Principle 8: Respect Your Body
Respecting and appreciating your body are essential parts of being an intuitive eater. People who respect their bodies tend to have more patience for the Intuitive Eating process, allowing them to move forward in their journeys and deepen their exploration of each principle. On the other hand, if you are constantly at war with your body, it can be very difficult to be at peace with yourself and with food, and to let go of weight loss goals and the diet mentality.
So, what does it mean to respect your body? As described in Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach, respecting your body means treating it with dignity and meeting its basic needs. It’s important to note that you don’t have to love or even like all parts of your body in order to respect it.
This principle can be hard to implement, since we are constantly receiving messages from society about how we should look and what “healthy” looks like. And if you’ve spent years hating your body, learning to respect it takes time and effort. However, with the right tools and proper support, it is possible! Let’s explore some ways you can respect yourself and your body:
Wear clothes that feel comfortable on your body. Wearing clothing items that don’t fit well or are uncomfortable can make you hyper-focused on your body and size. Nobody wants to feel that way! Wearing clothing that fits your current body will make it easier for you to respect your body.
Change your body-assessment tools. Get rid of the scale! Remember, the scale is a tool of a dieter. It sabotages your mind and will distract you from becoming intuitive, like we spoke about in principle 1, Reject the Diet Mentality. Even trying on clothing that is too small can be detrimental to the way you view yourself and your body. What about shifting your focus to the way you feel and the progress you’re making toward healing your relationship with food and your body? Assess your energy levels, mood, sleep quality, stress levels, and self-care practices instead. Your weight does not determine your health.
Put an end to body checking. Do you ever compare your body to others’ bodies when you walk into a room or when you’re with a group of friends? Ever ask yourself, “am I the biggest one here?” or “how do I look compared to everyone else?” Or maybe you think to yourself, “I wish I had her body, it’s perfect.” This is called the body-check game and it is a dangerous one to play. It’s impossible to know why a person looks a certain way, and we should not make assumptions. Someone may be silently struggling with an eating disorder or might have recently had a surgery that caused rapid weight loss. We can never judge someone’s body and assume he or she “earned” it. Remember, too, that the person you are envying is probably not happy with his or her body either.
Quit the body bashing. Instead of focusing on the parts of your body that you don’t like, focus on the parts that you do like or at least tolerate. Focusing on your imperfections creates more self-consciousness, which makes it hard to respect your body. Every time you catch yourself speaking badly about your body, replace it with a respectful statement. For example, if you catch yourself saying “my thighs are so fat,” replace it with “I’m lucky I have legs that can move my body.” This can be game changing.
Do kind things for your body. Your body deserves to be touched and taken care of. Some ideas include getting facials or body massages, or rubbing scented lotions and relaxing oils on your body. Doing these things shows that you want to make yourself feel good and that you respect your body.
It’s also important to address beliefs about weight in the discussion of respecting our bodies. Many people are fixated on the number on the scale and believe that if they weigh less, they will be healthier. This is not true. Losing weight does not equate to becoming healthy. Our day-to-day habits, relationship with food and movement, stress management, and many other factors are far more important than the number on the scale. Furthermore, we all have a natural healthy weight that our bodies will maintain if we eat intuitively and have regular physical activity. This weight is determined by genetics and is different for each person’s body. If you have a healthy relationship with food, your body, and exercise, your body will reach its happiest and healthiest weight, even if you disagree with that number at first.
Letting go of the unrealistic expectations of how we should look or what we should weigh is very hard, but incredibly important to do. Learning to respect your body is a process that takes time, but you will get there eventually! And you don’t have to do it alone – getting support from dietitians and therapists who specialize in Intuitive Eating and eating disorders can be very beneficial to your healing journey. Remember to be compassionate toward yourself and trust that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.