We have all heard of body positivity, but body neutrality is something many people are less familiar with. Body neutrality goes a step further than body positivity by getting us to start to realise and reinforce that we are much more than our physical form or appearance. It is about accepting ourselves right now, as we are and detaching our self worth from anything to do with our bodies.
The word neutral is key: you don’t have to try and love your body, just acknowledge it, and also look beyond. What are the intangible characteristics that contribute to your identity or value? What are elements of your personality, your relationships and your ability to feel and experience life? All of these contribute to who you are but don’t need to have anything to do with what you look like.
Globally there are now fitness centres that embrace the body neutrality movement and gear their spaces in a way that promotes participation and inclusivity. Such spaces won’t be far off in Australia, so let’s take a look at what body-neutral fitness environments can look like.
Classes that promote joy movement rather than a physique goal
You will see less classes around fat burning or targetting a part of the body and more about the experience or connecting with our bodies through movements. Embodied dancing done out of Radically Fit in the US is a great example of this.
A broader range of music
Music is such a huge part of the experience of fitness, and in neutral spaces there will be playlists that represent all cultures and suit all ages.
More pricing options
Economic accessibility is important for body neutral fitness centres. You will see a range of options to suit more people and great offers/discounts for minority groups.
Openly encouraging non-normative body types
All body types will be acknowledged and welcomed, with body neutral gyms being a safe and empowering space for people who inhabit bodies that are non-normative, such as overweight, disabled people, or those who are transgender.
Pronoun preference will be an open discussion and areas or classes for specific genders will be nowhere to be found.
Classes specifically for mindfulness or with a mindfulness focus will be common. Recognising our mental health is a huge factor in our overall health, you can expect guided meditation experiences, or coaching and cueing during all classes to encourage presence and mind-body connection.
Non-physique focussed fitness challenges
How common are eight or 12 week challenges in the fitness industry, where the biggest physical transformations are celebrated at the conclusion? In body neutral spaces, the benefits of challenges will be harnessed, but the measurables will be about how a person feels or the non-physique changes they have experienced.
Educating against toxic fitness and diet culture
Body neutral spaces understand that many people have been made to feel less of themselves due to toxic fitness and diet culture. They will have seminars, workshops and support to help people escape this conditioning and step into new power.
For all people of all abilities to feel empowered, there will be a focus on mastering key movements prior to adding complexity or intensity.
As we evolve and grow as a society, we are starting to recognise that a fitness experience is not just about barbells and lycra. Body neutral places create an environment where people’s overall health is being considered along with their personal development. They are designed to create an empowering, inclusive environment for all bodies to experience the holistic benefits of fitness.
Kate Kraschnefski is the head of compliance and training at the Australian Institute of Fitness, as well as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor and nutrition coach.