Did your body come with an operating manual? Neither did mine.
We exist in a body yet are taught very little about how to best live there. Because of this we are often unable to understand our body’s symptoms of distress. We lack respect for its limitations. And we have shame over its physical presence.
The predictable result is dysfunctional eating and body image, inadequate self-care, and difficulty experiencing emotion without food.
I started the Body Club guidelines to remind myself of how to best live in my body. With the Body Club “rules” in my pocket I’m able to stand strong in the face of harmful diet culture. I hope they will help you too.
Like Fight Club, the first “rule” of body club is to not talk about your body or other bodies. The goal is to interrupt obsession and judgment and turn your attention to more interesting things.
The second “rule” is that you do need one trusted friend, coach, or counselor with whom you can share your body vulnerabilities.
The third “rule” is to value your body for what it does, not how it looks. In the words of Dr. Lindsay Kite, your body is an “instrument not an ornament.”
The forth “rule” is that your body is exclusively for you and doesn’t owe anything to others or the world. Not beauty, thinness, youth, or sexuality.
The fifth “rule” is to always show your body kindness. Kindness is where healing starts. And kindness is the answer to our confusion and overwhelm around food. You can never go wrong by choosing the kindest option.
This is close, but a bit different, from my sixth “rule” which is to respect your body.
Bodies need to feel safe and protected. They need to know they will be listened to. Just like any partner, your body will respond favorably to this appreciation.
Stress physiology is triggered when the body doesn’t feel safe. Your body prepares for fight or flight by shutting down all functions not essential to immediate survival. Without safety we can’t optimally digest, repair, or rebuild immunity. Our ability to access creative problem solving or willpower is impaired. And eventually our energy is depleted.
Stress physiology also impairs our ability to let go of excess weight. And dieting adds to the problem. Confusion over food choices, hunger, or emotional deprivation all put your body into stress.
Every time you meet your body’s needs physically and emotionally you create a relationship of safety. Your body learns that it can relax because you can be counted on to provide food and nutrition, rest, and pleasure. Without the specter of another famine around the corner in the form of a new diet, your body can begin to feel safe. And it’s this safety that will reduce the need for using food for emotional comfort, the need for pain or digestive distress, the need to reduce energy and metabolism, or the need for fat as a form of protection.
Many good things come from respecting your body.
I’d love to get to know you better. To get on my schedule for an informal talk with no agenda other than understanding your struggles and helping you get unstuck click here. If you need other times, use the contact form linked below.
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This week I’m reading “I’m Like So Fat!” Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices about Eating and Exercise in a Weight-Obsessed World by Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D. Dr. Neumark-Sztainer is one of the leading researchers on disordered eating in adolescence, and is also a parent of three. Her book is a good dose of practical advice for steering your teens in the right direction with food and body.
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