Principle 8 of Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch is all about body respect.
A healthy relationship with the body has several terms these days: body positivity, body kindness, body respect, and body acceptance are just a few. You will see these terms used interchangeably in different media sources, and then there are others who believe strongly in identifying with one phrase or another. I don’t believe there is a correct term; it’s all about seeing what fits best for you, and understanding that at the core respecting your body does not mean loving your body every moment of the day. The important thing is how you take care of yourself no matter how you are feeling about your body in a given moment.
In our culture, it is almost impossible to feel positive about your body 100% of the time.
The fashion, beauty and diet industries actually bank on us not feeling our best. They use certain advertising techniques to pray on insecurities in hopes that we will purchase their products and increase their revenue. The thin ideal is so prevalent in our culture that it can take years of work to root out weight bias and move toward a place of body peace. It’s not about perfection and self love all day every day. It’s about taking care of yourself and your body even when you aren’t feeling your best. Over time body respect by meeting your body’s needs can lead to overall improved self-image and self esteem.
I think it’s important to mention that for years and in different cultures, standards of beauty have ebbed and flowed, and there has always been a desire to meet the standard through extreme measures. These extreme measures are often dangerous and can lead to severe medical/mental health complications. Through the changes in beauty standards, the one thing that has remained constant is that humans have a variety of body shapes and sizes. We all have a genetic blueprint that determines most of our body composition. To understand more about variety in genetic blueprints or variety in body types, I like to compare humans to dogs, yep that’s right sweet little puppies. There are so many different breeds out there from tiny shorthaired Chihuahuas, to tall curly coated poodles, water dogs, sheep dogs, basset hounds and bullmastiffs. They are all different colors, shapes, sizes, with different fur and different body structures. But they are all adorable in their own way. When we look at a dog we don’t judge it for it’s breed and force it to look like a different breed. Yet this is what happens when humans force themselves to try and be something that is not their genetic blueprint. This analogy may seem silly, but I think it shines a light on our skewed body standards and supports taking steps to treat your body with respect.
Why is body respect so important in intuitive eating?
Stressing out about your body tends to lead to stressing out about your food. Intuitive eating is really difficult if you are constantly correlating what you eat and wanting to change your body’s shape. For those of you who are starting to feel concerned that body acceptance means not caring about your health, it is actually the exact opposite. Health at Every Size is a movement initiated by Linda Bacon that has proven that health is possible at any size and that size acceptance actually leads to better health outcomes.
How do you respect your body?
This is definitely a process, and there are some action steps you can start taking now to begin changing your relationship with your self and your body.
For starters, you can make your body comfortable by wearing clothes that fit your ‘here and now’ body instead of covering it up or wearing clothes that are too tight from a previous diet. Consider a spring-cleaning closet clean out! Get rid of any clothes that you don’t feel good in, even if they fit. Being comfortable in your clothes is a key to feeling comfortable in your skin. Plus opening the closet door each morning and feeling fear about what to wear adds to a negative self-image. If everything in the closet feels comfortable then you don’t have this daily added stressor.
Drop the measurements – stop weighing and/or measuring your body. I have a theory that no matter what the number says it only leads to more damaging behaviors with food. If the number is up there is an urge to restrict and if the number is down you may still want to restrict to keep it down. Often my client’s end up bingeing the day they weigh themselves because even thoughts about restriction can trigger binge urges and preoccupation with food. Your heath is not dictated by a number, but it can be damaged by obsessing over the scale.
Stop checking and comparing – Body checking is a way of assessing your body in a mirror or any reflective surface. You may engage in this behavior more than you realize. The first step here is to notice when the behavior comes up and then take steps to reduce how often you are checking. Just like weighing, it keeps the focus on your body size. This is similar with body comparison. Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” I couldn’t agree more. If you find yourself walking into a room and immediately comparing to those around you, notice it, and see what it is like to just be there without comparing.
My number 1 recommendation for respecting your body is feeding it no matter it's size!
Deep-rooted negative body image can stem from a lifetime of low self-esteem, or even trauma. It takes time to work through these steps, and I highly recommend finding a support including a therapist and a dietitian to help.
Body respect leads to better self-care and ultimately a fuller life. Let’s stop trying to change our bodies and start living.
If you want more support with respecting your body and finding freedom with food book an apt today!