Moving Towards Body AcceptanceOct 13, 2022
A shame-free approach
Where did you learn that your body must look any particular way to be beautiful? When I ask clients that, they look at me like I’m nuts. Our culture is steeped in the idea that body size is the most important marker of beauty. We hear it in a hundred ways: from media that presents thinness as the cultural ideal, from the diet industry’s misleading promises, from the jokes and jabs at the expense of bodies that diverge in one way or another from the cultural ideal.
Most of us have also received some pretty explicit body shaming messages from well-meaning people who believe it themselves because they were wounded too. I’ve got plenty of stories, and I’m sure you have some too. But concepts of what is beautiful are culturally constructed, which is not the same as “true”.
Today, I want to invite you to take a step towards forging a more loving relationship with your body. If there’s one message I want you to take away from this post, it’s this:
- Nobody ever got any healthier by hating their body.
- Nobody ever made anyone else any healthier by shaming them about their body.
How are you going to go to an exercise class and learn to love movement if you look at your body in the mirror with distaste? How will you decide what you believe healthy eating is, and then take steps toward it, if you make eating an activity fraught with guilt?
Once you love your body and show yourself love in many ways every day, you will find out what your body wants to eat and how your body wants to move. Until then, your body will stubbornly work against you, just as hard as you are working against it. Lifestyle changes to improve health require lasting change. Lasting change is impossible without self-love to get you through the inevitable disappointments and rough patches.
Maybe loving your body feels out of reach right now. That’s okay. I’m not here to shame you or to force you to feel any particular way. I grew up steeped in the same negative cultural messages about body size, age, race, ability, and so on that most of my readers did, and I know just how challenging it can be to learn to see yourself in a different way.
Ask yourself: When you think about your body, does the voice in your head sound scold-y, judgmental, and harsh?
Can you see your way to bringing out a more nurturing voice–a voice that talks to you the way you would talk to a beloved friend?
What would that sound like and feel like? Can you take on that loving-friend role and say something kind to yourself about your body?
You don’t have to focus on appearance; in fact, simply expressing gratitude for the things your body is able to do or feel can be very powerful. Find your kindest self, express some bit of gratitude or admiration, and make sure to slow down to allow the words to really land. Let yourself feel the love. I’m rooting for you.
Originally published on Psychology Today.