By Alex Raymond, RD, LD
Body image struggles are extremely prevalent in our society today. When you are in recovery from your eating disorder, taking steps to feel more comfortable in your body can be enormously difficult. Because it is frustrating when you are trying to make changes to nourish yourself and these negative thoughts continually pop into your head. Amazingly enough, you are strong enough to overcome them. I am so impressed with the work I see our clients doing day after day to fight this battle. I actually want to write about why it’s okay to NOT “love your body.” I’m sure you’re confused… but hear me out.
It’s okay to not be completely in love with every part of your body.
It seems like “Love your body” messages are plastered everywhere and targeted mainly toward women. This movement preaches to fully embrace your body and love every aspect. Don’t get me wrong… I am in love with this idea, Seeing positive body image messages over my Instagram and Facebook truly makes me happy. So then, where’s the problem? As much as I am in love with the idea of “love your body,” I also think for many, especially those struggling with an eating disorder, it can be very difficult to go from absolutely hating your body to loving your body. There are many baby steps in between. Sometimes people who struggle with the idea of loving their bodies feel left out from this idea. Maybe they think there is something wrong with them if they don’t love their bodies. They may even feel guilty that they don’t agree with “love your body.” Or they feel guilty that they can’t love their own bodies.
I want to give you permission and say that it is OKAY you don’t love your body.
Remember that even though you aren’t in love with your body, it’s still important to work at respecting it. Disliking or hating your body does not give your eating disorder permission to put it through hell. You still deserve nourishment through food, self care, relationships and anything else that makes you feel good. I wanted to explain some steps you can take toward body acceptance and to begin your own journey. Because, not loving your body now doesn’t mean you won’t start to like or love it in the future.
Acknowledge your body
Loving (or liking) your body some days can be a very difficult. It can be an energy draining task. Some days, you have to settle for simply acknowledging that you have a body to treat with respect. This may sound silly. Try writing down or saying aloud “I acknowledge I have a body. I can treat it with respect.” Next, brainstorm how you can respect your body today. This can look different for everyone depending on where you are in your recovery journey. It could mean:
- Making an appointment with a dietitian or therapist for the first time. Now ready to get help.
- Being brave by setting up a doctor’s appointment. You may be worried about the stigma that surrounds living in a larger body and that’s okay.
- Following your meal plan, even though thoughts and urges are strong.
- Opening yourself up to the idea of recovery and putting trust in your treatment team.
- Taking a break from exercise because you’re not feeling up to it today.
- Trying new foods and being okay with that!
- Being flexible while eating out or eating on vacation.
- Eating intuitively and trust your body to do what it needs to do.
The above are just examples. There are plenty of other ways to acknowledge your body deserves respect. I encourage you to write one thing down (or three things if you’re up to it!) you can do to respect your body this week. Practice it every day.
Talk to yourself like you would a friend
I love this analogy because so many times we are quick to criticize ourselves. But, we would never say these types of things to a friend or family member. I challenge you to ask yourself, “would I say this to a friend,” each time you hear that negative self talk. The answer is most likely no 🙂 Secondly, I challenge you to write down something positive instead. It doesn’t have to be body related. Write down a positive quote you heard. It can be an inspiring word (like EMPOWER). Write out the qualities you love about yourself.
Think of a positive role model you look up to
What characteristics besides weight or body size stand out to you? Perhaps it’s kindness, confidence or spiritedness that you admire. How can you emulate these same characteristics without changing appearance? Spend 20 minutes journaling about this.
Write a THANK YOU letter to your body
I do this activity with clients all the time. One of my clients bought actual Thank You notes for our session. She felt like that would help make it more real for her. I admire the strength it took to write about the body parts she felt extremely uncomfortable with. She not only wrote about the physical way her body helps her like: Your arms that can hug your friend, your legs that get you up the stairs, your belly for digesting food.
She also wrote about what her body does for her on a more spiritual level.
For her, her stomach area was the core of her being. She felt the most feeling there, including love and strength. Therefor, this area of her body was something that allowed her to truly be herself. I challenge you to think of ways your body helps you on a deeper level than the physical. Here is another letter one of my clients wrote 🙂
Read a positive affirmation or a quote each morning:
Find something that speaks to you and start your day on the right foot. Here are some of my favorite quotes:
- I’m not beautiful like you. I’m beautiful like me.
- Every day may not be good, but there is something good in everyday.
- Behind every successful women is herself.
- You can’t make everyone happy. You’re not a jar of Nutella.
Change up your social media
If you find yourself triggered by diet ads, weight-loss selfies or even just negative comments from others, make it a point to unfollow these people and instead replace them with some positive social media accounts.
Practice self-care everyday
The more you are taking care of yourself, the more you can be in touch with your body’s needs and wants. Because even if its just 15 minutes, try to do something for yourself everyday. Check out this blog about self care.
Get in touch with your emotions:
Sometimes whatever we are struggling with brings other struggles to light. So, if you’re upset about a poor grade in school or a tough day at work, body image struggles may also join in with the noise in your brain. It can be helpful to take a step back. Think about why you are really feeling upset so you can best handle the situation.
What are some ways you have learned to appreciate your body? Let us know! And give us a call at 240-670-4675 for more information about our programs. Blog originally written by Kait Fortunato, RD, LD. Edited by Alex Raymond RD, LD with contributions by Caroline Best.