WTF is body acceptance anyway?
So I’m a body acceptance health coach. WTF is that?
I coach people in how to unapologetically love their bodies.
We live in a world where thin is queen (and king) Thin is the measure of beauty, success and control. We revere those who are able to ‘forget to eat’, who go to the gym even when they’re really tired and who are able to say no to dessert every time.
If you’re thin, you’ve won at life.
OK, so there’s more to it, but really - society is set up to cheer on those who fit the thin ideal and berate those who don’t measure up. If you’re fat you must be lazy, eat too much and therefore you must go on a diet to become thin. This is diet culture. (Society and diet culture sucks right now, but that’s a whole different topic.) The problem is diet culture fosters a whole mentality which almost everyone is sucked into - it is insidious. It breeds shame and fuels thoughts that we’re not good enough. And it’s everywhere.
Women, in particular, are accustomed to the idea that they should be working on improving their appearance at all times (just think about the language about people who say they’re stopping dieting or dyeing their hair, it’s called ‘letting themselves go’!) This is outrageous!
If you’ve been around here a while then you’ll know that diet culture and the diets associated with them do not work.
So what the fuck do you then? You have to learn to accept the skin you’re in.
Body acceptance means realising that you’re really actually pretty fucking awesome as you are. It means accepting that your body isn’t just here for the gaze of others but actually loads of other incredible things, least of which is keeping you alive! Body acceptance doesn’t mean you have to become a huge narcissist (you’re still human!)
You don’t have to wake up and love every inch of yourself every single day, every single minute - but it means that even when you catch a negative thought about your body (you’re being told all the time repeatedly by the media that you need to change so give yourself a break) you’re able to catch the thought, neutralise it and believe that you are worthy of love.
However, I’m jumping a thousand steps ahead. The road to acceptance is long and hard and often bumpy. When you’re stuck in diet mentality the idea of accepting your body can feel like giving up. Truthfully, it’s actually creating space for a whole new narrative but for many people I work with just getting to a neutral place is a huge success.
Initially, the hardest thing on this path is letting go of whatever ideal body you had in your mind. You can learn to accept that your shape is lovely just as it is. And you can healthy at any size! (Again, this is a whole other topic, but there is now a huge wealth of evidence that shows that weight is not a marker for health) The truth is, if you have to starve and restrict yourself in order to stay at a particular weight then you’re not meant to be that size, bae. Diet culture tells you that you can change your body if only you could ‘be good enough’ and therefore your body isn’t good enough as it is right now. But that is total BS. Dieting and diet culture is based on money and lies.
We all have different weight set points, it’s only the media who thinks we have one.
The reality is that your body is a magical machine and regardless of whatever measure you try your body will have other ideas, and over time it’ll work on overtime to get you back to the size you should be. I help coach the diet culture mentality out of you by showing you just how to love your body just as it is - and how you can be healthy whatever shape you are.
So stage 1 is letting go of any ‘future imagined dream body’. For me, that meant letting go of ever having thin legs. I’ve never had thin legs so there’s very little chance that in the future I’ll magically be able to get any. This stage can be painful. But it’s ok, because this is where you stop telling yourself you’re not good enough.
To get through this stage ask yourself how it feels to think about this body you’re going to have. Whatever feelings come up, just listen. Do you feel sad? Does it feel hard to accept? It’s OK. Feel those feelings - there are no right or wrong answers. Sometimes we have to grief a little the dreams that have been sold to us.
(Side note: it’s normal doing this work that as you move towards more self-compassion that a lot of guilt can come up about how you’ve treated yourself. That’s ok. It’s normal. Just go with it and feel your feelings. Know that the path ahead will become easier because when we stop telling ourselves we need to change, we stop telling ourselves we’re not good enough. Yay!)
I'm there every step of the way to give you small goals to meet on the path to body loving, you’re able to move from neutral thoughts about your body to positive ones - and yup, even to the point where you’ll see just how awesome you really are.
Although this work is hard it’s worth it. It’s the road to releasing yourself from shame, guilt, sadness and feelings of not good enough. When you learn to love your body you’re not giving up.
You’ll discover that feeling good in your skin, feeling full of life and sparkly wellbeing can really only come from a place of loving kindness. And that all those healthful practices (like eating for your body, sleeping, joyful movement, good relationships) have nothing to do with how thin you are.
We are on this planet so little time really, it is such a cruelty to spend it wishing we looked different.
Here are some tips on how to start the journey to body acceptance:
1. Practice gratitude for all the incredible things your body can do. Honestly, read some biology books. Your body is made up of trillions (TRILLIONS) of cells each working on something absolutely amazing like breathing and eating and sleeping and laughing and thinking.
2. Self-compassion. This is a big one. We are all WAY too judgmental on ourselves. When we are kind to ourselves, we soften, we make space for new neural pathways to be made between our brains and our hearts. We can see that we’re doing the best we can do and that our bodies have being doing a pretty great job up to now. Try this. When you catch that inner bitch voice challenge yourself to flip the thought to something positive or something neutral if that’s too hard e.g. ‘my double chin is disgusting’ becomes ‘I have a human chin’
3. Start listening to your hunger/fullness cues. Why is this important? Because diets teach out how to forget to listen to ourselves. The path to acceptance means reconnecting to our bodies. Our bodies really know best if we can listen. Healing our relationship with food is also a big part of body acceptance because we have to accept our natural feelings of when we’re hungry and eating when we need to. (This can be really hard after years of restriction, look up ‘intuitive eating’ as a good place to start which is what I coach my clients on.)
4. Change your visual diet. Stop giving yourself a daily dose of fitspo gym bunnies or skeleton fashion models who are photoshopped to fuck and make you feel bad about yourself. Our brains normalise the images we see and tell us that they’re beautiful… reprogramme what your brain tells you is beautiful by filling your feed with people who are the same size as you or bigger. It’s amazing how powerful this can be in normalising body size.
5. Write down 5 characteristics of someone you love/admire. This is a trick from Martha Beck. She says that the traits you admire in others are just those you’re not recognising in yourself yet. So take a piece of paper and write down 5 things you admire in someone you know e.g. she’s so confident about her body, she wears what she wants, she doesn’t think about what people thinks, she dates whoever she wants without ever feeling like they’re too good for her. THEN FLIP IT TO I STATEMENTS… e.g. I am so confident in my body, I wear what I want, I don’t care what other people think. How does it feel? See if there’s just the smallest of spaces for it to be true. What about putting those statements somewhere only you can see them? Try repeating them for a week and see how you feel.
What happens to your thoughts when you start to send some kind ones to your body? In my experience, your body has been waiting there all along for you to come home.
I feel passionately about this subject because I’ve seen people become alive when they finally accept that their body doesn’t have to be the enemy. You don’t have to be at war with your body for your whole life.
Happiness and freedom await you when you start this path to body acceptance. Our bodies are the only ones we’re going to have, so it’s vital that we learn to treat ourselves kindly. Our brains are malleable - we can flip the switch from loathing to love - we just need to believe we can.
If you would like to book a discovery call to see if body acceptance coaching is for you then fill out the form here and I’ll get back to you.
Love Harri Rose