Over the past year my body has changed. A fairly considerable amount.
It happened over about a 6-10 month period without major changes to my lifestyle.
What felt like “all of the sudden,” my clothes weren’t fitting. So I practiced what I preach and bought clothes that fit. Because my body has permission to change. Showing my body respect means I wear clothing that fits and doesn’t constrain me.
I also noticed I was having some difficulty seeing my body with a neutral lens. When I saw my reflection I didn’t quite recognize her. And that little voice in my head (aka the inner mean girl), she was back and cattier than ever.
So I got to work.
I used the tools in my toolkit to turn the volume down on the inner critic. It helped, but she was fiesty. So I connected with a coach and I began to explore what old patterns were preventing me from viewing my body with a neutral lens.
Yes, even coaches need coaches because we’re humans first, coaches second.
And S-L-O-W-L-Y I’m starting to hear the shift. But it’s taking time. And work. And frankly, I’m still in it. Which is kind of my point in this blog. That and a few more.
Bodies change. It’s primarily because we live in a culture that believes that our bodies should remain static like a plastic doll that so many of us have issues with this. But there are some more key messages I hope I can share from my most recent experience navigating this change, because I have a hunch I’m not the only one who’s ever struggled here, because like I said, human first.
My big take-aways:
Body acceptance and neutrality is a practice (not a light switch).
You might think, isn’t she a coach who helps people with finding body neutrality and acceptance? OR, isn’t she the “love the skin you’re in” girl?! Yup. I am.
And I’m also the first person to tell you that this work is not a light switch – it’s an ongoing practice. No one is immune to experiencing the waves of body disruption that come when we live in Diet Culture.
The messages that our bodies must adhere to a specific aesthetic (or be judged, criticized and nit picked apart) are everywhere. And if you’re like many people (myself included) those engrained beliefs about your body are hard wired in your mind. I’ve personally had this story about my body (that it wasn’t ok) since I was 5. So regardless of how much work you’ve done, every once in a while you’re going to feel your boat get rocked.
The trick is to be able to notice your boat got rocked, and find your anchor to steady and stay your ground.
Body acceptance isn’t contingent (it’s a continuum).
I realize now that the degree of “body neutrality” I thought I had, wasn’t quite as “neutral” as I believed. It was actually pretty conditional. And true body neutrality – it’s not conditional.
Only now can I see how I was still sitting in judgement of my body. I was cool with it…as it was.
But this latest change highlighted how insidious and nefarious body bias and judgement can be. They’re sly and hide in the shadows, only to be seen when you get really intentional and shine a floodlight on them.
Or in my case when a floodlight was shone on them for me (thanks body).
This body image disruption has been challenging and uncomfortable, but it’s helped me to see some biases and beliefs that I might not have otherwise uncovered. And I’m grateful for that.
It’s also reminded me that body neutrality lives on a continuum. This reconciliation has allowed me to deepen my understanding around body neutrality and what being truly body liberated means (to me).
I often reference the concept of a continuum when it comes to your relationship with your body. And where we land on this continuum from body hatred/ disgust through to body acceptance, appreciation and even celebration. Where we land on this continuum shifts moment to moment, day do day and year to year in response to how we are engaging with our environment (people, places and things). These shifts along the continuum can be towards acceptance, appreciation and celebration or towards disgust and hatred.
The “trick” is to recognize the momentary shifts for what they are – momentary shifts. And not get “stuck” believing that’s it. You’re “stuck” there. And to develop a tool kit to deal with those moments of body image disruption so you can move past. At the end of the day it’s about being resilient! And…
Acceptance isn’t Complacency
In addition to the work with a coach I also spoke to my doctor. Because when you experience a significant change in your body without major lifestyle changes it’s important to ensure that everything does indeed check out.
Because while I don’t demonize or medicalize weight gain, it can be a symptom of other things going on. And it’s important to ensure those aren’t the case.
So I approached my doctor with a health-first approach. I let her know that I wasn’t looking to demonize or medicalize the weight gain and I wanted to continue with a Health at Every Size® approach. But I also felt it was important to acknowledge that my body had changed significantly, in a relatively short period of time, away from what had previously been a body composition I’d maintained since my body settled into it’s post-pregnancy happy place after my second child (8 years ago).
Here’s the big difference: I didn’t want to treat the weight gain as a problem, but as a potential symptom, and requested that she run the necessary tests to ensure my health was in check.
She responded beautifully and respectfully. We ran a series of tests to ensure all was well, and indeed it was.
Why did I do this (and why am I sharing it)?
Because body acceptance isn’t complacency. If I’d simply ignored my change in weight as a symptom and it was in fact my thyroid or something else, I would have been putting my health and well-being at risk. And ultimately Health at Every Size® is a Health-Centric model.
I want to be healthy. Period. I recognize that the size of my body does not define my health. I do. It’s knowing the metrics that matter (blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose management) are all good and then letting the ones that don’t (like weight) slide for the most part – as long as everything else checks out. Because my mental and spiritual health are also a big piece of the health conversation – and being obsessively focused on my weight, is not good for my mental or spiritual health. Period (and this isn’t just me saying it, there’s science to back that).
Health at Every Size is an empowering way to approach your health and well-being. It leads with health and is weight neutral. And, if you experience any significant change in your body please consider these steps:
- Get curious. Have you made any considerable lifestyle changes? Have you faced considerable stress? Is there a plausible reason for this change in your body composition (without demonizing it)?
- Advocate for weight-neutral medical care. Get the answers you need that aren’t driven from a place of fat phobia.
- Practice Authentic Health. Find the dynamic integration of body attunement and health values that are resonant to you.
- Practice Self-Compassion. When you notice yourself getting sucked into the vortex of diet culture because you’ve gained weight, treat yourself as you would treat a loved one (with kindness and authentic encouragement)
- Get to work (embracing your body). Find the tools and support you need to reclaim non-conditional neutrality.