Many of us have a fairly complicated relationship with our bodies. Given that we live in a body every moment of our lives, it’s probably a pretty good idea to work on healing whatever discomfort you might have with the one you’ve been given. I believe that your relationship with your own body is the most important relationship you will ever have. If not the most important, it is certainly the longest and most enduring.
Due to the often unconscious pressure to look a certain way and fit into a mold decided by the culture, we are pretty challenged to keep a positive relationship with our bodies. Add to this the trauma that people have experienced involving their bodies, either through their own or others’ shaming and even sexual abuse, and the body is often ignored rather than risking the hurt of coming face-to-face with difficult emotions.
Lastly, we are often lost in thought with our attention from the neck up rather than the neck down. You might go all day and not pay attention to the body’s need for food, movement, rest, etc. Instead, the mind is focused on your to-do list, your worries, your tasks, and your problems.
Learn to visit your body on a regular basis and discover the wisdom that lies below the neck. Consider visiting it like you would a good friend. Here are some do’s and don’ts to get you started.
1. Don’t criticize your body. Negative self-talk is one of the most prevalent things we engage in as human beings. It is particularly harmful when it is directed toward your body. While you might not ever get rid of the negative statements, you can recognize them and let them go without feeding them with your attention.
2. Don’t weigh your body. If you are anything like me, the number on the scale was simply a way to torture myself. I used to believe that it made a difference. I do not anymore. The classifications of weight in the doctor’s office are particularly shaming and uninformed. Your weight is much less associated with health than we are led to believe and weight shaming is more destructive than anything. Try giving up the scale and paying kind attention to your body instead.
3. Don’t put your body on a diet. Diets don’t work in the long run and actually result in weight gain in the end. The body on a calorie-restricted diet thinks it’s starving and stores food as fat. It makes it harder, not easier, for you to lose weight. More importantly, the focus on “losing weight” is misguided and does little to help you feel good about yourself or be healthy and energized. Focus on behaviors that make you feel better instead.
4. Don’t compare your body to others. Your body was in large part determined by the genetics of your parents. Just take a look at your Mom and Dad and notice how their bodies look. Then look at your body. Can you see the similarities? Can you embrace what has been given you? Your body is uniquely yours but has the shadings of your family. There is no “right” or “wrong” body type.
5. Don’t ignore your body. While it can be easy to ignore the body because it tends to run so well on its own, this is a mistake. Your body can take a lot of abuse but it will catch up to you. Read the “dos” below to figure out some ways to engage with your body in a loving way.
1. Thank your body. When you notice criticizing, move into gratitude and thank your body. Move from an ornamental (based on appearance) view to an instrumental (based on function) view of the body. This has made a profound difference in the lives of the people that come to my classes. Thank your lungs for the ability to breathe, your heart for beating, your stomach for digesting food, your eyes for seeing, your ears for hearing, etc. The list is endless of what you could be grateful for.
2. Move your body. How you move your body doesn’t matter that much. What is important to remember is that every movement counts. When you sweep the floor, walk up and down the stairs, walk to the store, make the bed, and wash the clothes, you are engaged in activity that improves the body’s wellbeing. Of course, activities like walking, yoga, strength training, running, biking, swimming, and other sports activities are wonderful. But, don’t discount the little movements that you do all day. Your body will love you for it.
3. Feed your body. Your body needs food to function. And, there are certain types of food that help it function better than others. That doesn’t mean you won’t have your chocolate or other types of desserts, but when you focus on foods that make your body feel good first, then you can give your taste buds a treat. Notice what energizes you and what depletes you?
4. Rest your body. Our bodies need sleep.. good sleep. How many hours are you getting a night? While everyone is different, it is generally accepted that 7 – 9 hours is optimal. Getting less than seven hours a night is associated with poor health. Try not to look at your computer an hour before bed, keep your room dark, do some deep breathing as you go to sleep, and focus on your body, not your thoughts. If you have trouble going to sleep or waking up early, just lie there and relax. You will still be getting the benefits of rest.
5. Clothe your body. Of course, I assume you are wearing clothes, but how do you feel in them? Do you feel comfortable in the clothes you wear? Do you try to hide your body? Do your clothes fit you well? I feel better when I dress in clothes I like and feel comfortable in, whether that’s yoga clothes or a dress. Spend some time exploring ways to feel better in the clothes you wear and let it communicate the new appreciation you have for your body.
If you still want some help with your relationship with your body, please consider joining my Eat for Life ten-week program starting at the end of January. This ten-week class will definitely help you change your relationship with your food and your body. Here is a link that tells you all about it.