My name is Maybrie Eubanks, and I am a fourth-year student at UGA studying Dietetics and Culinary Science and Nutrition. I have been extremely lucky to be placed with Courtney at Vickery Wellness to complete my practicum this semester. I am currently in the process of applying to graduate and dietetic internship programs to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Below, I have outlined my favorite body neutrality tips for college students like me!
- What is body neutrality, and how is it different from body positivity?
- Practice reframes for negative body image thoughts.
- Wear clothes that fit your body now.
- Curate a social media feed that shows all body sizes and shapes.
- Talk to your friends about your journey and boundaries.
- Practice supportive body touch exercises.
Five body neutrality tips for college students who feel that body positivity is unrealistic but want to stop feeling negative about their body image.
What is body neutrality, and how is it different from body positivity?
Body positivity can be daunting, but it isn’t your only option for overcoming a negative view of yourself. Body neutrality allows you to accept your body the way it is and respect how it supports you. It creates a neutral relationship with your body that steps away from a love or hate perspective. Many people, myself included, find body positivity out of reach, so body neutrality can be a more accessible and practical step for them to take to step away from self-hate. I have always found body positivity to feel forced, but body neutrality is a more natural perspective for my brain.
Practice reframes for negative body image thoughts.
One of the most challenging tasks to overcoming a negative body image is battling your thoughts. It’s easy to nit-pick everything about yourself and fall into a self-degrading spiral. I frequently ruin my day by overanalyzing my body in the mirror. Our inner voice is impossible to escape, but it is essential to remember that you can’t always trust what it tells you to believe. Counteract your inner bully by reframing those thoughts into neutral phrases. It may be helpful to think about the function that part of your body provides for you rather than its appearance. Here are some examples of neutral body phrases that you can utilize:
- “My legs are strong and help me walk throughout my day.”
- “I am grateful that my stomach holds the organs I need to survive.”
- “My arms provide me with tools to hug my friends and family.”
- “My weight is just a number on a scale.”
- “My face allows me to smile and laugh with my friends.”
Wear clothes that fit your body now.
Our closets can be one of our biggest triggers for body negativity. Unfortunately, we can’t attend class in our birthday suits to avoid it. It may be hard to let go of your favorite jeans from high school, but if they are a source of negative thoughts- they need to go. You don’t have to get rid of them entirely if you aren’t ready for that step but consider putting them in a place where you don’t have to see them every time you get dressed. Keeping those old clothes in the hopes of wearing them again will make you overthink and feel bad about who you are now. Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident in your skin. Treat yourself to that cute top you saw on TikTok or the jeans you fell in love with at your local boutique.
At the beginning of this year, I was in a ski accident that led to knee surgery and months of recovery. Obviously, over that time, I could not walk, let alone exercise. I naturally gained weight but felt defeated when my clothes no longer fit my healing body. After months of sadness and negative thoughts, I forced myself to donate most of my closet and start over. There was a drastic change in my mental state when the clothes I put on my body were a comfortable fit, and I didn’t have to try on every pair of shorts I owned to find a pair that fit well enough to wear in public.
Curate a social media feed that shows all body sizes and shapes.
Social media is a great way to keep up with current events and interact with friends, but it does not always represent reality. It has become easy to add a filter or use photoshop to alter the original image to something society will view as more acceptable. Even celebrities have been caught editing their insecurities. If you compare your body to someone you follow, consider unfollowing them. There are accounts dedicated to sharing raw images and body-neutral content that would be a great addition to your feed. Try to follow accounts that show a range of body sizes and shapes to remind yourself that there is not one perfect body type. My current favorite is Mik Zazon on Instagram.
Talk to your friends about your journey and boundaries.
Expressing your desire to create a body-neutral environment to your friends is an excellent step towards making a change. Our friends are some of our biggest supporters. Still, they may not understand how much comments and conversations about appearances have an impact. Talking to friends about your experience and desires will give them a better understanding of your journey and how they can help you achieve your goals. Ask them to avoid discussing weight, size, and other triggering topics around you. When those topics are brought up, redirect the conversations. My roommates and I avoid making comments about our bodies in front of each other.
Practice supportive body touch exercises.
Supportive touch is a great way to provide comfort and care. It may sound strange and awkward, but supportive touch exercises elicit a physical response that creates a soothing effect. Our parasympathetic nervous system works to relax our bodies after periods of stress to help us feel safe. Through touch, our bodies release the hormone oxytocin, which gives us a sense of relaxation and security. Examples of supportive body touch include putting a hand over your heart, placing one hand on your cheek, stroking your arms (my favorite), placing a hand on your abdomen, cradling your face in your hands, crossing your arms, and squeezing gently. The process is detailed further by Dr. Kristin Neff below:
- Take 2-3 deep breaths when you notice you are in a state of stress
- Place your hand over your heart and focus on the pressure and warmth
- Feel the touch of your hand and make small circles on your chest if you’d like
- Concentrate on the natural rise and fall of your chest as you breathe
- Sit with the feeling as long as you’d like