The body has been made so problematic… that it has often seemed easier to shrug it off and travel as a disembodied spirit.Read More
1. Clear your closet of anything that doesn’t fit.
Do NOT save clothes for “when I lose the weight/baby weight.” If you lose weight, you can buy new clothes. If you gain weight, you can buy new clothes. Permission to buy clothes. But please do not save clothes that no longer fit as a way of idealizing a former or future you. This is telling yourself that you were more valuable, worthy, happy, at another time than right now. Please challenge that. You are allowed to be valuable, worthy and happy now. You ARE worthy and valuable right now.
2. Engage in activities that take care of your body.
Your body is uniquely designed to give you information about when it feels comfortable or uncomfortable. Your body gives you cues about when it feels hungry, full, tired, rested, stressed, ache-y, energetic, or in pain. Listen to those cues instead of judging them and/or trying to make them go away. (There are so many ways to try and make your body’s cures “go away.” Maybe you have tried some of them?) Your body’s cues will not go away. They always come back. They are there to let you know what you need. Try and cultivate a relationship with your body as a mom cultivates a relationship with her new baby. Moms need to learn their baby’s unique cues that they are hungry. Each baby has their own unique cry, body movement, and/or expression that says:
“I’m hungry! Feed me!”
Each baby also has their own unique cues that they are satiated. Try to listen to your body as if you are a kind mother tending to it, instead of telling it to Go away. Listen to what kind of exercise, sleep, and food make you feel comfortable in your body (and what kinds don’t). If you are new to this practice, it is ok to get support. I encourage you to seek this out: consult and collaborate with a therapist, nutritionist, and/or support group as you are re-learning to “be a good mom” to your body.
3. Write a letter of apology
In my own - and countless clients I have worked with – experience, it is so much more effective to love your body and yourself, as you are than try to change it in order to learn to love it. If you have been mean to a specific part of your body (sucking in your stomach counts as mean, calling yourself “disgusting” definitely counts as mean, restricting yourself of food counts as mean, stuffing your belly until you feel sick counts as mean, not allowing yourself to wear certain kinds of clothes that you like because they show certain body parts counts as mean), you can write a letter to that part of your body. Here is an example of a Belly apology letter:
For so many years, disgust for you has filled my world. And crushed my spirit. All my self-loathing, anger, fear and shame were stuffed into you. I’m sorry.
Belly, I’m sorry that there are so many images in the world that don’t look like you. I know those images make you feel unloved, disgusting, flabby. I’m sorry those images make you feel wrong.
Those images tell you all kinds of crazy sh*t: Be smaller! Be flatter! Do this to be loved! Be big and full of yourself until age seven and then be flat and hungry. But don't feel hungry! Just look thin! Don’t get angry! Hide your intuition. Don’t listen to it. Be attractive by not being yourself! Don’t get stretched. If you get stretched, get sucked and stitched back in.
I just want you to know, Belly, they’re wrong, those messages. Contrary to what the images tell you, there is nothing wrong with you. Let me say it again as you have received those other brutal messages so many times:
Belly, there is nothing wrong with you.
You can be yourself now, Belly. I’m here with you and I will be your advocate. You are allowed to sag. You are allowed to be your full Self, and I mean that literally. You can be authentic, embodied, unapologetic. Bellies are allowed (and supposed to) be round and full. I’m proud of your stretch marks, Belly. I’m proud of the way your belly button has been changed by birth. Belly, you can wear whatever the F*ck you want.
Which leads to…
4. Dress for your body.
By this I do NOT mean go get your body shape analyzed for “what looks good on a pear, watermelon, or banana shaped body.” You are not a fruit. And fruits do not feel ashamed of their shapes or try to be something they are not. Wear what makes you happy. I’m going to repeat that for emphasis, not because you are stupid, but because you live in a culture that has indoctrinated you with messages to the contrary. Wear what makes you feel happy, comfortable, at ease in your own skin. Treat yourself as you would your child. If your child didn’t want to wear something because it is “too scratchy, too tight, or too loose,” you would probably say “OK, don’t wear that!” Wear what makes you feel like you! There is a (body positive) meme going around on social media that says this:
How to dress for your shape:
Are you human shaped? Play up your confidence and natural sex appeal by wearing whatever the fuck you want.
As the weather gets warmer:
Continue to wear whatever the fuck you want. Flaunt everything or keep it cool undercover. Dress to make yourself feel good.
How to get a bikini body:
Put a bikini on your body (unless you don’t want to, then don’t. There’s still nothing wrong with your body).
5. Do something that your negative body image told you that you can’t do.
If you have been waiting to do something until you are a different size or shape, do that thing. Salsa dance. Wear a bathing suit. Date. Apply for a promotion. Take a yoga class. Having a sexy night with your partner. Wear a sleeveless shirt. Run for election. (Do you like how I slipped a feminist agenda in here? Because here’s a secret: it isn’t actually about your body. As women stop hating their bodies, the world changes for the better. Be a part of this betterment.) DO THE THING. You cannot think your way into right acting. You must act your way into right thinking. The best way to challenge the body image critic is to take opposite action. Repeatedly. You may not suddenly love your arms the first time you wear a sleeveless shirt. You probably won’t love your belly just after having a baby (or maybe you will! If you do, continue!) If you repeatedly take action on acting-as-if you are worthy and able to do the scary thing, it becomes less scary. And you start to trust that your body is fine – or good enough - right now. Before you rule this out, try. Try it out with your own experience. In the famous words of Eleanor Roosevelt:
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
If you feel like you need more support on your journey to body acceptance, please feel free to contact me. I would be honored to travel with you on the journey. Although this list may sound simple, I know the journey to body acceptance is not easy. It can often take much longer than you would like. Don’t quit before the miracle.
When I work with clients recovering from eating disorders, part of the work is identifying and challenging the voice of the Eating Disorder (sometimes called “ED”). And then the work is to develop a new “Recovery voice,” one that has rainbow (instead of black and white) thinking.
This “Recovery voice” is both compassionate and fierce. It can call your eating disorder on its shit and have compassion for the part of you that is struggling.
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