How to Love Your Body Without Actually Being in Love With Your Body
Alex Raymond, RD, LD
The “love your body” movement has really picked up ground over the years. And it’s making such a positive difference in so many people’s lives. It’s so hugely important we all remember ALL bodies are worthy. No matter their size, their color, whether or not they are able-bodied, male or female…etc. Our society places way too much emphasis on appearance, which we know has detrimental effects on overall self-worth.
The part of the body positive/love your body movement that stands out to me, is the idea that loving your body doesn’t necessarily mean you have to love the way it looks. And that you actually don’t have to value the way you look or “look pretty” in order to be worthy and respected.
We don’t have to be chasing desirability. Which is tough, I know, since our culture tells us the exact opposite AND it tells us appearance equates to self worth.
Part of body positivity is changing your thinking to find peace with your body. Which is not the same thing as loving your body. Because you don’t have to be in love with the way you look nor do you have to prove you love to way you look to society in order to be worthy of love and belonging. It’s very difficult to get to a place of 100% body love. If you’re there, that’s amazing! If you’re not, that is totally normal and you are worthy even though you’re not happy with your physical appearance. I find, especially when those are in recovery from an eating disorder, they feel this pressure to “love their bodies” in order to be 100% recovered. And if they are doing well in other areas of recovery, but still struggle with body image, there is sometimes a level of guilt associated with that. I’ve been really liking the idea of “body respect” recently.
One of my favorite mantras is: Just because you don’t love your body, doesn’t mean you can’t respect it.
In fact, I actually don’t expect any of my clients (or really any person in general) to get to a place of 100% body love. It doesn’t mean that you have failed some way in recovery if you’re not there. Sure, body love is a goal. But it doesn’t have to be the end goal. In my opinion body respect and appreciation is just as important as “love your body.”
What is the difference? Well, you can respect and appreciate your body without actually loving the way it looks. Respecting your body means giving it proper fuel, proper rest, movement that feels good, and anything else your body is telling you in needs. So, what does body respect look like? How can you treat your body with kindness without actually loving it?
1. Honor your hunger.
Food is both fuel and enjoyment. Food being fuel means that it’s the very thing that keeps us alive. It should come to no surprise that our bodies use food to power every little thing they do (heartbeat, breathing, steps we take...etc). Giving your body enough food is the foundation of treating your body with respect. On the other end, food is also meant to be enjoyed. I wrote a blog about honoring honor and appetite. It has more information about the importance of why we should not only look at food as fuel but also for pleasure and enjoyment.
2. Give it rest.
Giving your body rest includes (but of course is not limited to): getting enough sleep, taking “off days” from movement/exercise, relaxing when you are feeling sick or run down, stretching out those muscles, and maybe even getting a massage. Remember, our bodies are not machines. We can’t do anything and everything and we need to reset and recharge. You might find that some weeks you need less rest than others. Some weeks you need more rest than others. Your body will thank you for giving it a break.
3. Make a list of why you appreciate your body.
Our bodies do so much for us on a regular basis that we don’t even think about. When you have a second, try to write an actual thank you note for your body. See if you can go deeper than just “my lungs allow me to breath, my heart beats and my brain thinks.” Sure, all of those things are true and important! So, if you can only think of those basic bodily functions for a reason why you appreciate your body, that’s okay. It’s a great place to start. And it can also be worth exploring the deeper things your body does. For example, I love my hands because they allow me to cook and prepare meals. Cooking reminds me of the time I have with my Nonna in the kitchen. She taught me how to prepare so many traditional Italian foods she used to cook all throughout her life. My hands remind me of her and those memories.
4. Remind yourself your body does not define your worth.
This one is so difficult to remember. Again and again we are taught that our bodies DO define our worth. This has been ingrained in us since birth (or at least a very young age). So undoing this wiring takes time and practice. At first, repeating “my body does not define my worth” to yourself is going to seem disingenuous and awkward. When you feel yourself slipping into thinking about how your body defines you, gently remind yourself you don’t have to be thin or beautiful or working to improve your looks to be amazing and to be loved. It might be helpful to explore these ideas with members of your treatment team and find other tools to remember that our culture’s construct of beauty does not equal worth.
Alexandra Raymond, RD, LD, REBEL RD, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is passionate about empowering her clients to rebuild a positive relationship with food. She specializes in anorexia, orthorexia, disordered eating in athletes and enjoys working with families. Alex is truly passionate about working with her clients to support them along their recovery journey. She enjoys speaking at events for education and awareness of topics like the HAES principles and body positivity. She also works with RD2Be's and other RD's to share her knowledge about these topics.