Statistics say that approximately 91% of women feel unhappy with their body and change their diet as a way of changing their relationship with their body. Men often struggle with it as well but are less open about sharing it. Many people report these feelings as young as 5 years old.
Often, we turn to a diet or exercise to solve a problem that isn’t actually physical. And we tell ourselves that changing our physical body will change our relationship to it. Sometimes this seems to work temporarily but more often than not, it doesn’t. Try placing value only on something’s appearance but not what it does – you need a car that takes you where you want to go, not a car that looks great in your driveway but goes nowhere. You need a cell phone that allows you to call and text loved ones, not one that’s a beautiful color but won’t turn on. We rarely value our body based on what it can do though. You don’t need to like the way your legs work to appreciate that they allow you to skateboard or take your favorite hike.
Genuinely try thanking your liver for constantly detoxing your body for a few days. Or appreciating your hands for carrying your child, or petting your dog. Have you ever thanked your eyeballs for allowing you to experience beauty? This single practice can help create deeper, more internal value of our body and place less emphasis on it’s appearance. You would probably never love your child, your cat or your best friend less if their physically appearance was less than perfect. But we hold ourselves to this impossible standard that we would never expect of others. We speak to ourselves so harshly, judge ourselves to standards that we deem unrealistic for others. Let’s be honest, that’s BS. But it takes practice to counteract years of habitual patterns of judging and thinking about our body.
For this approach to work, not only do we need to be willing to consider the fact that our thoughts might be skewed and practice other ways of thinking, but we have to give it true effort. Changing one thought one time, won’t produce much of an effect just like flowing your teeth once won’t have a huge impact on your life or your future. But flowing daily for a lifetime creates huge improvements in health. Consistently practicing new thoughts about the value of your body over the course of months or years will create a huge improvement will a deep sense of well-being. The newest science is starting to show that negative thoughts function as a toxin and create gut bacteria that are not effectively producing feel good chemicals to send to the brain.
Carl Jung said
We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.
If we assume he knows what he talking about, at least to some degree, then when we can accept our body as is, we can begin to change. But how?
Identify 7 different body parts and for 7 days, reflect on one per day. You could call this meditation, if that floats your boat. Spend a minute or 2 or 5 and think/write/draw/reflect on what that body part does for you. In your heart, acknowledge that this is a gift you’ve been given. You have permission to make it as concrete or whoo-whoo experience as feels right to you. Maybe what you appreciate about your legs is that they walk your dog, carry you to far away places, wear your favorite cozy sweats, have cute freckles, or allow you to move forward.
Optional: rate your sense of body acceptance prior to the exercise and afterward, to test for yourself if it was useful.