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  • Writer's pictureLinda Buchanan

From Change Your Story - Change Your Life

Feel Better About Your Body Without Changing a Thing!

Photo taken at Blue Lagoon, Iceland by Linda Buchanan

Have you heard the phrases “body positivity” or “love your body?” Lofty goals in a society in which thinness is practically deified. As a psychologist who has worked for 30 years with people with eating disorders, I’ve seen countless times what the “thinness ideal” can do to a person‘s self-image. However, it’s not just people with eating disorders who are affected. It’s most of us! Since no one has a perfect body (especially in their own eyes) it may be difficult to think about your body without experiencing ongoing pressure to improve it. We get messages constantly from the media and even friends and family. Sometimes it's well intentioned advice but more subtle pressures come from the pervasive conversations that we engage in with those around us about weight gain or loss and the newest fad diets.

Why don't we get bored by these topics? We are so much more interesting than this! I think it's very related to the type of relationship we have with our bodies. It's as if we think that if we constantly look for ways to change our bodies, we will be more likely to succeed. I'm here to tell you that this rarely produces lasting success and never leads to contentment regardless of our size!

You already survived the awkward physical changes brought about by adolescence and many of you have walked through changes brought about by the miracle of birth. For those of you in mid-life, your body’s asking you to accept yet another phase of changes brought about by middle-age and menopause. Ugh!

What can you do? Well it’s true that there are things about your body that you can’t control but you can control how you react to it. If loving your body seems too high a goal, there is still hope.

The first step is to practice gratitude. When is the last time that you experienced gratitude toward your body? Every living body is doing things for the person living in it. Your body has been through a lot with you and it has earned a measure of gratitude. A starting point is to begin by thinking about your face and all that it allows you to do. Look in the mirror with an open friendly expression on your face. Gently thank your eyes, nose, mouth and ears for things that they have allowed you to do. Then consider other parts of your body and thank them. Be as specific as you can. For instance, thank your arms for enabling you to hug someone recently and your hands for allowing you to hold hands with another person or put lotion on. Continue until you’ve thanked every part of your body that does something for you.

Gratitude is the most life-giving of all emotions. While wishing for something that we don't have is life-draining.

You can test that statement with the following experiment right now. Consider something that you wish were different about your body and notice how you feel and what happens to your energy. Then thank a part of your body for something that it enabled you to do today and notice how you feel and what happens to your energy. Most will feel a very different energy.

As you practice body gratitude, you are likely to find yourself increasing in compassion toward your body. So going forward, talk to your body the way you would talk to a very good old friend. When you see this person, you feel glad to see them. You don’t expect them to be perfect or have a perfect body. What’s important to you is what you’ve been through together and how you’ve been there for each other. Try starting the morning with a friendly greeting to your body such as “It’s good to see you today, thanks for being with me!”

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