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you don't have to love your body

body neutrality affirmations from a non-diet dietitian


“You don’t have to love your body” is probably opposite of the advice you’ve heard in recent years around body image. I’m not suggesting you hate your body either. The option isn’t one or the other. The choice isn’t binary. It’s a spectrum. There are gray areas. 


I understand this can be hard to take in because our brain prefers fewer and more certain options. This is safe or unsafe. This is good or bad. This is familiar or unfamiliar. Ambiguity is not comforting or useful to the survival part of our brain that keeps us safe and alive. 


Unfortunately, this binary thinking is perpetuated in numerous aspects of our culture, especially within nutrition and health. Good food or bad food. Healthy or unhealthy. Nutrient-dense food or junk food. Unfortunately, the inability to acknowledge and accept the gray areas does everyone a huge disservice when it comes to nutrition, health, and body image. 

Photo by Maxim Berg on Unsplash


let it be a spectrum

There are several terms that can describe how you relate to your body - body positivity, body dissatisfaction, body acceptance, body neutrality, fat positive, body liberation, etc. For ease, I created this spectrum below to show how you might relate to your body. This is obviously an over-simplified version of everything that is tied up in body image, but I think it provides an easy visual for our brain.


Body image spectrum

You can see that body dissatisfaction and body positivity are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The journey from body dissatisfaction to body positivity is quite the leap - I’d argue a Grand Canyon-sized one. Let me tell you why.


When you’ve spent decades internalizing diet culture, negative thoughts about your body, shame, and trying to change your body, you aren’t just going to read a few articles, learn a couple strategies, and suddenly love your body. 


Depending on your past experiences and current relationship, it may be unrealistic and unproductive to suggest you should just love your body. This positivity mindset may even set you back because you view it as one more thing you’re failing at or an expectation you aren’t meeting. It’s a lot of pressure to feel like you have to love your body in an environment that’s conditioned you to want to change it, shrink it, etc. For many, a more realistic step may be what’s called body neutrality. 


brief intro to body neutrality

The concept of body neutrality was first popularized around 2016 by Anne Poirier, an intuitive eating counselor and coach for women. It suggests we don’t need to hate or love our body, but our body can just be as it is. There is a level of respect when we talk about a neutral view of our body. We can acknowledge that our body is capable of many things other than “looking good” or looking a certain way based on cultural norms. Even though our body may not be the size or shape we’d like it to be, it functions in amazing ways and deserves to be cared for. 


I think even going from body dissatisfaction to body neutrality can still be a big leap for many, and that’s okay. You are valid in feeling that this is difficult work and deserve to be gentle with yourself.


body neutrality affirmations

Below are 16 affirmations to help you shift towards a more neutral view of your body while remaining compassionate with yourself.


I don’t have to love my body.

  • If you don’t love your body, that feeling is valid. This makes complete sense. A negative view of your body is a direct result of living in a culture where we idealize thinness. You’ve been internalizing these ideas for years or decades. You and your body are not the issue - diet culture is. 


It is normal to have negative thoughts about my body.

  • Again, after years of conditioning and negative thinking patterns, it makes sense that these thoughts will surface. No matter how positive your body image is, it’s likely you’ll still have negative thoughts, and that’s okay. 


My body is not bad (or good). 

  • There is inherently no morality attached to bodies. Our culture has inappropriately attached morality to them. Large bodies are not good or bad. Small bodies are not good or bad. They are all bodies.  


I don’t have an obligation to change my body.

  • We live in a culture that idealizes thinness and places responsibility on the individual to make it happen while living in systems that make caring for our bodies incredibly difficult. You do not need to live up to this unrealistic expectation.


My body deserves food and to be cared for no matter the circumstances.

  • No matter the size, shape, or fitness level, your body needs adequate calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals for basic processes like, sleep, digestion, thinking, moving, etc. You literally cannot live without nourishment, yet somehow, our culture turned the basic function of eating into a complete shitstorm. Not cool.

Body neutrality affirmation

It is normal for my body to change.

  • Different life stages generally cause our bodies to change. These might include things like puberty, hormone fluctuations, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and aging. Other things like health issues - medications, acute sickness, chronic conditions, mental illness, and traumatic events may also cause bodies to change. 


Weight is not an indicator of health.

  • Body size doesn’t directly correlate to how healthy you are. Example: Someone in a larger body may have lower cholesterol and lower heart disease risk than someone in a smaller body. You cannot look at someone and determine their health status based on the size of their body.


It is normal for bodies to look different.

  • Genetics, health conditions, economic status, location, food access, lifestyle, preferences, priorities, etc. are different and all impact body size and shape. Humans are not the only species where this variance is evident and it’s normal throughout other species.


It does not benefit me to compare my body against others. 

  • Comparing yourself to others takes away valuable energy from you. Emotionally and mentally, we only have so many fucks to give. I encourage you to direct that energy and put those fucks towards things you value, doing things you love, and creating a more gentle relationship with yourself.


My weight does not impact my inherent value as a human being.

  • You have value simply because you exist. That’s it. Weight and body size should not be in the equation. Diet culture will try to convince you otherwise. Call it out and don’t accept it. 


I am much more than my body.

  • The size of your body does not reflect how you care for your friends and family, how you love your pets, the amazing things you can do, the good energy you put into the world, etc. Your body is the least memorable part of you. You’re more likely to leave an impression and impact people with your brain, your personality, your love, your humor, and so on.

Painted wall with words "make people feel loved today"

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash


My body allows me to do things I love.

  • Listen to music, play with my kids, travel the world - fill in your reasons. If you take the time to notice, you’ll start to see the absolutely incredible things your body does daily. However, I do acknowledge this may not always be the case or may feel complicated if you experience life in a body with a disability. 


One thing I can control is the type of social media and accounts I consume regularly.

  • Social media is a breeding ground for idealized thinness and body shame. Continued exposure to this thinking will not benefit you. We’re also at a time where there are more fat positive, body neutral, anti-diet, and non-diet, accounts on social media. I highly encourage you to do an audit of your media consumption.


Other people’s opinions, views, thoughts, judgments, etc. about my body are not my issue.

  • Their opinions are often a reflection of decades of internalized diet culture and shame towards their own body. Try to picture putting up a screen or barrier in your mind against comments or judgements coming from others and diet culture. With this practice, over time, these will have less of an impact on you.


Even if I don’t love my body, I have the capacity to respect it.

  • Love is not a prerequisite to respect and care for your body. You don’t have to love your body to prioritize sleep, movement, hydration, eating foods that make you feel good, etc. 


I have the ability and power to change how I relate to my body.

  • Neuroscience shows us that our brains are capable of forming new neural pathways and ways of thinking. This will not happen overnight, but if you show up for yourself and use a gentle approach, you will see change.


I believe you can do this.

 

If you are at the beginning of the journey to a better relationship with your body, I have a free resource for you. It’s a free mini guide - Roadmap to Simple Nutrition.



If you'd like more intensive support along your journey and are ready to…

  • have a more neutral and respectful relationship with your body

  • feel more confident in the decisions you make about food and your health

  • spend your valuable energy on things you enjoy rather than stressing about food

… then my personalized nutrition coaching package is for you. Click below to find out more.



disclaimers

This blog is for educational and informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of health conditions, or a client/provider relationship. Always consult with your healthcare provider.

I acknowledge my privilege as a thin, able-bodied, white woman. I do not have lived experience in a larger body and haven’t experienced discrimination that often accompanies this. I’m here to listen, learn, and support you in a way that respects your experience and feels safe for you.




2 comments

2 Comments


I've dealt with these feelings since I was 10 years old and I'm approaching 60. Excellent article that gives me affirmation that nothing is wrong with me, although I still struggle.

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This is really hard stuff. Thanks for sharing.❤️

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