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What Does It Mean To Respect Your Body?
To respect your body means creating a relationship with it. We are learning to respect that the body has knowledge and wisdom to offer us.
The body is simultaneously learning from us that it can trust us to nourish it both emotionally and physically (via food, exercise and other forms of nourishment).
At its core body respect is a combination of factors including
- Our emotional connection with our bodies
- Our comfort level in taking up physical space
- The ability to speak and behave with compassion towards our bodies
- Trusting our body’s wisdom to undergo changes that keep us safe
When it comes to learning to respect your body- the entire world will likely give you their two cents on how it MUST be done.
It’s important to note that some of the messages we receive about respecting the body are actually rooted in diet culture, and can in be toxic in forming a trusting relationship with your body.
In this article, we’ll explore new ways to form body respect as well as how to ditch the messages from the diet world that can harm the trust we have with our bodies.
Clever Ways To Respect Your Body
If you’re like most people in western culture, body respect can be tough. We’ve received messages for years about how our bodies are deficient and constantly missing the mark.
On the flip side, there’s always some off-the-wall bumper sticker that screams “love your body” or “you’re beautiful” that seem to really just make the messages all the more muddled.
What does it all really mean?
Let’s explore some less abstract ways to begin to respect your body.
- Refer to your body as She/Her, He/Him, or They/Them rather than “it”
Too often your body becomes “the container you walk around in that holds your brain in place”
But that’s not what it is at all!
Did you know that your body is actually
- A complex microbiome system
- A communication pathway between your brain, your gut, and every organ and cell you own!
- A sensory system for emotional regulation
- The product of millions of years of evolution and adaptation
- A place of interaction between you and the world
There is so much more to your body than even all of this! Our bodies offer energy to
the universe in addition to all of the wonderful contributions our mind has to offer.
- Consider your body a partner
Because your body actually IS your partner. In reality- it’s the most intimate partner you’ll have for the rest of your life.
You can behave in a way towards your body that shows it we are a partner we care about by:
- Not unloading accumulated problems onto it
- Remembering the good things
- Practicing consent (for relationships you want to have, what you want to do)
- Acknowledge your partner’s view (how does your body feel about this?)
- Express your needs and feelings
- Validate your partner’s feelings
- Don’t try to change/fix it
- Pause when you are triggered
- Identify underlying issues instead of taking them out on your partner
We can learn a lot about how to have a respectful relationship with our bodies by
thinking of all the ways we can thrive in a respectful relationship with another human.
As you might notice, many of the ways I’ve outlined above in having a healthy relationship with your body translate to human relationships as well!
- Bring your body into intimate moments with you
Intimate moments can mean a lot of things including:
- Take photos with your kids, family, and friends who are dying to have you show up.
- Showing up fully during sex or other intimate encounters
- Allowing your body to be touched without resistance during a massage, pedicure or other self-care regimen. You may even consider allowing your body to take healthy risks such as opting for an abdomen or breast massage.
When we bring our bodies into intimate moments- we are truly allowing ourselves and
our bodies to be shared with the world without reservations.
While this can certainly feel scary, especially if we’re at the beginning of our body trust
journey, it can enrich our relationships in so many ways. This includes our relationship
with our own bodies and how we show up in them.
- Stop viewing your body as a “vessel.”
Vessels are disposable. They are intended to carry “quality goods.”
Your body is a piece of your identity. It moves along with you as part of every lived experience. It is not disposable or something that can be separate from its contents!
- Buy your body clothes that fit and make it feel good
I don’t know what it is about clothing sizes- but it seems they have the incredible superpower of making just about everyone feel like shit.
When we realize we’ve outgrown our favorite pair of jeans or no longer can purchase the size we are accustomed to- it can feel like a bit of an identity crisis.
People often associate outgrowing clothing as:
- A sign of failure
- An Identity shift
- Inability to engage in our favorite social functions
We grasp onto the physical forms of our former identity like its the last piece of our self
worth in the world.
You’re probably even creating stories in your mind about the exercise routine or the food frestriction that will help you reclaim that piece of your soul labeled with a certain size… whatever that size is.
But what if we just… didn’t do that. What if we just… bought new jeans *gasp*. What if we stopped letting these outdated stories take up space in your life?
Buying clothes that fit is a HUGE form of body respect. It allows us to:
- Walk, run and play comfortably.
- Not feel a continuous desire to restrict because we feel we are constantly falling short of an expectation
- Express ourselves through design
Remember- clothes were designed to fit US not the other way around.
- Be Intentional about the Media You Ingest
Is there media that you see that feels like it’s SPECIFICALLY targeting YOUR body! Write down the messages you THINK you are being asked of you to take away. This can give some STEEP insight into whether the continent your ingesting is serving you, or toxic.
If you’re not seeing yourself represented in the media you’re ingesting, it might be time to make a change.
- Following more HAES content
- Following more influencers in the same size body or larger than you
- Taking a rest from social media
- Use a VPN so there are fewer targeted ads toward you
- Deleting diet culture adds on your devices such as tracking apps or fitness apps
- Verbally acknowledge you don’t have power over body shame messages. Then list out ways to take your power back.
Your body is not a place of public domain and authority. Yet people will decide they know what is best for your body, decide how it ought to look in the world and how you should show up.
The unfortunate reality is- you will never stop receiving body-shaming messages. It does not matter what size of the body you’re in, what your fitness routine looks like, or how well you fit the status quo.
Diet culture is designed to keep us feeling like we’re lacking.
Instead- you have to make a conscious decision to dismiss these never-ending body-shaming messages. Recognize that they are out of your control- and that the stories do not in fact belong to you.
These stories created by other people about YOUR body do not define you.
- Understand that loving your INHERENTLY means we don’t always LIKE it.
The love we have for our body must be unconditional love. A love we have that’s similar to that we have for a child, lover, or parent.
When we love a child, we expect it to grow, change and evolve every several months both physically an emotionally.
While we don’t like every decision and change a child goes through- our love is unrelenting. The same should be true for our bodies.
If we attach our compassion to our body to a stagnant “love” we will always lose. We’ll become attached to the way our body looks and behaves in a certain space and time.
- Reclaim words like fat, thin, higher and lower body weight, and heavier and lighter to Describe Your Body
Descriptive words have no intrinsic value. We have to stop attaching shame, guilt and decreased worth to words like fat, higher body weight and heavier.
Use descriptive words about the size the same way you would hair color, freckles, and height. Over time, this can help decrease the negative feelings you have about simple words that have too often held a negative cultural stigma.
- Be comfortable with not understanding everything
Not even the greatest scientists understand all of the body’s processes. Embrace the mystery and let your body hold its own wisdom.
Let it share that wisdom with you by honoring the signals it sends to you. These might include signals about hunger, fullness, stress, fatigue, emotions, and more. They are all valid and a part of who we are.
- Commit to taking up 1% more space In your life
So often we play small because we are ashamed by the size of our bodies. We aim to
make others comfortable and not disrupt.
Reclaim your space by:
- Showing up in comfortable attire you enjoy
- Making yourself present in social situations
- Showing off your gifts and talents to the world
- Taking risks you have been waiting to take until you were in a smaller size.
You don’t have to start all at once. Just start out taking up 1% more space. Introduce yourself to a new friend or post a raw, unedited photo of yourself on social media.
You deserve to show the world what you have to offer. Others deserve to be the recipients of the talents you’ve been playing small with.
- Allow positive and negative thoughts to exist together at the same time
When we’re first starting to respect and explore our bodies it can feel really unfamiliar. Instead of trying to simply ignore a negative thought that comes up, how about simply adding in a positive one.
I recommend using AND statements instead of BUT statements. For example, here are some common negative thoughts that might come up as we’re working on body respect.
- I hate my stretch marks. They’re so gross.
- My belly has too much fat
Here are some ways to add in “and” statements
- I hate my stretch marks. They’re so gross. And I recognize they’re a miraculous result of my body adapting and taking care of me. This allows my body to carry me through this world.
- My belly has too much fat and I recognize when I put on my favorite new pair of shorts I am comfortable and I have a stunning shape.
- Explore the changes in your body with the curiosity of an Infant
When I first had my daughter, I loathed every little change. Stretch marks were the ultimate symbol of distress for me.
As I have learned to trust and explore my body, I can honestly say my stretch marks are one of my favorite things. I spend a few minutes each day just running my fingers over the little divets and appreciating their creativity.
As soon as I stopped loathing my stretch marks, I realized that they actually feel really freaking cool! And no two patterns are alike. This made me feel unique, a trait I always prided myself on.
Other ways to explore your body with curiosity are to
- Notice the tension and sensation changes in different areas of your body objectively
- Examine the lines on your hands and their patterns
Practice just observing your body parts with curiosity.
Jinan Banna, PhD, RD reminds us to appreciate everything your body allows you to do. Practice feeling gratitude when you go on a walk and note how your legs are supporting you.
- Set A Routine For Body Care Routines You Don’t Normally Do
Believe it or not, there are a lot of ways you’re already respecting your body we can really embrace and expand on.
‘Think about the times when you respect your body by:
- Shielding your eyes from the bright sun with a hand or sunglasses
- Propping your feet up at the end of a day wearing high heels
- When you use anti-itching ointment on the super pesky bug bite you acquired.
Think about how good your body feels when you do these things for it! The problem is, so often we neglect our body until we have an irritation that simply cannot be ignored!
What if we simply developed a new self-care routine to show our bodies how much we love and respect them? This could be something simple such as:
- Moisturizing your body every day
- Flossing your teeth in addition to brushing if it’s not a routine
- Using sunscreen
- Staying hydrated
- Taking a multi-vitamin
- Practicing joyful movement
Even the physical act of interacting with our body in a new way can remind us we’re actively participating in respecting it.
- Respect That Respecting Your Body Comes With A Learning Curve
Kelly Melanson, RD says “remind yourself that creating respect for your body takes time. It can feel daunting to think of going from self-hatred to self-love. Start with self-tolerance, then work towards acceptance, and then gradually work towards self-love. The path isn’t perfect and it takes time.”
I agree with Kelly wholeheartedly. We didn’t begin in this world loathing our bodies.
Instead, think of a 2-year-old engaging in play. They aren’t thinking of whether their thighs touch or bothered if their shirt rides up.
We’ve learned to loathe our bodies along this ride called life. Thus we have to unlearn it. So take it slow!
Honor Your Body By Respecting It
We will change our world by honoring and respecting what our body has to offer us.
That being said, we don’t always have to like our body. We don’t have to love the way it looks. The goal isn’t to achieve beauty. We can have certain parts of our body we accept more than others.
All of these things are okay.
Chrisine Milmine, RDN suggests you write down affirmations (for example my body is worthy of respect), and actually put them somewhere you can see and repeat them. This is a great way to stay present in our journey.
What are some ways that you’ve learned to respect your body?