Loving Your Body Doesn't Mean What You Think


Our minds can get a little panicked around what it means to love our bodies. The picture my untethered mind tends to paint veers into extreme scenario land: "If you love your body you will never exercise again. You will only eat slurpies and cheap chocolate samplers and will lie on the couch for the rest of your life dressed in nothing but a Spiderman Snuggie, endlessly binge watching episodes of Gilligan's Island."

And when that nightmare isn't upsetting enough: "No one can just up and fall in love with their body! What, you're just going to 'self-esteem' your way into some kind of fake, insipid, saccharine 'I love my body' kind of crap? No one can do that, and anyone who says so is full of bullshit."

Wait, my mind's barely getting started: "Let's enumerate all the ways you CAN'T love your body. We'll start with the thighs you've always hated and add on the stretch marks and cellulite and the fact that the last time you had anything resembling thigh gap you were a fetus. Add the weight you've gained since high school, the acne scars, the moles, the bump at the end of your nose, the hair on your legs that no amount of shaving can hide, the fact that one of your toes is inappropriately long, and what do you get? Nothing worth loving."

Yup. My mind has a nearly inexhaustible list of reasons why I can't -- and shouldn't -- love my body. Your mind can undoubtedly come up with a similar list, full of even more predictions of doom and annihilation.

Maybe the mind is a little, shall we say, prone to exaggeration? When my mind goes off on this topic, it tends to sound like the guy standing on his corner soapbox, trying to convince the world of conspiracy theories so fear-laden and complex they defy comprehension. Not a reliable narrator.

The mind is afraid that if you love the body as it is, you will no longer listen to it -- you'll no longer listen to reason. But the not so secret truth that the mind likes to conveniently forget is that it's not separate from the body. And the body is intensely reasonable, when given the chance, though its point of view is necessarily different than the mind's -- more grounded in experience, feeling, substance and in the present moment.

It's like having two well-informed advisers instead of one, both with your best interests at heart. Why not invite them both to the table, and at times ask mind to defer to the body's expertise when it's clear the body has inside information?

Despite my mind's worst case scenarios, here's what loving my body really looks like:

• I listen to my body, I trust it more, and I eat the fruits and vegetables (and chocolate and other stuff) it loves.
• I spend more time outdoors doing activities my body enjoys.
• I get the rest my body needs.
• I'm not so hard on my body, and I don't waste time and energy hating how my body looks.
• I still have bad days when I don't feel good in my body and don't like it. And that's OK.

So when your mind comes up with a very elaborate and very persuasive list of reasons not to love your body, tell it, "I know, honey. Don't worry, I'll never stop listening to you and valuing you. But I can love my body, too. When the body doesn't feel good, you don't feel good either. The better my body feels, the better you work. So let's listen to the body and give it the love and respect it deserves." Keep reminding the mind gently, like a child who's learning to share cookies with a sibling. Sooner or later your mind will see the beauty of loving your body, however it looks and whatever changes it goes through. After all, you're in this together.

Photo credit: In Her Image Photography

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.