This blog post is partially recycled from a previous mini-course that I ran earlier this year called “Embrace Your Bod”. One focus of that program was how to transform negative body talk.
I wanted to bring this back around because SO many women are struggling with speaking kindly to their body, especially at the beginning of the intuitive eating journey. Before we jump in, I want to make one thing clear:
I know that I (and many others in this field) talk a lot about BODY LOVE. Body love is awesome. If you get to the point where you look at your body every day with googly-eyed love, great! But the most important starting point is neutrality. It’s really hard to make the jump from shit-talking your body on the daily to oozing with love for her. So let’s start with getting neutral, shall we?
Think of it this way: treat your body like you would a partner/boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/significant other. You love your partner, everyday. Do you love them ALL DAY everyday? Maybe not. Sometimes they do things that are irritating or they make you unhappy temporarily, but the love is always still there to return to. Love and acceptance are the basis of the relationship because you know that the other person wants nothing but good things for you. This is how your relationship to your body should work. You may not want to shower her with compliments all the time, but at the very least there’s the understanding that you both want to be happy, together! And that all starts with accepting the other person for who they are.
Your body does SO MUCH for you every single day (remember- there are a million and ten ways your body could just break down at any second; your health is a miracle), but if you’re only ever repaying her with unkind words, then of course you will not appreciate her for the simple fact that she is there for you.
Which is why it’s so important to transform those words into something that will serve you, because has negative self-talk ever gotten you anywhere positive?
A lot of women are truly hesitant to let go of speaking negatively about themselves...and I get that. We use fear as a motivator. We think that if we were to suddenly LOVE ourselves, we’d “let ourselves go”; if we decide that we’re perfect just the way we are, we’ll never improve; if we don’t hate ourselves into being thin, then we’ll be fat (which we think means: ugly, unloveable, unhealthy, lazy).
Let me ask you a question….how’s that negative self-talk working for you so far? Feeling any better about yourself? Feeling any happier in your body? Hmmm.
When we give ourselves permission to be who we are, to accept our bodies for what they are, we don’t need to use outside sources (diets, magazines, other people’s opinions in general) to validate our beliefs. All of our joy comes from within. We get to be the masters of our lives. And that means choosing peace, every day.
Sounds nice, huh?
So let’s work on that body neutrality. Try out this exercise:
- Look in the mirror. Listen to what your inner mean girl starts to say about your body. Choose one comment (ex: I have a chubby stomach) and stick with it for a moment.
- Thank your inner mean girl for paying attention for you. After all, she’s just trying to keep you safe. Remember, all negativity stems from a fear of being unlovable. Your inner mean girl (wrongly) thinks that your ‘less-than-perfect’ stomach makes you unloveable, so she’s just afraid that you will end up alone one day because of a stomach…Thank her, tell her you know better, and move on.
- Say the following words out loud: “I have a stomach” (or whatever body part you’re focusing on)
This is simple. It probably sounds weird to remind yourself of this, but just do it.
I. Have. A. Stomach.
The purpose of this exercise is to neutralize your beliefs about your body. You can’t argue with what you’re telling yourself here. You’re making no comment about the need to change or maintain the alleged quality of your stomach. You’re just acknowledging that it’s there, doing what it’s supposed to do.
Again, it’s hard to make the jump from body bashing to body love, so we’re just starting with neutralizing right now. Acceptance.
The more you practice this exercise, the more you’ll start to see your body parts for what they are: BODY PARTS. Not bad, not in need of change, not too this or not enough that...just. your. body. (exhale)
This will also have a deep impact on your eating, because instead of saying, “My tummy looks so chunky, I need to cut out sugar for the next couple weeks” (and then falling head-first into a jar of nutella once your body can’t take the deprivation anymore)....you’ll just see your tummy as a tummy. And you won’t feel the need to restrict. And then you won’t end up binge eating. Food will also just. be. food.
Watch this exercise impact your MIND as well...What if, instead of putting our judgments, our likes and dislikes onto everything we see, we just viewed life through the lense of neutrality? What if we allowed things to be as they are instead of having such deeply emotional expectations about everything? Many Eastern spiritual practices say that this type of viewpoint is the vantage point of the Self. Everything we’ve ever learned about “good” and “bad” has been taught to us. Our bodies are simply bodies. The vessels that we’re carrying the Self in.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. How was this exercise for you? How does it feel to see your body through the lense of neutrality and acceptance versus hate and judgment?