How many of you can relate to feeling dissatisfied, unhappy, or ashamed of your body? How many of you feel like a failure or not good enough because of your weight or size?
Let’s spend some time today thinking about a topic that has recently been garnering a lot of attention (and not always the best kind of attention): body size, obesity and fatness, and health. With increasing concern about weight and weight loss in our society, common conversations about health and being healthy typically revolve around weight, thinness and fatness, and dieting with thinness being one ultimate goal. Unfortunately, there are some negative consequences of a weight-centered lens, including self-hatred, shame, poor body image, eating disorders, and food and body preoccupation. In essence, our bodies become a source of deep unhappiness, as the struggle or battle with our bodies continues and our self-worth and self-esteem decline. Does this sound familiar?
What if there were ways to honor your body that don’t center on weight or body size? Here are 5 ideas to try that may help you create an affirming and compassionate relationship with yourself. Please note these ideas may sound very different from the weight-centered model we’re used to seeing. Also note these ideas are influenced by the Health at Every Size model, which is based on the premise that health and well-being are about more than numbers and weight.
- Practice body and self-acceptance. Love, appreciate, and respect the body you have. You are worthwhile as you are and in your body as is. Affirm human beauty irrespective of differences in weight, shape, and physical size. This suggestion directly contradicts the notion that larger or fat bodies are inferior to thinner bodies. Self-acceptance gives you space and freedom to make positive and self-affirming choices.
- Trust yourself. We all have internal systems designed to keep us healthy and at a weight that is appropriate and healthy for our unique bodies. This might be easy to forget in our society that has rules around food and eating that often tell us what, when, and how to eat. Help your body out by identifying and honoring its signals of hunger, satiety, and appetite. Letting go of external rules and focusing on your body’s own cues can result in a relationship with yourself and your body that is peaceful and harmonious.
- Ditch dieting and adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Health is about much more than weight. Also, diets simply don’t work. Instead, try nurturing your connections with others and look for what brings you joy, meaning, and purpose. Fill your life with those things. Pay attention to and fulfill your social, emotional, and spiritual needs and put food in its rightful place as a source of nourishment, pleasure, and an experience.
- Let go off food rules and food judgment. Viewing food as good or bad is an example of those external rules talked about above, and food rules and judgment tend to be followed by feelings of guilt and shame among others. Practice being mindful of the idea of “everything in moderation” and incorporate a balance of nutritious and less nutritious foods that you enjoy into your lifestyle.
- Loving kindness. This can take many forms, but can include practicing compassion, honoring size diversity, engaging in pleasurable activity instead of exercising to lose weight, looking kindly at your body and treating it with love and respect, appreciating what your body can do, and recognizing your body size does not determine your worth or happiness. Find what works for you and practice it.