series is dedicated to topics related to eating disorders and disordered eating, we might not always think about body image or body dissatisfaction as having a large impact on eating disorder risk. However, body image disturbance or body image dissatisfaction is one of the most common clinical features in all eating disorder subtypes.

With this in mind, considering ways in which you can improve your body image or strive for body neutrality can be a helpful consideration. So, what exactly is body image? There are four elements to body image to consider:

  1. Perceptual body image (how you see yourself)
  2. Affective body image (the way you feel about your body)
  3. Cognitive body image (thoughts about your body)
  4. Behavioral body image (behaviors you engage in as a result of your body image)

When addressing negative or maladaptive behaviors related to your body, the term and practice of body neutrality is a great place to start.

The term body neutrality adopts a neutral perspective towards bodies, in that it suggests viewing bodies through the functionality lens versus through an appearance, body-centric lens. Put simply, body neutrality is a mindset that we can use to approach body image that is rooted in acknowledging what your body does as opposed to what your body looks like.

Another way of thinking about this concept is thinking about bodies as a vessel or vehicle that carries one’s personality, soul, and identify, transporting us to where we want to go each and every day. Ultimately, decreasing the emphasis of our body’s appearance and focusing on the functionality of our body and what it can do allows us to place less judgement on ourselves. This rejects the notion that our body shape or weight has any indication of self-worth, and increases our ability to focus on non-physical characteristics that provides a more neutral thought pattern.

Body Neutrality is for Everyone

Identifying with body neutrality can be a tool in which all societal groups can accept their bodies regardless of any barriers or discrimination that is present. While these principles supporting body neutrality are in no way new, they can be a great start towards adopting a body neutral approach. Consider these tips:

Tip #1: Consider a Weight-neutral Approach

A weight-neutral approach acknowledges that body weight is determined by a complex set of metabolic, physiological, cultural, social and behavior determinates: many of which are out of our control. Focusing on health through sustainable, compassionate approaches such as joyful movement, self-care and anti-diet approaches to eating can all impact your body and health in a positive way, without dieting and weight manipulation.

Tip #2: Respectful Care

We live in a society that places a moral value and significant emphasis on one's weight and deconstructing this personal weight bias can positively impact how you view your body and weight.

Tip #3: Change How You Approach Food

Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. By giving yourself unconditional permission to eat foods and find joy in the foods you eat, you can impact how your body and mind feels in a positive way.

Tip #4: Change Your Approach to Movement

By engaging in activity that you truly enjoy compared to choosing physical activity because of the calories it burns can be a great strategy in practicing joyful movement and self-compassion.

Tip #5: Check Your Conversations and Social Media

Have you thought about how the images, conversations and information you receive on a daily basis impacts our self-image? Following social media accounts and participating in conversations that reflect your values is key!

Tip #6: Reframe

Consider self-talk and thoughts that come up surrounding your body and weight. Self-worth and happiness are not contingent on our body image. By reframing our thoughts, we can work towards accepting our bodies as they are.

That’s all for now my fellow Mountaineers! Stay warm and remember, all bodies are good bodies!