Body Neutrality: my latest obsessive thought. I saw this instagram post by @stupideasypaleo (Steph Gaudreau), had to read the whole blog. And then my mind exploded.
This. THIS. It's such a healthy and coveted place to be. As of late, I too have found myself in a more neutral state. And while that is completely ground breaking for someone who suffered from eating disorders and body obsession, it dawned on me that the change happened so gradually, so slowly over such a long period of time that I almost didn't realize it happened.
So then the question becomes how? How did I get to a place of body neutrality? How did I wake up one day and look at myself in the mirror and feel neither hate nor joy? How do I now have more thoughts about living my life than about the container from which I experience it (i.e. this bag of bones)?
How I've Reached a Place of Body Neutrality (And you can too)
Read about it
I loved Steph's post and fangirled a little when she mentioned having read Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristen Neff. That book was a game changer for me and a tool that I highly recommend. I would highly, highly recommend finding a resource to help you get started so that way, you always have a tool to refer back to. I'm also a huge fan of Brene Brown; she has a million resources on her website that are a great place to start!
Intentionally practice it
Research and knowledge are the keys to getting started, but the bottom line is that it not only takes time to change your mindset--it takes consistent effort over time. The unglamorous truth is that the only way to improve a skill is to practice it over and over and over and over and over and over (and you get the picture) again, without any real end in sight and with intention.
Pick a single thought pattern to address at a time. For example, if you have a specific body part that you hate, pay attention when you start thinking negatively about it. Instead of replacing that thought with something completely positive (that you may not even believe to be true), follow it up with something neutral.
Initial Negative thought: I hate my arms, they're way too big and make me self-conscious.
Following Neutral thought: My arms are not incredibly skinny but they are also not incredibly large. The more I think about it, they're probably just average.
It does not have to be something profound or meaningful or groundbreaking. It just needs to be something neutral and true to you. Just focus on one thing at a time, mindfully addressing the negative thought when it comes up and after time, maybe days or weeks or months in your particular case, you'll start automatically thinking about that body part in a more neutral way.
I don't think it would be a blog post by yours truly if I didn't mention meditation. Giving yourself the space to think about nothing at all frees your brain up to think differently about everything. In no uncertain terms, I can say that meditation has changed the way I relate to the world around me. As always, I suggest Headspace but I've also started using an app called Digipill, where you can download slightly longer, more specific meditations onto your phone to use whenever you like.
Ask for help
And of course, if you feel like the Shangri-La of body neutrality is just too far away to reach on your own, ask for help! Invite a close friend or relative to join you by holding you accountable, asking how you're doing, or whatever works for you. Another huge breakthrough for me was getting professional help online through BetterHelp, an online counseling platform in which you pay a subscription fee to receive online counseling and tools from a mental health professional. I've used it on and off again, a couple months at a time, for several years now. I can't recommend it enough if you have SO many negative thoughts that change on your own feels impossible.
Obviously, these are just the things that have worked for me. It's not a comprehensive list, I've done other things along the way, but when I sat down to write this blog these are the four that stuck out to me so clearly in hindsight.
I'd love to hear if body neutrality is something you're interested in as well and if you found these tools helpful!