If you’ve seen my previous self love September posts this year you will know that I am sharing my body acceptance/integration journey and this is the third and final instalment in that series.
Please remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and what helped me may not help you (or your loved one) but, in the hope that someone does find one or more of these things useful, here are some of the things that helped me.
CW: food, binge eating.
Broken relationships often begin to heal when people apologise. We all make mistakes, make poor choices, do bad things and while that’s not OK, it is normal. How we move forward from those things matters and guilt is only useful it inspires change.
You have been talking shit to your body (if you’re anything like me) for years and treating it even worse. Own up to it. Admit that you haven’t been the best tenant and then apologise. Apologise from a place of wanting to do better, not from a place of self-flagellation. Apologise because you believe you did wrong, you believe your body deserves better and then start again, in that moment, with a clean slate.
Feel it to free it
This is something I’m still working on; feeling my feelings. It is, for me at least, very difficult to move on from things if I haven’t processed the emotion attached to them. There are certain past events that I am still running from the emotion of, putting off facing because I know the feelings will be so overwhelming and scary. They are events that I shoved in a box even as they happened, locked up and threw away the key. They are events that I have never even begun to process so I know that this isn’t an easy ask.
There are things that I have faced though, and when I allow myself to sit through the pain of them, to cry the seemingly endless tears, to be angry, to be downright furious, to feel the depth of the betrayal or hurt, those are the things I have finally let go of.
Maybe this is something you need a therapist for, maybe you feel able to do that work alone or maybe some mix of the two, or an entirely different option. Please be gentle with yourself though and…
Practice self care
Take care of your body. Rest it when it needs to rest, feed it when it needs to be fed, hydrate it, wash it, take it to a doctor when it hurts. Listen to your body and give it what it needs without complaining.
It might not be easy to tune into your body and figure out what it needs and it may be even harder to fulfil your body’s needs without being annoyed that it has needs at all (I speak from experience) but you can do it slowly. Start with one area and initially just notice when you are doing that, and then start to question why or whether you could be doing it differently to improve how you feel.
Example: start noticing what you’re eating. You could keep a food diary or just try to be conscious of what you eat and when. Don’t be judgemental about it, just observe. Then start asking yourself “why am I eating? Am I hungry? Is it because I feel an emotion? Or want to feel an emotion?” Figuring out why can help you to make changes.
If you’re eating because you’re bored; find an amazing new TV show to get obsessed with, or spend some time on your hobby, or find a new one, do some gaming.
If you’re feeling or want to feel an emotion, think of other ways you can achieve that. Bonus points for just sitting with the emotion and letting yourself feel it.
Small, self caring, changes for me included finding my natural sleep rhythm and sleeping when I’m tired, drinking more water, ditching alcohol, reducing caffeine and avoiding it all together when I’m anxious.
Big change wise going vegan was a really positive change for me, as was creating a regular yoga practice.
Your body is a human body
This is a tip I picked up from Kara Loewentheil when she was on the Body Positive Yoga podcast: baby step your thought changes.
Don’t try to make the leap from the hateful things you say about yourself now to “I am a goddess, I am irresistibly sexy and my body is a temple.” You don’t believe those things and your brain knows it. Find a statement that is without judgement and that you already believe to some degree, and start switching your negative self talk for that.
Example: My thought process often goes “my body is so useless, it’s too ____ and not ____ enough” so I change that to “my body is a human body.”
It’s true, I can’t argue with it, it is hard, scientific fact but there’s no value judgement on that statement. It was remarkable how quickly switching my negative thoughts for neutral ones began to make a difference to me.
Your body is your body so claim it. Put clothes on it that you love. Do your hair in ways that make you feel good. Get a tattoo or a piercing, if that’s your thing. Do your make up differently, or not at all. Make it a part of you by making it a reflection of you.
I shaved my hair off & dyed what was left pink, switched skirts & dresses for shirts & jeans and now I look in the mirror and I see myself.
If you’re finding that your issues loving your body are, in whole or in part, coming from what other people think or say, remember the only person who will be there every moment of your entire life is you and, as Dita von Tease once said
“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”
Also published on Medium.