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Respect your Body


Principle 8 of Intuitive Eating is Respecting your Body, which isn’t always as easy as it may sound, as it has become so commonplace to pick apart all of the things you dislike about your body. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that has fully normalized body bashing and body shame. It is a normal part of the narrative growing up. Many young children get used to hearing body hate and diet talk from mothers, grandmas, and aunts, and as they get older, it is a central point in social media, news TV, and movies. 


How do you ever learn to love, or at the very least, respect your body when billion-dollar industries are constantly feeding you advertisements, pointing out all our flaws, selling you products to look younger and thinner, and pushing diet programs that claim to fix all your problems by changing how your body looks. 


Unfortunately, you don’t have as much control over how you look as they tell you. You are not just lacking willpower and the proper diet and beauty cream regimen. You are made up of genetic building blocks that have pre-determined your appearance and size. Many factors impact your body shape and weight, but a conversation on the social determinants of health is for another time. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to squeeze into a size six realistically, it is equally futile (and uncomfortable) to have a similar expectation about body size. I mean, sure, it’s true that if you starve yourself, your body is likely to shrink, but that isn’t comfortable, healthy, or sustainable. 


You can, however, take action to change how your body is going to feel and how you feel about it. Maybe you learn to love your body, or perhaps you find a way to be okay with it, whatever level is okay. Body respect, in my world, exists on a continuum, it can feel like a huge jump to go all the way from body hate to self love. I like to start with getting to a neutral place, before venturing into the body love space. You can start to tip the needle by ditching the diet mentality and practicing self-care, going to therapy, and doing mindset work. In this post, we will discuss what it means to “respect your body” and the actions you can take to make body respect a reality. 



Accepting your body’s genetic blueprint


Diet culture gives you the idea that your body size is just about how much you exercise and how much/what you eat, which is far from the truth. Genetics play a HUGE part in your body size, shape, and weight, just like how genetics influence height, hair color, eye color, and foot length. But we rarely see the pervasive judgment and shame about someone's hair color that we see about body size.


Of course, this doesn’t mean that other factors aren’t having an influence. Factors such as environment, childhood development, level of education, access to health care, inherited health conditions, and hormone fluctuations are all playing their part, but notice that you don’t have much control over those either….. (my point on the social determinants of health).


The things that you do have control over, like food intake and exercise, are treated as the be-all and end-all solution. You are led to believe that food and exercise can make drastic physical changes to your body, and it makes you feel like it’s YOUR fault when your weight or body size doesn’t budge. 


As you practice intuitive eating and become attuned to your body, it will settle at its set point weight, the place where it feels and functions the best. This is a concept that many struggle with, when starting to consider Intuitive Eating, and the thing is, I can’t give you the answer as to whether your body weight will increase, decrease, or stay the same. Suppose you keep eating in ways that consider your hunger, fullness level, satisfaction factors, and the different reasons for eating, including various health-promoting practices. In that case, you will feel the benefits, even when it doesn’t show on the outside. In a world where so much emphasis is placed on external and physical progress and outcomes, I tend to frequently remind my clients that the internal progress and changes matter JUST as much, if not even more.


The other important truth that is not often talked about is that the majority of dieters who are on and off different diets for years (yo-yo dieting) can experience what we call weight cycling - which comes with its own set of health consequences regardless of initial weight.


The single largest predictor of weight gain is dieting itself… read that again.


Trying to lose weight can have more risks and consequences than the weight alone. You might experience a slowed metabolism, increased fat-to-muscle ratio, and a weight that seems to keep increasing, undoing all your ‘hard work’; and this doesn’t even begin to touch on the psychological effects of prolonged dieting and food restriction. 


If you are working on changing this mindset and respecting your body, I have a few reflection questions that might help put it into perspective for you. Start by asking yourself, what negative views do I hold about my body? Then, think about life you would have if you didn't hold these opposing views and judgments. What changes would happen in your life? (Would you go on more dates or take that beach vacation?) Finally, ask yourself what feelings are emerging as you think about letting go of the negative body image and working towards body acceptance?


It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical of your body size or shape. That’s why we need to have a conversation about rejecting the diet mentality at the START of this work. Never forget that you only have one body, one life. How much time and effort will you spend at war with it?


The continuum of body hate to body positivity


When you hear ‘love your body!’, it is helpful to remember that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, you don’t only have two options of body hate or body love. Diet culture puts people in a place of body hate and body shame, and it can feel like a LOT to jump to self-love and body positivity. It feels unrealistic. This is where body neutrality comes in! It’s a place in the middle where your body doesn't feel like a big deal, and the negative self-talk isn't pervasive. You don't feel pressured to love everything; you know that you are so much more than your appearance and body.


I call this a continuum because there are so many places between body hate and self-love, the middle ground of neutrality is a vast place in and of itself.  It takes time, practice, and patience to experience the in-between before finding a place to settle that feels good. Let me tell you, there will be a lot of discomfort here! 


The intention with body image work is not to be completely free of body discomfort and body image struggles - life is going to give those to you. Instead, the intention is to get to a place where you can be faced with discomfort or body image distress and not spiral, where it doesn't turn into a big deal, and you feel like you need to compensate. A place where you can experience and recognize discomfort and move past it without judgment and shame. This is the neutral space.


This is possible for you too inside my 1:1 Intuitive Eating and Body Image Coaching Program. Inside my coaching I empower my clients, just like you, to take Intuitive Eating beyond the kitchen so that you can unlock the ability to stop second guessing every meal, discover self compassion, and finally begin to feel at home in your body.


When the feeling of guilt comes up after overeating, when you are experiencing negative self-talk every time you step in front of the mirror, or when you are faced with the temptation of starting a new diet every monday, my program is unique because it is founded on support and accountability. You will have me there with you every step of the way. I understand you because I was you.


If you are curious about implementing this in your life, I invite you to join me. Your first step starts with filling out an application so we can chat and figure out if my coaching is the best fit for you.




Tips for Practicing Body RESPECT


Have gratitude for your body


A gratitude practice helps to reduce stress and depression, amongst many other interpersonal and emotional benefits. Gratitude for the ability to walk or engage in activities, the personality traits that make you you, and your relationships. What can your body accomplish? Do you feel gratitude for these abilities? Your body has so much more to offer than thinness. 


Self-care 


You can show your body respect directly by engaging in simple self-care activities. Self-care should be a regular practice; it doesn’t have to be anything big and fancy. The little things you do daily to care for yourself can go a long way!


If you are feeling body distress, make time for activities like: 

  • Showering, doing your skincare routine.

  • Brushing and flossing teeth

  • Gentle physical activity

  • Getting good sleep and resting

  • Engaging in movement purely for joy

  • Eating nutritious foods


And if you want to get fancy, Book a massage or other body treatment because you deserve it. Treating yourself without feeling shame and guilt is its own kind of therapy. 


Get rid of the scale


Stop letting the number on the scale dictate how good of a person you are, or how you're going to live your life. The scale is a truly meaningless measure of what's actually important in life. Regularly weighing yourself can increase stress, further disconnect you from your body cues, and create fixations or compulsions to do with your body size. If possible I also recommend declining to get weighed at the doctor’s office, or if they argue and you don’t want to fight, turn away from the number and ask not to know, this is called a bling weight. It is also your right to request that your weight is not talked about. There are very few circumstances where your weight is actually needed to make a health assessment.


Stop body checking


Consider what your self-talk is like when you stand in the mirror - what are you telling yourself?

What are you looking for when you body check? If you need a mirror to check your hair, makeup or teeth, get a mirror that is head level. Be mindful of the amount of time you are standing in front of a mirror, and walk away when you hear the negative thoughts popping up. 


Throw out old clothes that don't fit anymore 


Holding on to these clothes keeps you stuck in the fantasy that comes with every new diet more likely to add shame and judgment into your day when you pull these clothes out. The clothes you wear should fit your body, you shouldn't feel pressured to fit into clothes. When you have a closet full of clothes that are comfortable, that you feel confident in, and that you like, it will feel liberating. If your closet is full of old diet clothes, you'll likely start your day with a sense of body shame and judgment, feeling bad that you're not there anymore. Take time to go through your closet regularly to get rid of old clothes that you don't like, that don't fit, or that don't work with your style anymore! Make a day of it and have fun with it.


When you shop for new clothes, take a range of sizes to try on, and pay attention to the feel before you look in the mirror. Only if they feel comfortable do you turn around and see if they match your style!


Stop the comparison


Comparison keeps the focus on appearance and makes you feel envious, jealous, or inadequate, and it can fuel feelings of shame and guilt. Everyone is different, and those differences make you unique and wonderful. Comparison focuses on the external rather than paying attention to what's happening in your body and the messages your body sends you, rather than comparing, practice appreciation for your uniqueness and the things that make you that have nothing to do with appearance.


Check your Self Talk


What words do you use to describe yourself? What statements do you repeat in your head about yourself or your body? How are they making you feel? When you catch yourself saying these negative things, work on using neutral and nonjudgmental terms for description instead. 


Self-talk is a big thing that I work on with clients. It’s incredibly unique to each person and comes with a lot to unpack! When you recognize your self-talk, consider whether or not you'd say these things to a friend or a child. That can be a good indicator of whether you are being kind to your body or if you need to check your negative self-talk at the door. In times of negative self-talk, it can feel difficult to turn things around on a dime and suddenly say positive things, so practice the more neutral and positive self-talk when you are feeling good to start. Slowly, these statements will feel more doable in times of body distress. 


While changing the inner dialogue, ensure you are not participating in negative talk about others’ bodies. This will always lead back to comparison, and then you will be stuck in a spiral. When you catch yourself, just think, Stop! Change the subject or speak up and challenge others to become aware of their judgments and statements. We can shift the conversation to something else that doesn't focus on bodies, and every conversation can change how we all act and treat ourselves and others. 


Something you can do to challenge yourself over the next week or two, is to give a compliment every day that is completely unrelated to appearance - see how this goes and how it can help to shift your perspective!


Changing how you think about yourself and your body will not change overnight. It takes hard work, a big shift in mindset, and changing the environment around us. It takes a consistent self-care practice that nurtures the body that you have. Trying to eliminate the diet culture from your life entirely is probably unlikely, so you need these tools like an armoire to wear out into the world. We protect the body we respect. If this all sounds hard or scary, know you are not alone. I am here to support you on this journey and guide you through the complex parts. I will remind you that your genetics and the shape and size of your body are not yours to control and to care for your body when you feel hate. 





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