Heal Your Relationship with Your Body

By Michelle May, M.D.

In Part 1, I talked about healing your relationship with food. An equally important journey is healing your relationship with your body.

woman stretching on beachYesterday, my yoga teacher said, “Whatever you practice, you get good at. If your habit is to compare, judge, and criticize yourself, then you’ll get better and better at it. You will strengthen your habit.”

What are you practicing? What are the messages you repeat to yourself over and over again? Are they helpful – or hurtful?

We are bombarded with messages telling us we are not thin enough, young enough, rich enough, or good enough. But striving to achieve some external measure of “success” cultivates temporary pride in something that is ultimately unsatisfying.

Buying in to society’s messages leads to distorted, irrational, unrealistic, and painful beliefs and feelings about your body and yourself. Repeating these messages to yourself strengthens them, leading to lowered self-esteem, guilt, shame, and feeling that you are undeserving of the things you deeply desire.

Most important, postponing your life until you reach some arbitrary weight goal or outward definition of beauty consumes your precious time, energy, and focus. It dismisses your intrinsic self-worth. And though you may fear that if you accept yourself the way you are right now, you won’t make changes, I’ve found that the opposite is true. You care for the things you care about.

7 Ways to Practice Self-Acceptance

  1. Become aware. Our habits depend on our mindlessness. When you notice yourself comparing, judging, or criticizing, gently bring yourself back to self-acceptance.
  2. Practice. Repeat step one over and over again, no matter how many times it takes, until that is your habit.
  3. Let go of judgment. Remind yourself that all bodies are beautiful, including yours.
  4. Be your own friend. When your little voice begins to say unkind things, ask, “Would I say these things to a friend?” If you wouldn’t, don’t say them to yourself either. Let me take that one step further. Catch yourself judging other people for their size, shape, age, etc. and practice acceptance and compassion toward them.
  5. Stand-up to weight stigma. Everyone deserves to be fully seen and heard without judgment about their body size. Bias and prejudice are cruel and destructive, not helpful. Don’t participate in the conversation, or better yet, challenge it!
  6. Get connected. Your body is giving you a constant stream of information about what it needs. Pause to listen.
  7. Live the big, vibrant life you crave today! Wear clothes that make you feel great, do things that make you feel brave, and make choices that bring you joy.

Remember, what you practice, you get better at. When you chose to practice self-acceptance, compassion, and kindness toward yourself and others, you’ll cultivate peace, courage, and joy. That’s a habit worth getting good at!

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