When Body Positivity Feels Impossible

by Marsha Hudnall

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Helping with negative body image | Green Mountain at Fox RunWhen we have talked negatively to ourselves for years, decades even, being body positive all of a sudden or accepting our body “as is” feels phony, far-fetched, or like it’s settling. In addition, our culture supports women fixating on what’s “wrong” with our appearance… our weight, our wrinkles, our waves… there are diets, creams and straightening irons to fix all those “problems.”

The real problem is, the more negative self talk and self hate we engage in, the worse we feel, the more we eat to cope, the more our self-loathing grows (body and self), the more we eat to cope. Negative body image, fat talk and self-loathing are issues that are intricately intertwined with emotional and binge eating.

Enter Body NeutralityTM

Halfway between hate and love is a rarely-visited destination — body neutrality. Not to be confused with body positivity or body acceptance, it’s a strategy to decrease self hate and negative self talk. Body neutrality acknowledges “what is,” rather than longing for “what isn’t.” And it can be a place to start when body positivity feels like too much of a reach.

Body Neutrality

So, what does neutrality look like, sound like, and feel like?

One of the ways to find out how you talk to yourself is to stand in front of a mirror and listen. Write down what you say to yourself. Is it complimentary or overwhelmingly critical? This should tell you where you are on the self-talk scale.

If the self talk you hear is mostly negative, remember that moving from body hate to body positivity is a process, not an event. And you may need to take baby steps, using body neutrality as a rest stop for a while. From a body neutral place, you may be better able to accept body positive messages. Here’s how:

  1. Acknowledge that the negative self talk is there.
  2. When you hear it, breathe as a way to create the space so you can move from reaction to response.
  3. Validate the body hate. Say, “I know you and though you might be trying to help me, I’m going to try it a different way.”
  4. Practice progressive affirmations, starting with body neutral ones and growing into body positive ones, as you feel ready.

One of Green Mountain’s clients felt it was realistic to compare the maintenance of her body to the maintenance of her car. We determined a set of progressive affirmations for her – from neutral to positive — using this comparison:
Body Neutrality Graph

Along the way, you might go one step forward and then two steps back. Go back to the affirmation that feels believable and stay there a while longer. By continually cutting off the negative thoughts, they’ll begin to diminish, and you can progress. But the key is cutting the supply of oxygen to the negative ones that have held court in our neural pathways for so long to make room for the neutral and positive ones.

Are you ready to end your struggle with overeating and weight?


Our program focuses on helping you put the joy back into food, eating and
life while successfully managing your health and weight.

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