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Body Positivity and Body Neutrality. What Are They And What’s The Difference? Nicola Poole.

I regard myself as an inclusive coach/trainer and under that umbrella I encourage people from different groups within society to approach me for help with their weight training because I offer compassion, acceptance and empathy while providing coaching that will work for them. Those groups I often work with but not necessarily exclusively are older adults, the LGBTQ+ community, people with long term physical and mental health diagnoses, those on the autistic spectrum and also those with larger bodies who are often within one of the former groups mentioned too. Which is why it’s important to mention inclusive coaching too because although I am a HAES trainer and against weight stigma in the fitness industry this doesn’t cover everything. There is of course overlap.

The body positive and neutrality movements have been around a while and I have to be honest when I first qualified I had no idea they existed although as my business identity grew I began practicing some of the ideas without realising. I became more aware of these movements when I started my sister IG account @theethicalpowerlifter in 2020 because I wanted to offer people, particularly women a different perspective to the fitness and diet industry which saturates social media. I follow and support many different people and value their input even if my views don’t always sit in line with theirs because I learn more and challenge my understanding further. I would always encourage everyone to do this. Why just follow people on SM that think like you already? Broaden your understanding of topics and viewpoints, you don’t have to agree with them! Anyway, my point is I’m just one voice and how I see things maybe different from my peers so go and check them out yourself and then decide what you think.

For me this quote I found online sums up the body positive/neutrality movements for me.

“The body-neutral approach leans toward the belief that it doesn’t matter if you think your body is beautiful or not. Your value is not tied to your body nor does your happiness depend on what you look like. A body-positive approach says you are beautiful no matter what. Period,” Dr. Albers explains.

Personally, the body positive movement has never resonated with me. Maybe because I have participated in sport all my life and I am very much about how my body moves and what it can do. Maybe because I spent my teens and 20’s disliking my body aesthetically and I allowed that to hold me back as a person. Maybe because I’m a bit of an introvert and the thought of ‘putting myself out there’ makes me cringe. I honestly don’t know. Because of this I’m not in a position to really talk about the body positive movement because for me it doesn’t exist. However, I did find some great articles and people online that are well worth a read so please check them out. There are also many body positive accounts you can follow online too.

“Body positivity refers to having a positive view of your physical body, regardless of its shape, size, or other appearance-related attributes. It involves loving your body for what it is, even if it isn't "perfect" according to society's standards.”

And so whereas body positivity is about loving your body for what it is now body neutrality is about accepting your body and embracing what it can do. I have this conversation with clients all the time especially at the moment because so many people jump onto the New Year, new me band wagon. It’s also a topic I often discuss with women after child birth and menopausal women. Demographics at either end but with something in common. Bodily changes. Many women chase the body they had before children or before hormonal changes altered how they looked. Wanting to go back to when they “looked their best”. The reality is they will never look like that again and for some that’s a hard pill to swallow. For me, telling those kind of women to learn to love their bodies is futile. However, helping them to accept the body they now have and exploring what ‘this’ body can do is a much more realistic goal to have.

The best way I can describe body neutrality for me is that we can look at our bodies and we mostly just recognise that this is my body and it’s a great vessel for making my life fulfilling but sometimes we can feel a bit ‘meh’ about it. Body acceptance is about acknowledging the ‘meh’ days and then allowing that thought to pass and not affect your day or mood. Because that feeling has nothing to do with how we look but how we are feeling on any given day. And there’s where the next bit comes into play. By focusing on what our bodies can do, challenging our physical capabilities and the associated good feelings this produces our ‘meh’ days become less frequent.

“Body neutrality is different from body positivity in that it doesn't involve always loving your body but is more about being accepting of it. Also, instead of concentrating on your physical appearance, with body neutrality, the focus is more on the body's abilities and non-physical characteristics.”

This is also why I guide my clients towards performance and health based goals and not aesthetic ones. Because it encourages body acceptance and neutrality. My only regret is that I wish someone had done this for me so that I hadn’t wasted so much of my precious time, enjoyed my life more and made better decisions. But I got there in the end. If you feel trapped by your body and the feelings you have towards it. Please seek professional help. There are people out there waiting to help you.


Nicola Poole is the owner of Inspired Coaching. With 8 years Personal training and S&C coaching behind her, 7 years of competing in powerlifting at an elite level plus 14 years as a PE teacher she has extensive knowledge and experience in her field of work. Using the moto ‘Where Every Body Fits’ sums up the diverse clientele she works with, operating as an inclusive coach helping people achieve the right balance between exercise, health and life.

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