Even when we have worked hard to move away from body shaming and toxic diet culture toward a life of Radical Self Love and Acceptance, we sometimes slip and our old thoughts start to fire again. It can feel like we are going backwards. It can seem overwhelming and pointless to fight the bombardment of negative body image information we receive all day in the media and the people around us. Yet, there are ways to deal with the parts of our bodies that still cause us discomfort without succumbing to damaging body shame.
Who can we talk to about the parts of our bodies that cause us discomfort without body shaming ourselves or others? I recently tried to talk with a coworker about the trouble I was having with some body changes and it quickly became an emotionally draining experience where I had to counter diet talk and explain that I wasn’t trying to change myself, I was actively trying to find acceptance.
When we are on this journey, it is important that we have people we can talk to honestly about what we are uncomfortable with, without the pressure of toxic diet culture and shame. We need community with like-minded people who are on the same path, who can help us keep going without triggering more shame or negativity.
I have recently been able to change my diet and start eating things that were off-limits for close to ten years due to Crohn’s disease. I am on a monthly regime of infusion medicine that has allowed my GI tract to heal and food is no longer making me sick. At first, it was a wonderful development to be able to eat unrestricted again, but after a couple of weeks, I started to freak out. I felt out of control with food again. I started to gain weight and those old diet thoughts and behaviors came back with a vengeance.
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I felt so many things at once, and it was making me dizzy trying to sort it all out. I have embraced Intuitive Eating for the last two years and know that any kind of “food plan” is really just code for diet and leads me quickly back to a dysfunctional space. Yet, I kept feeling the need to weigh myself, count calories, try new eating “lifestyle” changes and get my body under control. I have been scrutinizing my body at every trip to a mirror, every trip to the closet and with every bite.
I knew I needed to talk to someone reasonable who is also on this journey. My therapist kindly normalized that I have not gone backwards, I am just growing. Radical self acceptance is not a battle we ever really win, unfortunately and sometimes we just need to breathe and offer ourselves and our bodies some compassion. She advised me to listen to my body and move through this change with grace and an open heart. We both decided that when body image stuff comes up for me, it is a clue that other parts of my life are feeling out of sorts.
When I am attempting to quell my inner critic and move away from body control and restriction, choosing compassion helps steer me away from body shame.
We all have parts of our bodies that make us uncomfortable. Even Body Positive Warriors that we look up to on Instagram and in books, have days when they struggle with certain parts of themselves. Hell, when we are really in the weeds with body image, sometimes it is hard to find the parts that don’t make up uncomfortable.
When I was starting this journey, social media was a huge help in finding other bodies that looked different than the ideal body the media usually shows us. I found bloggers and plus size fashion enthusiasts. I found gorgeous art and stunning photography of bigger, and different abled bodies. I looked specifically at images of bellies in an effort to see mine with kindness.
This was a huge step in my recovery and something I want to delve into again, now that I have come to a place of struggle again. I am also going to take it further and take pictures of myself and the parts that are still causing me discomfort to help find that compassion and acceptance again.
Sometimes the easiest thing we can do to find acceptance is to find areas for adjustment. Jessamyn Stanley, the author of Every Body Yoga posted recently about how adjustment in her body during different yoga poses has made a huge impact in accepting a body part she has struggled with.
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Jessamyn states that she has been opening her thighs wider in certain poses to accommodate for her stomach. She has found that making this adjustment has allowed for a deeper connection in her practice and a way to embrace herself in acceptance by finding, “alignment that feels picture perfect” in her body. She reiterates this by saying, “I wouldn’t have gotten to this good shit without accepting my stomach as a legit part of my body. Instead of treating it as an unwanted guest.”
This is a perfect reminder that learning to treat the body parts that make us feel uncomfortable with compassion, allows for a new and often better experience. It takes so much energy to shame ourselves and be unkind, but when it is the norm, we don’t think twice about it. We can deal with the parts that are hard with kindness and adjustment.
Sometimes when we feel uncomfortable about our bodies and various parts, love and acceptance are too far out of reach. Jes Baker blogs about this at The Militant Baker and in her book Landwhale. She discusses how sometimes love is too much to ask when we live in a society that constantly bombards us with negativity. Sometimes we feel like we are failing at body positivity too.
She has found that the concept of “body liberation” offers more freedom. As she says, “liberation is freedom from all outside expectations, even our own. Liberation is not having to love your body all the time. Liberation is personally giving ourselves permission to live life”.
Self acceptance, love and liberation are all radical concepts in a world that constantly tells us we should feel bad and shameful about our bodies. We can combat those messages and the ones we find we tell ourselves with compassion and grace. We can find exposure and community so we don’t feel alone in the fight. We can find peace without shame. There are days that will be hard, but it is worth it to keep working on it because if I can find peace with the parts that are uncomfortable, other people can too.
[Featured Image: A photo of a person looking directly into the camera. They have long, brown hair and are wearing a white sweater. Their hands are loosely clasped in front of them. Behind them is a blurry window. Source: pexels.com]