These days, I’m incredibly grateful to be in the body I’m in. As coach, dancer, and pole instructor, I am so grateful for the things my body allows me to do.
But it wasn’t always this way for me. For years when I struggled with binge eating, I loathed my body. I longed to be “thin & beautiful.” This desire led to a 19-year on and off struggle with food that started when I began dieting at the age of 11.
Looking back, I thank my younger self never giving up and continuing to search for answers. In one particular search, I remember doing an exercise where you step into the perspective of someone who loves and cares about you and tune into what they would say about you and your body. The experience was incredibly healing. For the first time, I felt what it was like in my body to be loved and appreciated after years of trying to diet it down to be thin. The experience almost brought me to tears. I realized that the feeling of love and acceptance I had been searching for was accessible right here in the current moment, even if I wasn’t perfect with food nor felt perfect in my body.
These days, I often use similar exercises with my clients who then report similar sentiments and even reduced cravings when they attune their bodies into feeling loved. Just like our muscles atrophy without use, our ability to receive and feel certain emotional states can be difficult especially if we have not felt that state in many months or even years. For example, if you find you criticize your body often, it may feel uncomfortable or feel out of reach at first to change the dialogue to love. So, what can help is to train our consciousness and our bodies to be able to receive and feel “love.” We can then experience the feeling before the external condition is met (i.e. avoid the trap of “I’ll be happy when I finally lose the weight/stop binge eating/etc”).
One common misconception is that if you love yourself now, you’ll stop going for what you want and become a lifeless vegetable. I find this is far from the case. At certain times, choosing to love your body now might mean to stop the striving and fighting especially if you realize it’s not working for you and isn’t getting you closer to what you truly want in life. At other times, choosing to love yourself and your body might mean challenging yourself to work harder to move towards what you truly want.
So how do you practice loving yourself and your body even if you aren’t yet where you want to be with food? Here are 4 ways to start practicing today:
Pay attention to your body - One big shift of me was in paying attention to how my body felt and communicated. When we listen, our bodies give us very clear signals of what it needs. Perhaps we feel our stomachs rumbling when we’re hungry, or perhaps our heads feel cloudy when we’re tired and need sleep. By listening intently, we can get to know our bodies and access our deeper wisdom and intuition. Acting out of love therefore means prioritizing the self-care our body asks us for.
Give gratitude to your body - Make a list of 10 things that wouldn’t be possible without your body. Perhaps you love dancing, traveling, or cuddling with your favorite pet. What things are possible only because you have your body?
Write a letter to your body - Sit down with pen and paper and give yourself 15 minutes to write a letter to your body about how you feel about it. Then write a letter back from your body in response. Reread both letters and see what you notice.
Realize you don’t have to be perfect at loving your body all the time. Build awareness of the inner critic - In having discussions with many different people and clients about body image, I discovered that everyone at some point struggles with how they see their body. Even women who I see as incredibly beautiful have shared that they still sometimes hear the voice of the inner critic when it comes to their bodies. The key though is to recognize when that voice of the inner critic is coming up. Over time, you can learn to see it & separate yourself from it so that it doesn’t run your life. You ultimately have the choice on how to see and treat your body.
I hope you find these tips helpful! Please comment below with any gems, insights, or questions you have!
Above all, love,