It’s not news to anyone that we live in a society that is overly obsessed with weight and appearance, going as far as assigning value and determining a person’s morality based solely on their physical appearance. This obsession has led to high levels of body dissatisfaction even among young children. One response to this is to shift focus from body weight towards healthy behaviour and views.
Weight neutrality is a harm reduction approach that seeks to move away from weight and thinness as the main goals and indicators of health. It asserts that bodies come in many shapes and sizes, and all bodies are deserving of respect and care, regardless of weight or appearance. Here are the tenets and benefits of weight neutrality.
Here are some of the benefits of weight neutrality
Reduces weight stigma: By promoting the idea that all body sizes are acceptable and promoting body diversity, weight neutrality can help to reduce weight stigma and discrimination.
Promotes self-acceptance: Weight neutrality encourages individuals to focus on self-care and acceptance, promoting a more positive and compassionate relationship with their bodies.
Improves mental health: Reducing the emphasis on weight and promoting self-care and acceptance, weight neutrality can improve mental health outcomes, including reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.
Focuses on healthy behaviours: It emphasizes healthy behaviours, such as regular exercise and balanced nutrition, rather than weight loss, promoting long-term health outcomes and a healthier relationship with food and exercise.
Reduces disordered eating: Weight neutrality promotes a healthy relationship with food which can help reduce the prevalence of disordered eating behaviours, such as binge eating or restrictive dieting which can be deadly.
Improved relationships: When a person is more accepting of their body and focused on healthy behaviours rather than weight loss, they may experience improved relationships with themselves and others.
Improves physical health outcomes: By promoting healthy behaviours and reducing stress and anxiety, weight neutrality can lead to improved physical health outcomes, including improved cardiovascular health, reduced risk of diabetes, and improved sleep quality.
More inclusive healthcare: The medical profession is plagued by accusations of discrimination on the basis of weight. Weight neutrality can help to promote more inclusive healthcare practices that focus on health outcomes rather than body weight, reducing the risk of bias and discrimination in healthcare settings.
Steps to adopting a weight-neutral approach
There’s too much social pressure to focus on losing weight and attaching your value to that, so much so that most people have internalized these biases. Here are some steps to take as you shift towards a weight-neutral approach.
Self-awareness: Become aware of weight bias and stigma and how it affects you and others. Self-awareness is critical. What are your thoughts and feelings about weight and body image? It has to start with you changing your mind and embracing better ideas.
Focus on self-care: Shift your focus to promoting healthy behaviours that support your overall well-being, such as regular exercise, balanced nutrition, adequate sleep, and stress management. Aim to make choices that feel good and energizing rather than restrictive or punishing.
Let go of weight loss goals: Release the pressure to lose weight or change your body shape. If you have a scale, consider getting rid of it altogether. Instead, focus on healthy behaviours and improvements in your overall health and well-being. Reject the notion that body size alone is an indicator of health.
Practice self-compassion: Be kind and compassionate to yourself, regardless of your body size or weight. Recognize that your worth is not determined by your appearance, and work on cultivating a positive relationship with your body.
Surround yourself with positive influences: Seek out communities and media sources that promote body acceptance and positivity, countering all the negative messaging that saturates media. Connect with individuals (IRL or online) who share your values and support your journey towards a weight-neutral approach.
Seek support: If you struggle with negative body image, disordered eating behaviours, or other challenges related to your relationship with food and body, seek support from a therapist or healthcare professional.
Weight neutrality is a social justice approach that aims to reduce the stigma associated with weight all while prioritizing people’s physical and mental health. It is respectful health that does not pathologize weight and ends the painful discrimination and social judgment that too many face. It reduces harm and improves overall well-being. That’s a win for everybody.
7 Myths About Weight Loss You Should Ignore
How To Break A Diet Cycle And Stop Worrying About Your Weight
6 Subtle Ways In Which Fat Shaming Occurs