In a world in which we're surrounded by diet culture, it can be so easy to scrutinize our bodies. To criticize them - maybe to the point of saying that we "hate" them out loud. Which always feels awful, and further harms our relationship with our bodies.
If you can relate to this, it's not your fault. Diet culture tells us that we're not good enough as we are. That there's something wrong. This can lead to dieting - which we know doesn't work for most people in the long-term, and can be harmful. As a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, I speak with a variety of amazing individuals who feel a tremendous amount of pressure from the media, those around them, and themselves to try to manipulate their body sizes and eat a certain way. They also frequently find themselves comparing their bodies to others - which increases their anxiety levels around their bodies and food.
As we work to develop a healthier relationship with food and our bodies, we also work with the 8th principle of Intuitive Eating, "Respect Your Body." Meaning that we work towards treating our bodies with kindness, and meet our bodies' basic needs - even if we're not passionate about our bodies. As I mentioned in my recent blog post, "Respect Your Body - Intuitive Eating," one way to respect our bodies is to cultivate gratitude for the things that our bodies CAN do - and any happy adventures or experiences that we've enjoyed in our bodies. By cultivating body gratitude, you are taking a break from criticizing it - which is good for the soul and is important when you're wanting to improve your body image - and are instead treating it with kindness. You deserve to respect your body.
To cultivate some body gratitude, I encourage you to make a list of the things that your body can do, and some positive adventures or experiences that you've enjoyed in your body. Look at these lists often. Particularly when you're experiencing a tough body image day. In the list below, I'm throwing out some ideas to get you started!
But first, I want to acknowledge that we all have a unique genetic blueprint, and your body has a different story than mine. We all have different lived experiences in our bodies. Some of us might be living with a chronic health condition and some of us may not. Some of us may be living in larger bodies which are severely
discriminated against - while some of are living in smaller bodies which are regularly praised. Some of us might not be able to relate to all of the bullet points below - or maybe we can. As with many things, there are exceptions. We all come from different backgrounds and makeups - and our bodies still do things to help us. Lori Short-Zamudio, RD, beautifully explains this point in her article, "My body attacks its self but I refuse to attack my body." Give it a read!
Below I'm providing a list of just some of the numerous amazing things that our bodies do for us, and a list of really cool experiences that we may enjoy in our bodies. My hope is that you will find something that really resonates with you. That you cultivate some body gratitude as a way to treat your body with kindness. That you can respect your body - because you deserve it!
SUPER COOL THINGS ABOUT OUR BODIES THAT MEAN SO MUCH MORE THAN HOW WE LOOK
Here are just some examples of the many incredible things that the human body can do:
Our brains contain billions of neurons which "...coordinate thought, behavior, movement, and sensation." These neurons can transfer information to one another incredibly efficiently. Like up to 250 mph.
The human heart pumps on average 2,000 gallons of blood on a daily basis! Meaning that if a person fulfills the average life expectancy in the United States, which is currently 78.6 years, the heart will pump 57,378,000 gallons of blood within a lifetime! Within one minute, the heart pumps "...oxygen-filled blood through the entire body."
Our blood travels through over 60,000 miles of blood vessels! Our blood vessels could "...wrap around the planet 2.5 times!"
Our kidneys and liver help cleanse our bodies. The kidneys filter 600 cups of blood on a daily basis. Among the liver's many achievements (It completes over 500 functions in the body), the liver filters our blood, processes our medicines, and detoxifies chemicals.
The small intestine is the primary organ in our bodies that assists with digestion and nutrient absorption. The surface area of the small intestine is about the size of a tennis court - thanks to the villi which are "fingerlike projections of absorptive tissue," which are covered with microvilli.
On average, we breathe 60-100 times within five minutes - frequently without thinking about it. Thanks, respiratory system!
Our bones guard our bodies' organs - some of which include the the lungs, heart, and brain. In the case of a broken bone, our bodies will generate new bone cells to promote healing. Our bones also collaborate with our muscles to assist with movement, store/release minerals into circulation, and make blood cells.
Our skin, which is our largest organ, serves as a body guard for our bones, muscles, and internal organs, regulates our temperature - and enables us to feel the warmth of the sunshine, the coolness of a snow flake, the hug of a child, the soft fur of a sweet cat or dog, and a kiss from a loved one.
When our bodies think we're starving, they will implement different measures to combat starvation. Our bodies will implement chemical reactions to generate intense cravings, slow down our metabolism levels, reduce the secretion of the hormone, leptin, to increase our hunger, etc. Our bodies are working hard to keep us alive by preserving energy and trying to generate eating.
Our bodies provide us with hunger signals to let us know that it's time to eat. These signals can be experienced in different parts of the body for different people.
In addition to being part of the respiration system and purifying the air that we inhale, our nose enables us to smell at least one trillion odors - like savory bacon, fragrant flowers, adorable puppies, and more. Our nose also helps us taste food. As the article, "How does our sense of taste work?" explains, "Only after taste is combined with smell is a food's flavor produced."
Here are just some of the many cool experiences that we may experience in our bodies:
Spending time with God, and people and fur babies who mean the world to us.
Seeing the magical moon, bright stars, glorious trees, vibrant flowers, the majestic ocean, a beautiful blue sky, awe-inspiring mountains, and so many other sacred blessings that we hold dear to our hearts.
Hugging our children, the love of our life, parents, siblings, extended family, friends, pets, or someone who really needs a hug.
Moving our bodies in ways that bring us joy and feel good to our bodies.
Taking a road trip or flying to new and exciting places that we've always wanted to see.
Celebrating the delicious flavors that food has to offer as we enjoy our meals with family, friends, or ourselves.
Hearing our favorite music, birds chirping, ocean waves, the wind blowing the leaves on a tree, the voices of our loved ones, fabulous podcasts, and more.
Cheering for our favorite sports team.
Being lost in an incredible book or excellent article about a topic that we're passionate about.
Enjoying a fabulous cup of coffee as we start our day.
Just letting ourselves BE.
There is so much more that I could write for both lists, but you get the point! Creating your own body gratitude list, and looking at it on a regular basis can be really empowering - particularly on a tough body image day. If you find that you dislike your body, try carving out even 5 minutes in a day to take a break from criticizing it - and think about something that you're grateful for that pertains to your body. As you do so, you will be treating your body with kindness. Remember you deserve to respect your body! Your body is worthy of love, care, and respect - always.
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 virtual private one-on-one sessions.