Accepting your body, as is, with no changes, means moving toward the authentic knowing that your value and self worth are inherent and innate. You were born with all your wonderfulness already inside of you!! So how can you, and all of us, reshape our impressions and beliefs about our body that we took on because of diet culture?
First, it’s understanding that body acceptance is not connected to your body, size, weight, shape, or appearance in any other way. It’s a wiggle waggle into the deep recesses of your heart, that place in you that knows what’s real, right, and true – for you. And, another deep dive into the lodged and rutted beliefs we hold in our minds about ourselves.
We experience our body image in four different ways.
- Have you ever felt you look really good then catch a glimpse in a store front window and it all negatively changes when you see your reflection?Perceptual body image is how you see your body. When how we see our body is not aligned with how we think we look, it creates an inaccurate representation of how we really look.
- Affective body image is the way parts of you feel about your body and relates to the amount of emotions and feelings about size, shape, weight and individual body parts we carry. Humans have been biologically diverse for centuries and have a naturally wide variety in height, weight and body compositions. What some call an “ideal” body may not be the body we inhabit therefore leading to a cascade of condescending and negative internal thoughts – sometimes we externalize those and blame and shame others to alleviate our own inner blame and shame.
- Cognitive body image is the way parts of you think about your body and other bodies. It’s our thoughts, beliefs, preoccupations and/or assumptions about body shape and weight. Many of us carry parts holding internalized weight stigma and fat-shaming parts. Others are on the other side of body liberation, fat acceptance and body neutrality. Some of us can see both sides. Either way, we feel the cognitive pull of self-deprecating thoughts against body positivity – parts of us in that tug of war we’re so accustomed to.
- Behavioral body image describes the things you do in relation to how you look, behaviors you engage in as a result of your body image. When we are dissatisfied with the way we look, we may isolate or engage in unhealthy or disordered behaviors as a way to change how we look. Your manager parts may start a diet or exercise plan to compensate for eating, or parts may body check in mirrors or pinch your body to check for fatness.
To begin to liberate ourselves from these positions of negativity about our body, we must address the parts of us holding these thoughts, beliefs and damaging opinions. To reshape their view of our body into a holistic model, including all of our lived experiences, not just our body size or weight. We reject old narratives our parts, who are sold on the idea we need to do something in order to be fixed, tell us that smaller is better and thinner is more popular, that we’ll be more valuable, worthy and lovable….That we’ll get the job, the guy/gal, mortgage, social status, grades, whatever we’re aiming for and missing the mark on if only…….we were thinner. If only we were smaller. Straight-sized.
No! Let’s stop this now.
And take on an anti-fat attitude.
Socialized narratives around body size, worth, value and health have created fear and distress over our changing or larger body….we must challenge these beliefs to shift our body image. We’ve relied on external toxic messages from the weight loss industry that makes billions of dollars off our body shame. This is the time to say No! We’re not giving in to the idea that there’s something wrong with us.
Yet, not dieting, buying into Work Out World plans, can leave us feeling outcast. We should at least try, right? No, what we can do is take time to grieve. Grieve the loss of the idea of the body our parts want us to have. Grieve for the dieting parts, bingeing parts, restrictive parts – that they have lost what helps them feel safe. Grieve the loss of the safety net of a diet, of being able to not be “other,” i.e., not dieting is not cool if you’re in a fat body. Grieve letting go of the taloned belief we have to change to be accepted.
Aim for freedom, liberation, more space to think about other things.
Eat for well-being. Discover foods that open you to feeling your best.
Promote flexible, individualized eating based on your hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on controlling your weight. Open up to what brings you pleasure yet also nourishes your body in the way that feels just right. All food is meant to taste good and please our palettes. When we make choices that bring us pleasure, we are so much more likely to continue that.