It seems to be a natural progression to discuss accepting our bodies after learning that trying to manipulate their size doesn’t work. That it’s not necessary for true, overall health. And that there’s another approach out there. I want to note that all of these concepts go against the grain of the diet culture + misinformation we are flooded with in our society. That makes it tough to make some of these shifts. Be gentle + compassionate with yourselves as you embark on this path. It takes time and, we will constantly be evolving in our food + body image journey.
Love vs. Acceptance
There’s been a recent surge of #bopo + #bodypositivity across social media these days, which I’m all for. I love that the body positive movement is all about inclusivity of all body shapes, sizes, colors, abilities, etc. We definitely can always use more of that in our world. However, I think body positivity can also get misconstrued to mean body love. That’s not completely off base, either, but I do have some things to note about loving our bodies.
It’s okay to not always love your body.
There. I said it.
Amy Hanneke, dietitian + owner of Satisfy Nutrition, made a wonderful point in a recent facebook live saying that in any relationship, whether it be with our bodies, our friends, or our significant other, there are going to be times when it’s difficult to love them. Deep down, sure, we can say that we know we love them. But we all know there are days when simply tolerating them is the best we can do.
That’s why I think it is more appropriate to refer to this concept as body acceptance. Because there are going to be days when you see yourself in the mirror + you’re like, “mehhhh, not loving this right now.” But you can take that feeling of a not-so-great body image day and accept it, rather than fight it.
Because fighting a bad body image day sends us back down the spiral of dieting + shame. It’s when you have the feeling of not liking your body so you immediately set out to figure out how to change it. Because if we change our physical appearance, our mind will follow right? Unfortunately not. I can speak from my own experience a bit here in saying that I accepted my body at its largest size more than at its smallest. I was miserable + still uncomfortable in my own skin despite having changed physically. In fact, it’s fair to say that my body image became significantly worst after I started my first diet. That’s one example of how dieting and disordered eating can spiral out of our control.
I did not realize that “body checking” was the term for what I had grown up doing until Kylie Mitchell of Immaeatthat posted about it. Body checking is that thing you do, often first thing in the morning, when you stand in front of the mirror and check if your body shrunk overnight. Maybe you lift up your shirt + “suck it in.” Anddddd then your thoughts about your body help dictate your mood for the rest of the morning or day or week.
Body checking really can impact our emotions similar to how the number on the scale can. So if you’ve thrown out the scale [which, I strongly encourage us to all do!], but still find yourself doing this little dance with your body in the morning, try resisting that urge. Sure, we might do a quick spin around in our clothes to make sure things are laying correctly or there’s no deodorant marks. But if you find yourself picking your body apart or making judgements, maybe start spending less time staring into that full-length mirror for the time being.
Now, let’s talk a little bit about respect — even on bad body image days where you’re not totally feelin’ yourself.
Maybe I wake up bloated, simply carrying some extra fluid + gas. I’m on my period or I ate a little too much fiber the night before. Should I skip breakfast + go slave away on the treadmill? No. That’s punishment, not respect. And it’s punishment for things that are mostly out of our control. I can’t help if the natural, healthy body process of menstruating caused my body to retain fluid.
Instead, maybe I put on comfy, stretchy pants or a dress so I don’t feel uncomfortable pressure against my belly throughout the day. And maybe I don’t have a high fiber breakfast like oatmeal or whole wheat bread. I might drink some extra water to help get things moving. If I have enough energy to take a long walk or move my body in an enjoyable way, I might do that, too. Or maybe not. These actions represent respect for my body + it’s fluctuating sizes.
I give this example to show that compensatory behaviors for how our body looks in the mirror is not respect. It’s more reinforcement that we need to feel shame about our body. Instead, another helpful approach can be reframing our negative body thoughts with gratitude. Now, just like we don’t always LOVE our body, thinking things like “I’m grateful for my legs because they help me walk my dog or get to work” doesn’t always hit the mark. But sometimes, it can.
If you’re moving your body in a gym or during a workout class, instead of thinking how many calories you’re burning or how thin this will make you, reframe that, too. Think about your energy levels + how sometimes you can feel much more awake from moving your body after a long day sitting at your desk. Or how you had a stressful day + being about to disconnect from the world + tune into your body feels so good. Or how lifting those weights might help you get all those groceries bags inside in one trip! 😂 We all try that, right?
We shouldn’t have to live a life where we hate our body. We may not be able to fully love it every day, but we can work to accept it in all its forms.
Hey y’all! Welcome to week 2 the Abundantly Enough blog post series! Over the course of 6 weeks, Amy Hanneke of Satisfy Nutrition + I will be releasing individual blog posts covering the same topic in order to give multiple perspectives + interpretations to best meet you where you’re at! This series works to cover some of the basics of developing a healthier relationship with food + your body. In addition, we have launched a community over on Facebook where we can continue to connect + answer any questions y’all may have! We hope to see you there! To check out all of the posts in this series, head on over to the AE page here.