How can I like my body if I hate it?
I wish I had a nickel for every time a well-meaning therapist suggested I stop seeing my body as the enemy. They said it was possible…that I could even come to like my body. They tried to convince me that if I stopped hating my body I’d be more willing to take better care of it. But back then, I just couldn’t get there from where I was…because I felt like my body had betrayed me. I blamed my body for everything that went wrong in my life.
How could I like my body if I hated it?
I was taught to hate my body very early in my life. My mother was constantly putting me on a diet and trying to get me to wear clothes she said would make me look “slimmer”. Those, of course, were not the cute Danskin clothes all my friends were wearing. My grandfather regularly tried to motivate me to lose weight by offering $1.00 per pound lost. I hated being around him, never knowing when the next shaming bribe or bet would be proposed.
My pediatrician put me on diet pills at age 8 (urged to do so by my mother). In elementary school my brother regularly called me “Tubs”, in public. When I was in junior high and high school he got all of his friends to call me “Ray”, after Ray Nitschke, a middle linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. (As I write this, I can still feel the hurt, shame, helplessness I felt back then… my thoughts and feelings jump right back to being a defenseless kid.)
I also remember the time in elementary school when I saw the school nurse rolling her eyes as she weighed me and called out my weight to the teacher who was recording everyone’s height and weight on a clipboard–all done in front of my whole class. (It makes me so sad and angry that, in the name of “health”, the First Lady’s anti-childhood obesity initiative is being used by uninformed educators to bring back the travesty of school weigh-ins. Instead of focusing on weight, why can’t we instead focus on helping all children eat more healthfully–without singling out fat kids who are already singled out? There are a lot of poorly nourished thin kids, too! Is Michelle Obama’s campaign effectively communicating the need for healthy eating, no matter what a child weighs? Or is the message that’s being received by our fat-phobic culture this, “We need to “eliminate obese children”? Read what the Academy for Eating Disorders Guidelines for Childhood Obesity Prevention Programs.)
How could I like my body if I hated it?
Many of us have had trouble wrapping our minds around this concept. The question makes our heads spin.
This past Friday afternoon I moderated a phone meeting with twenty two other “Health at Every Size” practitioners in the wellness, psychotherapy, and dietetics fields. We discussed the immense pain people experience when struggling with that question. “Tragic and universal” were the words one psychotherapist used to descibe how often she hears clients, of all shapes and sizes, say they see no way out of hating their body. Then, Dr. Deb Burgard, a Los Altos, California Psychologist, HAES pioneer and tireless advocate, and Circle Contributor, suggested that hating our bodies is a fundamental error in thinking.
She said we erroneously blame our bodies for all the terrible things other people have said to us about our bodies. We’ve been taught to believe that it’s not the people who made the comments who have done anything wrong. Instead, it’s our bodies that must be wrong…and to blame…because it’s our bodies that have caused the people in our lives to treat us badly. It’s as if we’re blaming our bodies for all those rude and terrible things people who are “weightists” say and do. (“Weightism” is prejudice or discrimination against people based on weight.)
Today, you get to stop blaming your body. You can take your power back. You can apologize to your body for blaming it! You get to forgive your body. It didn’t do anything wrong!
Then you can begin to treat your body well. Give your body loving attention and care and your relationship with it will get better and better! Dr. Burgard says begin to treat your body well and you’ll experience “a huge boost of good will”. Good will toward your body is likely to promote more self-care, more good will, and more self-care…
Ellen Shuman is a Life Coach who specializes in emotional and binge eating issues. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Eating Disorder Treatment, Vice President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), and Co-Chair of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, email@example.com