You and your body are in this life — together — for the long haul. I know that is a news flash. Many of my clients don’t see themselves and their bodies as one entity. The see “me” and “my body.” Then, they list all of the things their bodies are not and all of the things they want to change about their bodies. When I ask them, “What would it feel like to respect your ‘here-and-now’ body?” they get quiet. When you ask yourself that question, what is your answer?
Let’s start with some definitions to be sure we’re using words in the same way. For our purposes, “respect” is giving attention to and attending to your body. Respecting your body means taking care of it and giving it what it needs. Respecting your body means taking care of both your physical and mental health.
What is your “here-and-now” body? This is the body that you have right now. The one you have for this life.
Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, authors of the book Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach, say that, “respecting your body means treating it with dignity, while holding the intention of meeting its basic needs.” Respecting you here-and now body means: 1) Giving your body what it needs to be healthy by completing daily and ongoing body maintenance and 2) Giving it what it needs to be comfortable.
What does a respected body need?
- Nourishing food: Providing food that nourishes your body in an amount that permits it to function the best that it can.
- Movement: Moving your body in ways that feels good, helps it feel good and supports the activities you want to do.
- Medical care: Getting regular checkups and taking action when something isn’t or doesn’t seem right.
- Dental care: Caring for your teeth and gums, so you can continue to eat without pain or discomfort.
- Body care: Stretching, rolling on rollers or balls, massages, etc. to help work out the kinks and keep you feeling supple and moving easily.
Your brain, although it seems separate, is part of your body. Your brain lives in your body and, as such, deserves the same respect as the rest of your body. Your brain deserves to be nurtured and stimulated through activities and connections with others. Your mental health deserves the same care and attention as your physical health.
The second part of respecting your body is making it comfortable. How can you help your body be comfortable? Having underwear and clothes that fit and that you like are two of the best ways for your body to be comfortable. If your underwear is ill-fitting — either too tight or too loose — you’ll be constantly thinking about it and blaming your body for not fitting into it (rather than the other way around.) The same with your clothes and dressing in a style that you do not like. Why not get underwear and clothes that fit, and that you like, so that your body will be comfortable and you’ll feel good about your body?
You may want your body to be a different shape or size. However, your body is the way it is due to many things, including your DNA. You can’t will or work yourself to be taller any more than you can force your body to be a size or shape that it isn’t meant to be (at least for not any period of time). Just because someone else has the body you want doesn’t mean you can force your body to look that way. They were blessed with their genetics and you with yours.
Respecting your here-and-now body is the first step of accepting and maybe even making peace with your body. You may even learn to love your body. If you want to start respecting your body, here are three places to start.
- Make a list of needs your body needs met. You could start with the list above and grow it from there.
- Work on stopping the negative body talk when you look at or think about your body.
- Make a list of things you are grateful for about your body. If you have a hard time coming up with something, try what I suggest to my clients. Be grateful for your big toes, because they help you to balance. Your heart beats. Your lungs breathe. Start small and go from there.
Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2020-21 issue of CO YOGA + Life Magazine
Penny Wilson, PHD, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She has two focuses: helping people learn about eating to fuel their lives and helping women with digestive issues take control of their symptoms so they can lead a normal life. She loves spending time with her husband, John, and her dogs. She hikes, skis (both alpine and Nordic), bikes and travels. eatingforperformance.com