Stop Hating Your Body: Principle 8 of Intuitive Eating
Principle 8 of Intuitive Eating is: Respect Your Body.
Contrary to popular belief, body respect doesn’t mean you have to LOVE your body.
Most women with whom I work have a challenging relationship with their bodies, to say the least.
They frequently talk negatively about their bodies with their friends, and criticize their reflection in the mirror as they look for faults.
Can you relate?
What Does it Mean to Respect Your Body?
From Intuitive Eating, 3rd Ed, by Tribole and Resch, respecting your body means: Treating your body “with dignity and meeting its basic needs….”
This means providing our body with the basics: comfort, nourishment, rest, etc.
It also means coming to terms with the body into which you were born.
We all have different genes that make some taller and some shorter, some fatter and some thinner, some blue-eyed and some brown-eyed. It’s this diversity that makes our world interesting and it’s time we stopped trying to fit into the mold of what we think the perfect woman ‘should’ look like!
It’s not surprising that so many women struggle with their bodies. Our culture promotes an ideal that is unattainable by so few. And if we aren’t in that small (both literal and figurative) minority, society tells us that we should be dissatisfied with our bodies.
Perhaps your experience has taught you this lesson.
If you’ve hated your body since you were a teenager,
- What has been your outcome?
- Do you love your body now?
- Do you engage in activities that make you feel better?
Or, like so many women, do you:
- Exercise excessively to compensate for the food you eat, even if you are exhausted or sick?
- Choose eating plans that leave you feeling hungry or dissatisfied much of the time?
- Alternate between restrictive eating behaviors and binges?
If this sounds like you, do you feel like that is a way of showing respect for your one and only body?
How Do I Start Working On Body Respect?
When most of us think about body respect, our minds immediately go to its physical characteristics, which can turn so many women off to this process. If you have been hating your body or it’s requisite parts since you were 10 years old, the thought of suddenly admiring it can feel like magical thinking. And a bit overwhelming.
Here’s the Miriam Webster’s definition of respect:
“to admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”
But let’s dig a bit deeper on that definition: Using that definition in terms of our bodies, body respect focuses on more about what you and your body can DO, rather than what they LOOK LIKE.
That’s a whole lot more than size or looks, isn’t it?
But, I Can’t!
You might hear a voice screaming “I can’t accept my body” or something similar. Sometimes, the long history of self-loathing is too much, and it can prevent you from embarking on this work of learning to respect your body.
What Can You Learn From Your Past Experiences with Your Body Image?
Before we talk about the how, let’s examine your past experiences a bit and see what results you got from them.
Spend 5 minutes reflecting on your body.
It’s helpful to know where you are now, so you can start moving forward…….
- How has your current and past thinking served you?
- Has it made you respect your body more or less?
If you’re like the vast majority of women with whom I work, your self talk and thoughts have made you respect your body less.
So, I’d like to ask you:
If your past behavior has worsened your body respect, why are you hesitant to try something different?
What are you afraid might happen??
The Benefits of Body Respect
Body respect is a form of self-compassion. There’s a huge body of work demonstrating that self-compassion leads to better and healthier actions than beating ourselves up. Self-compassion is an acknowledgement that our here and now bodies are worthy of care.
If you are learning about and practicing Intuitive Eating, working on body respect has a ripple effect that enhances your work on the other Intuitive Eating principles. When you respect your body, you tend to nourish it in ways that make it feel good!
For information about Intuitive Eating, check out my article, What is Intuitive Eating?
What NOT Respecting Your Body Does:
What is the message you send yourself when you continue to wear clothing that is too tight or ill-fitting?
- Does the discomfort you feel make you want to tune in to your body more to determine whether it is hungry or full?
- Does the discomfort help you tune into your body to discover your emotions, or what food would best nourish you right now?
Likely, the answers to the above questions are “NO!”
Most often, feeling uncomfortable widens the already present separation between your brain and your body. This, in turn, lessens your ability to work on these interior feelings that are so important as you work on intuitive eating.
Contrast this to when you wear clothing that makes you feel comfortable and fashionable.
Think about the last time you dressed and felt comfortable and proud…
- How do you treat that body?
- Is it different than the body I described above that was crammed into too-tight clothing?
If you can’t remember the last time you felt good in clothing, notice your feelings the next time you wear a favorite outfit to work or for an evening out.
What’s In It For Me???
For those of you who like the facts, here are just a few benefits of respecting your body:
- Improved health: Research shows us that taking care of our bodies improves metrics of health like blood pressure, lipid levels, etc, REGARDLESS OF WEIGHT. This is more commonly known as the Health At Every Size (HAES) paradigm.
- Greater happiness and satisfaction with life.
- Reduced risk of eating disorders. Did you know that eating disorder diagnoses have doubled between 2000 and 2018? Furthermore, eating disorders are the most deadly mental health conditions of all.
- Faster progress towards Intuitive Eating. Allowing your ‘here and now body’ to exist means that you are allowing yourself to experience ALL your eating experiences, while cutting out the guilt and shame.
How Do I Begin with Body Respect?
Where you begin will depend on where you are now, but I urge you to be patient, like other elements of Intuitive Eating, this work takes time.
Think about it this way: one or two positive affirmations are not going to shift your thinking after 20+ years of negative thoughts.
A good place to start working on body respect is with this exercise that helps you cultivate gratitude and tolerance.
One way to jump start your journey towards body respect is to do an exercise that takes 5-10 minutes:
- Sit in a comfortable chair where you can do this exercise without distraction.
- Start with a body scan and challenge yourself to find one thing you are grateful for in each of your body regions, noting your responses on the downloadable worksheet: Some guidelines if you are struggling: work on the function of a body area instead of its appearance. “I’m grateful for my legs because they allow me to take my dog for a walk.” If you get stuck on one part, skip it for now and come back to it next week.
- Post this list in a place where you can view it often.
- Once a day, stop and look in the mirror and state one of the above gratitude affirmations.
I challenge you to make these body respect affirmations a daily habit. If you commit to regularly practicing this body respect exercise, you WILL see positive changes in your health and happiness.
If you’re ready to start working on your body respect, download my Jump Start Body Respect worksheet here.
Body Respect Is A Process!
I challenge you to find something positive to write about each body region within the next week.
Will this be easy?
But important things are worth working for. And respecting and honoring your body will have a snowball effect when it comes to your physical and mental health.
We tend to take care of the things we value, right???
Download my worksheet and hang it on your fridge or put in your desk so you can practice your daily affirmations.
Are you new to my blog?
If Intuitive Eating and the non-diet approach is new to you, please take some time to read my prior blogs on these topics:
Kelly Abramson MS, RD is a dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who works with clients in Alexandria, VA and virtually via telehealth. She guides women as they break free from dieting to find joy in food and their bodies. Kelly blogs regularly at NpowerYou.com and has created a free e-book for download, “7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating.”