In a world where we're surrounded by diet culture and are frequently told that we're not good enough, it can understandably be hard for many people to respect their bodies. It can be challenging for them to make their bodies feel comfortable and to meet their bodies' basic needs. To treat their bodies with kindness. The reality is that diet culture needs the fixing. You are worth so much NOW.
This is one of the reasons why I love the 8th principle of Intuitive Eating so much. The "Respect Your Body," principle revolves around the idea that we each have a unique genetic blueprint. That body diversity is real. Some of us are short, tall, and live in naturally smaller or larger bodies. Trying to achieve a body size and shape that is different from our natural makeup can make it incredibly hard to reject the diet mentality, and often leads to dieting - which can be harmful and doesn't work for most people in the long-term. The "Respect Your Body" principle encourages us to treat our bodies with dignity. You might not like your body, but can you be kind to it? Can you meet its basic needs? Can you make it more comfortable?
If it's challenging for you to respect your body, you are not alone. Having a body can be hard. Some days you might feel miserable in your body. As you read through the following strategies to respect your body, and implement the ones that feel right to you, I encourage you to try to cultivate some self-compassion. Generating
self-compassion is helpful throughout life, and also throughout your Intuitive Eating journey. One way to start doing this is to try to talk to yourself like you would a dear friend. Think about what you would say to your friend in each of the scenarios below.
Before we go farther, I want to also acknowledge that I'm writing this blog post as a white, able-bodied, cisgender, non-diet dietitian who lives in a body that is small enough to receive far less weight stigma than people who are living in larger bodies. I live with a lot of privilege. My intention in writing this blog post is to provide some helpful tips to implement the "Respect Your Body" principle. So here we go!
DIFFERENT WAYS TO RESPECT YOUR BODY
A big part of respecting your body entails meeting its general needs and making it comfortable. Treating your body with kindness. Here are some examples - some of which have been adapted from The Intuitive Eating Workbook - of how to respect your body:
Think about what your body can do - and the qualities that you appreciate about yourself outside of your body or appearance. You have spent each second of this life in your body. Each person's life and circumstances are different. I'm guessing though that many of you reading this have laughed, loved, cried, celebrated, explored - and more - in your body. It has served as a vessel for all of your adventures in life.
Now it might be difficult for some of you to feel gratitude for anything related to your body. It might take a while before you can. But I want to point out that gratitude can be powerful. Gratitude may help you feel happier, and may decrease the amount of times that you compare yourself to others. If this results in comparing your body and overall appearance less frequently to others, it will be easier to respect your body. To pay attention to what your body needs in the moment.
Some research indicates that we can intentionally generate gratitude by thinking about all the things that we are thankful for. If this idea appeals to you, try making two gratitude lists. In the first list, jot down the different things you're thankful for that your body can do. In the second list, write down the qualities that you appreciate about yourself that are not related to your body or appearance. Look at these lists on a regular basis - especially when you're having a tough body image day.
Follow social media accounts that make you feel good about yourself and unfollow those that don't. It can be really easy to compare yourself to others on social media - and feel unworthy. The negative emotions that you might feel when you compare yourself to others may result in harmful behaviors like overexercising, restricting your food intake, measuring your worth by stepping on a scale, etc. Follow social media accounts that promote body diversity, self-compassion, and a flexible approach towards food, physical activity, and bodies.
Wear comfortable clothes, and donate the ones that don't fit properly - or at least store them where they won't be visible. Wearing clothes that are too tight can make the body uncomfortable. Show your body kindness by wearing clothes that feel good to your body, that you like, and that express your style. My favorite plus-size store right now is Eloquii, in terms of its fashion-forward selection of clothing, quality, and customer service (This is not a sponsored post). Plus, I'm a big fan of their #ModelThat campaign which challenges weight-bias against plus-size women at work and elsewhere. Here's an additional article by a fellow non-diet dietitian who led me to Intuitive Eating, Rachael Hartley, which provides a fabulous list of brands which offer a variety of sizes.
If you're looking for some serious bargains, check out some thrift stores. If you wear plus-size clothing and are discouraged by some of the prices, here's a list of 37 plus-size resale and consignment shops found throughout the country and online.
When clothes that no longer fit properly are visible in the closet, it's harder to reject the diet mentality and respect your body. Dreaming that you'll one day fit into that pair of jeans that's hanging in front of you can lead to destructive behaviors towards your body. If you don't want to donate your clothes, store them somewhere in your house where you won't be able to see them. You deserve to look into your closet and like the clothes that you see - and feel comfortable from head to toe when you wear them.
Wear comfortable clothes that accommodate the weather. Another way to respect your body is to wear clothing that is made for both inside and outdoor temperatures. Some individuals who struggle with their body size, weight, or general appearance tend to cover themselves up - for fear of being seen. This includes wearing long-sleeve tops or sweaters when it's hot outside. It can be healing to challenge this action - because your body is a good body - and you deserve to be seen.
If it seems too intimidating to step outside in a t-shirt during the summer, start out by wearing a short-sleeve shirt or a cami underneath a cardigan or a wrap. Then for 1-2 hours at a time, remove the cardigan or wrap. Gradually build up the amount of times that you wear a short-sleeve shirt or cami. You can try this same exercise with a pair of shorts and pants as well. Taking these small steps can add up. Remember, progress not perfection! ALL bodies are good bodies.
Know how to navigate negative body talk/diet talk. Knowing how to handle negative comments about bodies - and diet talk in general - is important for making progress with respecting your body. When someone initiates negative body talk/diet talk, you could try to challenge the comments that are being made, change the subject, or remove yourself from the conversation. I would encourage you to avoid putting yourself or others down. For more information about this topic, check out my tips for communicating with family and friends about Intuitive Eating and navigating diet talk.
Put the scale to the side. Weighing yourself can distract you from doing the things that can actually help you respect your body. Why? Weighing yourself can make you obsess about your food choices and body weight/ body size - making it incredibly hard to let go of the diet mentality. If you want to measure your progress throughout your non-diet journey, try setting and implementing behavioral goals instead.
Additional ways to be kind to your body:
Do something that makes you happy, and let yourself really feel the joy!
If you have experienced an injury from exercising excessively, refrain from working out - and work on healing what was behind the overexercising.
If you want to move your body for the sake of feeling well versus manipulating your body size - and your doctor has given you the green light - experience joyful movement.
Implement some stress reduction techniques that you enjoy.
There are so many additional ways to respect your body that I could write, but you get the point.
Your body is worthy of love, care, and respect. Try setting the intention to treat your body with kindness today. And then do this again tomorrow - and again - and again. You deserve to do great things in your body! To respect your body. I hope you find these tips to be helpful in navigating the "Respect Your Body" principle!
If you would like to work with me to develop a healthier relationship with food and your body, or address general wellness concerns, click here to learn more about my private one-on-one sessions.