So I’m supposed to just love THIS body?
When I was in 4th grade my Mom taught me how to walk on the treadmill, instructing me to use it for 30 minutes every day. “To stay healthy!” She would cheer.
In 6th grade, the doctor pointed to my weight on the BMI chart tacked to the wall and told me it was “a little higher than normal.”
In 8th grade I buried Halloween candy wrappers deep in the garbage, so I never got caught sneaking what was deemed off limits.
By the time I reached high school, I had attempted multiple diets, started dying my hair, exercised several hours a day playing sports, discovered shapewear before Spanx was a thing, saw a therapist, and still hated my body.
Was it possible, many years later, despite my history of battling food, to learn how to have a healthy relationship with my body? Yes. And I did (with these five shifts).
But the idea of loving my body? Like looking in the mirror, and genuinely adoring what I saw? That was a stretch.
I imagine that you can relate. After years or decades of struggling with food, the suggestion to just “love your body” might not land, right? At best it can feel a bit hollow and disingenuous. And at worst, you might feel like you’re doing something wrong, and go back to dieting in an attempt to love your body.
It might feel like the pickle from hell: embrace freedom around food and finally feel in control, but feel “blah” about how your body looks. Or, stay stuck in the dieting cycle forever with the hope that you’ll achieve a body you love.
But I assure you, that you don’t have to choose between controlling food to have a body you love, or having freedom around food but struggling to accept your body. You can give up dieting and still feel confident and at ease in your own skin, but there are some things to understand in order to do so, which we’ll get into today.
Here’s how we answer the question, “So I’m supposed to just LOVE this body?”
The first thing to acknowledge is that yes, there might be an intentional choice here at first: what’s most important to me? Trying to get a “perfect” body while staying stuck in the dieting cycle and hating life, or having peace, sanity and freedom around food? What’s the cost of dieting and what impact does it have on my life? Has it ever really gotten me to where I want to be? We would argue no. You cannot hate your way into a body that you love.
But! Making this choice doesn’t mean you’re just “giving up” on having a positive body image, or resigning to hating your body forever. What we do here is shift the goal post: from loving your body and putting such an emphasis on how you look, to body neutrality, the idea that we don’t have to love how we look in order to be confident and happy. That how we look is the least interesting or important thing about us. It can be a useful bridge to loving ourselves and who we are more, but with this mindset shift, we don’t need to struggle our way through “improving” our appearance, or convince ourselves that we love our cellulite, in order to be at peace in our bodies and have a great life.
Not only does body neutrality help us improve our body image and self esteem, it also helps us heal our relationship with food and keeps us out of the painful diet-binge cycle. Because if we don’t feel the incessant need to fix our bodies, then there’s no need to try to control our food through dieting.
Here’s how to put this into practice, and work on improving your body image while maintaining a healthy relationship with food:
1. Build Awareness
Start to notice where the message that you need to change your body is coming from, and begin to challenge diet culture when it pops up. Do you really need to love the way you look all the time in order to have a happy, fulfilling life? The more you poke holes in the idea that you need to change the way you look and can truly question its validity, the easier it becomes to settle into your own skin instead of always trying to escape it.
2. Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Body
Self objectification is the act of viewing yourself and your body through the lens of others instead of being in your body. If and when you notice you’re self objectifying, you want to get out of your head and back into your body. Stop judging yourself, tap into how you feel, and ask yourself what you need in order to give your body respect and appreciation. You might need to come back to basic self care, or notice the context of what’s going on in other areas of your life that might be impacting your body image.
3. Come Back to your Intention
There are going to be some tough body image moments in the process of making peace, so it’s essential to be able to touch back to your intention and refocus on what’s most important to you here. How do you want to feel around food? Do you want to feel at home in your body, or constantly be at war with yourself? If you don’t have clarity around your intention, it can help to put pen to paper and write it out. And then come back to your journal whenever you need to.
4. Focus on Health-Affirming Habits
You can be intentional about how you physically take care of yourself. Weight and appearance aren’t behaviors. And weight is not something you necessarily have control, none of us do. But if your intention is to physically feel better and take the best possible care of yourself, you can focus on health-affirming habits and behaviors that serve you and keep you feeling well without dieting, restriction and obsessing. Things like drinking more water, and moving your body in a way that feels good, and adding in more fruits and vegetables. When we physically feel good in our bodies, we tend to feel better about our bodies. So being intentional about things we can actually control is much more effective than trying to control our bodies and how we look.
Choosing peace with food doesn’t mean you’re just “giving up” on having a positive body image, or resigning to hating your body forever. And you don’t need to love the way you look every damn minute to work toward actually loving yourself and taking care of your body. If you’re ready for deeper support in this process, so you can feel peace in your body and maintain a healthy, positive relationship with food, we’re here for you.
Book a free Breakthrough Session to chat with one of us to get clear on what isn’t working and the exact steps you need to take to put this struggle behind you once and for all!