It’s hard to miss the messages our society gives about our body shapes. We are told that if we are small enough, our dreams will come true and everything will be better. Unfortunately, diet culture and diet mentality afford privileges to people in smaller bodies, which perpetuates weight stigma, biases, and low self-esteem.
Here’s the thing: Hating, putting down, or disrespecting your body won’t change its shape or size.
Intuitive Eating principle #8: Respect Your Body
The judgment of your body breeds self-hatred, shame, and discontent. Changing your practice from rejecting to respecting your body is a necessary step toward your health.
Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (2020), creators of Intuitive Eating, point out that “Body vigilance begets body worry, which begets food worry, which fuels the cycle of dieting (Tribole, E. and Resch, E., 2020, p.196).”
The diet industry makes billions of dollars each year by objectifying your body.
Tribole and Resch (2020) also emphasize that we can’t make peace with food and battle our bodies at the same time. In fact, body image studies have shown that increased focus on our body correlates with decreased body satisfaction.
Further, the worship of smaller bodies is relatively recent in our culture. Until the late 1800s, larger bodies were the focus of ideal. This fact is not to present one size body over another, but to demonstrate that revered body shapes are arbitrary. Someone in some position of power sees a financial opportunity and creates a standard to make people literally hate themselves so that an industry makes money.
Are you angry yet? If so, you’re on the right track. Get angry at those systems and mentalities.
If you’ve been directing your anger at your body, it’s time to stop. Your body isn’t the enemy.
Most dieters are experts at criticizing their bodies.
But hating yourself or your body hasn’t been working.
Dieting hasn’t been working.
Delaying good things because you “haven’t earned them by shrinking your body…” well, that hasn’t been working either.
You know why? Because healthy acceptance of self will never happen if diet culture has a place in your mind.
You might be wondering how on earth to start changing your relationship to your body after being taught to hate it. That’s a fair question. You start in steps.
What does it mean to respect your body?
You recognize its inherent dignity. Even if you’re judging your body shape/size, you have to acknowledge that it has basic worth.
You meet your body’s basic needs (Tribole, E. and Resch, E., 2020, p.199). Learning to respect your body can feel uncomfortable or wrong. This makes sense in a culture where we are told our bodies are unacceptable unless they fit in a certain box.
You feed your body.
Your dress your body in comfortable clothes and in a style you like.
You understand that your body deserves to be “touched affectionately, with respect and your consent (Tribole, E. and Resch, E., 2020, p.200).”
You give your body comfortable movement.
As a holistic nutritionist and certified Intuitive Eating Counselor in Michigan, I have seen where people have difficulty implementing this new belief system. One of the most difficult new beliefs to grasp is this:
Your current, here-and-now body is deserving of nourishment, movement, enjoyment, comfortable/stylish clothing that fits, a bathing suit, and touch.
Intuitive Eating (2020) presents you with some practical tools to help adopt an attitude of respecting your body:
Ditch anything you use to judge or assess your body. This could be a scale, “goal jeans,” smaller bathing suit, or your high school prom dress. Toss it, donate it, get it out of your brain.
Stop comparing your body size or shape to others. Focus on all of the positive things your body does for you.
Wear clothes designed for your current body.
Stop criticizing your body. If criticizing your body changed its shape and subsequently made you happy, it would have happened by now. Working with a counselor or a Michigan Intuitive Eating Counselor can help you trade your criticisms for affirmations.
As you learn to respect your body, you may also need to learn to grieve the “fantasy body (Tribole, E. and Resch, E., 2020, p.213)” and everything it represents. Deconstructing beliefs, even toxic beliefs, can be sad and full of loss. They are often a lens through which we view the world, and we have to replace it with something.
Working with a holistic nutritionist or certified Intuitive Eating Counselor can help you transition from body criticism to body respect. If you need some help making this change for yourself, please reach out.
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive eating: A revolutionary anti-diet approach. St. Martin's Essentials.
Katie Valley is a Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor whose goal is to dispel the myths of diet culture and reinforce a holistic, health-focused approach to wellness. After her own experience with disordered eating and poor body image, Katie found true healing by practicing Intuitive Eating and Body Acceptance.
Now she has her own practice, Katie Valley Wellness, where she helps women who feel out of control around food learn to eat intuitively, pursue TRUE health, & feel confident in their own body.