Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Ragen Chastain of Dances With Fat and IronFat. She was visiting a nearby city as a presenter for the Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association conference, and gave a couple other presentations while she was in town. I attended a small lunch gathering where she gave a talk and we got to hang out and chat.
During her talk, a couple concepts really spoke to me.
One thing that really spoke to me is when she said how, though many people find it helpful to think of their mind, body and spirit all as one, she personally finds it very helpful to think of her body as her friend. When she started on her path to loving her body, she realized that she would likely get in a fist fight if anyone said the things about her friends that she routinely said about her body.
I also have a bit of trouble relating to the whole “mind/body/spirit as one” thing, and don’t find it particularly helpful. Here is some imagery that I HAVE found helpful in my own body love journey.
I find it helpful to aim to care for my body the way I want to care for my child.
I don’t want to punish or shame my child or withhold something he needs. I want to meet his needs (and help him meet his own needs) as much as I can. This perspective has helped me care for my body as well.
Can I expect to be a perfect parent? Of course not. Can I expect to be a perfect caregiver for my body? Of course not. Can I possibly practice all the conflicting information out there about the best way to care for my body? Of course not. Just like parents can’t either. I can only try my best to be as consistent as possible, using the knowledge and resources available to me.
Nobody is obligated to prioritize their health (whatever that means to them). One of the reasons I choose to do so, however, is that I like how it feels to live in my body when it feels healthy. Lately, I feel so alive and well. You know that peaceful feeling you feel when you walk into a room that is uncluttered, quiet, full of natural light and cozy places to sit, and maybe some plants? When I feel healthy, I feel like my body is a really nice place to live and hang out. A cozy sanctuary, if you will.
And when I feel physically great in my body, I find it difficult to feel negativity towards my body because I would prefer certain parts of it looked different. Nitpicking the way I look feels so trivial when I feel so physically well.
Which brings me to the second concept that Ragen discussed that stood out to me: body neutrality. For people who currently hate their bodies, body positivity may feel like too large a jump. Learning to feel neutral towards their bodies may be the next logical step. For Ragen, at the beginning of her body love journey, she began by replacing every negative thought about her body with a positive one, even if it was something like “great job keeping me alive today by breathing.” For me, I am starting to get to the point where the “damn I feel great today” voices are louder than the “I don’t like the extra fat on waist and neck” voices. The latter voices are starting to sound silly; empty, even.
Last summer I wrote a post called “Motivation: I’m Not Sure Why I’m Doing This.” I wrote pretty much the same thing – that I didn’t love the way my body looks, but by practicing certain habits, I could love the way my body feels, and appreciate my body in that sense, if not with my eyes. The same holds true today: my body feels great. Even better than it did last summer; I feel like I got 10 years back when I got my CPAP machine. Yesterday, as my body was able to do more movement without getting tired than I had done in years, I kept thinking how well I felt, and how “my body feels like a really nice place to live right now. And I even like the way most of it looks.” The few things I would change seemed so insignificant. As it should be.
So, I find thinking of my body as a cozy sanctuary to be helpful to me. I do things that make me feel happy to live here.
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