I was talking with friends recently about planning for vacation. Someone asked if I was worried about not being in the best shape to be able to take photos (or only take them from the chest up). I’m certain that this wasn’t said with hurtful intent – it’s just what we hear as the “diet culture” undertones in our day to day conversation. Still, it caught me off guard. I have been working so hard on my own body acceptance over the past several years. My first thought in response to that question was no – I’m not worried about how my body will look in photos or in swimsuits. I am thinking about the memories that my family will make while taking the first family vacation that we will have had in years. I’m thinking that this will be our last family vacation before my son goes off to college. I am not at all worried about what I’ll eat, if I’ll gain weight on vacation, or if I’ll feel comfortable in my suit.
I have been working at practicing what I preach. (Or at least what I coach). If you don’t know me personally you may not know that I have had one injury after another over the past few years. My habits changed significantly. Pre-pandemic I was a person who was super active. But when the pandemic hit I started having injuries. I could no longer exercise – or it would be intermittent and infrequent. Often the most I could do was my PT exercises and stretching. Needless to say – my body changed! I gained some weight and my body just overall changed shape.
Additionally, I am in the throes of midlife hormonal changes – which means hot flashes, night sweats and not a lot of sleep. Add that to a pandemic, some significant life challenges (illnesses, traumatic injury and deaths of family members and close friends), parenting two teens, and the general angst surrounding the social injustices and the state of the world – and you have a body that is under a lot of stress!
Luckily – this is my jam. This is what I talk to people about each day. Body respect. Though it has not always been easy, I followed my own advice. I haven’t weighed myself since I don’t know when. I put away clothes that didn’t fit me and bought a few clothing items that I really liked that fit and compliment my “right now” body. I stopped “body checking” – looking at myself in the mirror and wishing for something else or negatively commenting on what I saw. I made the decision to continue to trust my body – to eat when hungry, eat the food that was satisfying for me and to stop when full (most of the time). I decided that if I was going to look in the mirror I would only allow kind and respectful self-comments.
I finally (knock on wood) have been able to consistently get back to doing some of the exercise that I was doing pre-injury and it feels so good. Plus I am just generally a nicer person and I sleep better when moving my body regularly. I have a newfound appreciation for my body and its ability to adapt and change. I have respect for the body that carried me through the challenging past couple of years.
Let me ask you a question. Do you expect your life to be the same next year? How about in three months? Is your life the same as it was 10 years ago? No? Then why would you expect that your body would look the same over time, not age, not change size or shape over time?
So many of us have this fight with our body – expecting it to stay the same (or pushing for it to not change) as we go through transitions in our lives. It doesn’t have to be that way.
If you are struggling with accepting your “right now” body, here are some things that you can do to stop the shame and judgment and replace it with respect and kindness.
- Stop body checking. Pay attention to how often you look at your reflection in the mirror or a window and make negative comments about yourself.
- Put away or donate clothes that don’t fit your “right now” body. If they aren’t comfortable and you don’t feel confident in them – put them away somewhere that you aren’t looking at them every day.
- If you have the financial means – buy a few items of clothing that feel comfortable and make you feel confident. One of the best tips from Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, author’s of Intuitive Eating, is to try on clothes facing away from the mirror. Move around in them, sit down, decide if you like how they feel. If they feel comfortable, then turn around and take a look at yourself in the mirror and decide if you like how they look.
- Put away your scale. (I know, I heard you gasp). It is not helping you! It’s causing further disconnect from your own body cues – AND you don’t need it. You won’t all of the sudden gain a ton of weight if you don’t watch the numbers every day.
- Do you hear that self-critical voice in your head? Start paying attention to how loud that voice is. Just notice how often you are critical and judgmental of yourself. Once you get good at noticing that voice, start to challenge it – even saying “STOP” out loud if you have to. If you can’t yet replace it with kind or positive things – at least transition to body-neutral comments.
- Check your diet-culture influences. Un-follow them on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, podcasts or wherever else you linger. Then start finding body-positive influencers.
If you are struggling with respecting your body – contact me! Send me a message through my website, message me on Facebook or Instagram. I want to help you get to a place of peace and respect for your body.