What’s the point of respecting my natural body size if I’m the only one doing it?
The narrated version of this post is available here.
In the past year, as I’ve been addressing my anxiety more than ever, I’ve ended up in some down moments where I feel exhausted with the feeling that: this is just me. This is how it’s always going to feel to be me. What’s the point of trying to work on my anxiety if I’m wired to be a person who overthinks and worries? But I believe that the point of working on my anxiety is to get to a place where I have more moments of freedom from that struggle. More moments where I’m present and enjoying life more fully and less moments of panic and fear.
It made me think about a question I often get asked, which is, “if no one around me is doing intuitive eating and working to respect their natural body size, what’s the point of doing it?” The point is that this work allows moments, that stretch into days, that stretch into months, where being in your body doesn’t feel awful and feeding your body isn’t distressing. Stretches of time when being in your body is simple. You get to a place where you have freedom from feeling bad about your body and freedom from being confused about how to care for it. You have periods of time when you trust yourself more, and when that happens you compare yourself to others less. You can have these moments even if others around you aren’t practicing intuitive eating. Finding something that helps you live easier in your body can have value for you without you having to convince someone else it has value for them.
But note, it is not possible to get to a more peaceful place with body, if you continue to mistreat it. To experience freedom you have to treat yourself well. A way to do that is by listening to and taking care of your body. Paying attention and respecting to the needs and limits of the body has been something that has drastically improved my body image. I remember times growing up when I’d wake up feeling awful in my body from the moment I opened my eyes. What I did because of that was mistreat my body (i.e. force it into movement I didn’t want to do), when what I really needed was to listen to it and take care of my body instead, not be on autopilot and move into the numbing relief exercise provided. I was giving my body what it didn’t need. I was depleting and exhausting it more (you know, because they say if you don’t like your body then change it) when it needed nurturing and for it’s limits to be respected.
Now one of my favorite ways to listen to and take care of my body is this concept Marci Evans shared once which is, instead of weight management we should be going for nervous system management. The practices I do to regulate my nervous system feel like the most health promoting things I do. Drastically more important to my health than the food I eat. For me these are rarely in-the-moment practices and more overarching, regularly engaged in things, such as: massage, pedicure, facemask while laying on a heating pad with weighted blanket on me, going to therapy, pleasurable movement, and downtime in general that contains minimal child whining. When we exceed the capacity of our nervous system, another way to put this is when our brain gets overstimulated and we’re burnout, our nervous system needs to be reset with something that helps regulate it. I’m so aware of the sensations in my body that things like yoga and massage that force me to slow down and breathe are insanely relief-filled for me. Basically, doing anything else that feels good and respects the limits of your body, your values, your capacity, and the uniqueness of you and what you’ve been through. When you surpass your capacity, that’s when you reach for self regulatory behaviors (be those behaviors health promoting or not). Instead of powering through, noticing where your capacity is and adding things into your life that allow you to reset and stay within your capacity or notice the limits of your capacity so you can work to gain skills to have a greater capacity. I need to step back into my capacity (putting girls in full time school) to be able to grow my capacity. To stay within your embodied self (present, connected) you have to be aware of your capacity so your brain doesn’t get overstimulated and knocked offline. These days, when my brain is overstimulated or burnt out I end up getting very quiet, despondent, and unresponsive. Like that feeling where you’re too exhausted to even cry – I hate that feeling and it’s rare these days as I have a life I like most of the time now. When some end up overstimulated and past their capacity that’s when one may head into ED behaviors to help regulate themselves. The help of a good therapist can be useful here.
When the bulk of everyone we know and love is living in Dietland, it can be hard to choose something else for yourself, but I do still think it’s worth it for the glimpses at and solid stretches of freedom from negative body or food thoughts. I hope you’ll continue to follow along this year as we continue to take care of our bodies well.