Mindful Eating Programs and Training

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Heal Your Relationship with Your Body

Michelle May


The subtitle of our book, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating is A Mindful Eating Program to Heal Your Relationship with Food and Your Body. In this post, I talked about healing your relationship with food. An equally important part of the journey is to heal your relationship with your body.

What you practice, you become

Heal your relationship with your bodyOne of my yoga teachers 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.


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 you are undeserving of the things you deeply desire.

Most important, postponing your life until you reach some arbitrary body size or outward definition of beauty consumes your precious time, energy, and focus. It dismisses your intrinsic self-worth.

How to heal your relationship with your body

If you’ve been practicing self-judgment for a long time, healing your relationship with your body will be a process. Here are seven essential steps you can practice to improve your relationship with your body.

1. Become aware.

Our habits depend on our mindlessness. After all, you can’t change what you’re not aware of.

Without realizing it, you may have a constant inner critic whispering negative or even cruel comments about your body.

When I’m teaching a Mindful Eating class at Arizona State University, one of the students’ homework assignments is to carry around an index card and make a hash mark whenever they become aware of their negative messages. They are often surprised at how often these thoughts come up.

Try it! For the next few days, keep track of how often you think or say negative things about your body.

2. Practice self-acceptance.

You may not love or even like your body. But can you accept your body as it is for this moment? This article will help: How to accept yourself as you are right now.

When you notice yourself comparing, judging, or criticizing your body, gently bring yourself back to self-acceptance.

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: Acceptance is the starting line for change because you care for the things you care about!

Repeat step one and two over and over again, no matter how many times it takes, until that is your habit.

3. Let go of comparison and judgment.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When you compare your body to others, you may be left feeling inadequate and unhappy.

Comparing yourself, especially to Photoshopped versions of the cultural ideal, is bound to leave you feeling less than. I practiced medicine for 16 years and I assure you… bodies come in all shapes, sizes, and variations. I’ve never seen a “perfect” body (whatever that is).

Let me take that one step further. Even when you view your body favorably compared to another, you are still making judgments about the other person’s body.

Catch yourself when you are comparing and judging others for their size, shape, age, etc. Remind yourself that all bodies are acceptable, 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.

After all, your body can hear you!

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, and better yet, challenge it! (Address your internalized weight stigma too!)

6. Get connected.

Your body is giving you a constant stream of information about what it needs. Think of your various physical and emotional sensations as messengers that help you take care of yourself.

For example, your body sends you hunger signals when you need fuel, thirst when you need fluids, and fatigue when you need rest. Even your emotions are giving you clues about what you need! You may need comfort when you feel sad, calm when  you feel stressed, and something to do when you’re bored.

Pause to listen!

7. Live the big, vibrant life you crave today!

What are you waiting for? 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!

Updated from a previously published version.

Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you:

How to Rewire Your Brain to Change Your Habits

Mindful Eating and Weight Loss: Setting the record straight

“I want my body back!” Then stop weight cycling!

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