By Krissie Bentley
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In the first part of our series on learning to love your body, we talked about body awareness as the starting point for building a more positive relationship with our bodies. We have to know something before we can start to build positive feelings towards it. The next step in the process of unravelling our negative feelings toward our body is by building body neutrality.
Within our culture, body neutrality takes conscious effort. We see so much on social media that tells us that we need to be different. Better. Less of us. The pressure isn’t easing up. The language may change—it may turn more towards “health” rather than “weight loss,” but the expectation is still the same. Different. Better. Less.
It is unrealistic to think that we can move from judgment to adoration in one step. Instead, we follow a path. We work through checkpoints. We do the work in manageable pieces.
If your focus has been on negative aspects of your body, it can be almost impossible to change those feelings overnight. Sometimes we add in feeling guilt about not being able to just love our bodies because we get that message too. We get pressure in both directions. Know that you don’t have to be there yet. We will get there, step by step.
We continue this work by embracing feeling neutral about our bodies.
What does neutrality look like? Let’s start with identifying where we experience neutrality around something else in our lives. For me, I feel very neutral about peas. I would never order pea soup or fix peas as a side at home. But if they are in a bag of frozen mixed vegetables or if I get them in a restaurant, I’ll eat them. I don’t like them, but I don’t dislike them. They are just neutral to me. They are good enough to sit with and be with and eat. I don’t judge them, nor do I actively love them.
They are just peas. They are fine. They don’t gross me out. They don’t excite me. They are just peas.
Can we extend that feeling towards ourselves? My stomach. My thighs. My anxiety. My insomnia. Not good. Not bad. They are simply who I am. My body and my work are just a part of my experience. And that is just fine.
Working towards body neutrality doesn’t mean that we ignore our bodies—it actually builds just the opposite. By letting go of the energy that we spend on criticism and feeling the need to change, we free up energy to find what feels good. When I don’t spend my energy critiquing my body in a yoga shape, I have the bandwidth to go deeper or ease up based on my needs that day. When I’m not thinking about calories and what I should eat, I have more space to pay attention to whether I’m feeling full or if I want to eat more. As my feelings about my body get closer to neutral, I can pay more attention to my internal processes and make more educated choices based on what actually feels good to and in my body that day.
Grab your headphones. Go somewhere quiet and comfortable—I have been known to sit in my empty bathtub. Open yourself up to new and different ideas. And let me talk you through a meditation practice on body neutrality.
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