What is Your Genetic Blueprint?
Learning to respect your body starts with understanding your genetic blueprint.
Ask yourself a few of these questions: How is my current body a reflection of my genetics? What physical traits have I inherited from my biological family? Are there things about my body that are impossible to change without going to extreme measures?
It’s important to ask these questions so that you can identify what is realistic and what isn’t. Studies suggest that your genes influence anywhere from 30 to 70% of your body weight (1).
So if you notice that most of your family members live in larger bodies and have higher body fat percentages, this is likely going to be true for you too. Or if most of your family members have smaller frames and lower amounts of body fat, this will likely be your body type as well.
Now the question is this: what if you don’t like your genetic blueprint?
The Great Body Image Battle
If you don’t like your body, there’s a chance you may have a hard time respecting it. Your body image can certainly influence how you treat your body.
Think about it. If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, how often do you find yourself “body-bashing” or “fat-shaming” yourself in your head?
Sometimes the internal dialogue we have about our bodies is so deeply ingrained, we hardly recognize that it’s happening.
Thoughts like “I hate my thighs” or “I wish I could get rid of this extra fat around my mid-section” are so automatic that we don’t know how else to think about ourselves. Diet culture and its obsession with thinness are to blame.
But how do you fight negative body image when it seems so pervasive? Is weight loss the only solution? The answer is a resounding NO. Here’s why.
You Can Learn to Respect Your Body
If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I am EXTREMELY passionate about Intuitive Eating! It truly is a revolutionary approach to healthy lifestyle change that kicks diet myths and weight-centric health mantras to the curb!
The 8th principle of Intuitive Eating is to Respect Your Body (2).
Notice that this principle doesn’t necessarily say to love your body. You and I both know that no perfect body exists, and so there will always be something we don’t like about our bodies. Body love is NOT the goal.
According to authors Resch and Tribole, having respect for your body means that you treat it with dignity and meet its basic needs. Simple as that.
However, I want to take it just a tiny step further. Within respecting is an underlying tone of accepting.
To accept your body means you take it as it is, here and now, no matter what state it is in.
This is the beautiful paradox of acceptance: it inspires change! If you are constantly rejecting your body, you may feel too shameful or helpless to do anything healthy for it.
But when you accept your body, it opens the door to possibility.
I dive a lot deeper into what I call biblical body acceptance in my blog post here!
You really can trust God’s design for your unique body, while ALSO finding ways to make it better! Those 2 things are not mutually exclusive, and more importantly, neither of them requires weight loss!
How to Respect Your Body Without Trying to Lose Weight
In order to prove that you really can respect your body in a way that keeps it healthy in a weight-neutral, anti-dieting fashion, I have made a list of 11 ways to treat your body with dignity this summer:
1. Maintain good hygiene.
Everyone’s hygiene practices are different, depending largely on your culture and upbringing, so I won’t go into a lot of detail with this one. You know what keeps your unique body looking and smelling fresh and clean, so make it a regular habit.
It’s easy to let your hygiene go by the wayside when you aren’t a fan of how your body looks and feels, but I encourage you to take an inventory of your body hygiene habits (literally from head to toe) and see what changes could help improve your overall body acceptance.
2. Wear comfortable clothing (and underwear)!
Y’all, this one is SO important! If you’re walking around in clothes and/or underwear that don’t fit, restrict your movement or are uncomfortable in any other way, it isn’t respectful to your body!
Take the time this summer to go through your closet and drawers and begin to separate out anything that no longer fits. Hold space to grieve a little if your old, ill-fitting clothes hold memories of a time when they fit differently. Then, move on to the next one!
Your body will feel so much better when you start dressing it in fashionable, comfortable clothing that fits you well.
3. Prioritize Gentle Nutrition.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably read some of my posts about the 10th IE principle of Honoring Your Health with Gentle Nutrition.
Gentle nutrition combines the satisfaction of eating a variety of nutritious foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, dairy, and grains) and the satisfaction of enjoying the tastes, textures, and flavors of these foods as well.
Opt for meal and snack choices that provide both of these things. And remember, all foods fit, so don’t worry about being overly focused on calories, sugar, fat, etc. If you have specific health-related concerns about what to eat, consult your doctor and/or registered dietitian.
4. Find movement that feels good to your unique body.
Don’t confuse gentle movement with exercising for weight loss! This is not supposed to be the kind of movement that is grueling, painful, or punishment to your body.
If you need ideas, consider your activities of daily living (e.g. walking your dog, taking the stairs vs the elevator, shopping at the store) and see how these can be used to prioritize comfortable movement. Then move on to more fun stuff like dancing, skating, or playing with your kids!
5. Change your internal dialogue about your body.
This one can be tough and may take some intentional practice to implement. If your thoughts about your body are always negative, you may need to start speaking positive affirmations about your body out loud to yourself.
Here are a few to get you started:
- “I like how healthy and long my hair is.”
- “My legs do a wonderful job of helping my body go wherever I need to.”
- “I am so grateful to God for giving me sturdy arms that can carry my children.”
- “I am a strong, healthy woman.”
6. Pamper your body!
When was the last time you got a massage? Or a manicure/pedicure? There are countless ways to pamper your body so that it can receive comfortable touch and care that goes beyond just the basic hygienic stuff.
And if you prefer not to have these things done for you, find what you do like and learn how to DIY! There are all sorts of online tutorials for DIY facials, hair and nail treatments, and much more!
7. Use sunscreen!
Regardless of your skin color or type, you NEED to protect your skin from prolonged sun exposure! Get a good sunscreen (at least SPF 30), apply and reapply regularly while outside in the summer heat.
8. Prioritize sleep.
If you aren’t getting enough sleep each night, your body is not going to be able to function well. Individual sleep needs vary, but most of us require at least 7-9 hours/day.
9. Learn about body positivity with a focus on biblical body acceptance.
If you haven’t heard much about the body positivity movement or Health at Every Size (HAES), you may find it helpful to see the major work this movement is doing to expose and eradicate weight stigma from our society and healthcare system.
However, I encourage you to look at body positivity through a biblical lens so that you can see yourself the way God, your Creator and Heavenly Father, sees you. Read Psalms 139:13-14, Ephesians 2:10, and Matthew 6:26.
10. Put yourself in environments that celebrate body diversity.
If you feel as though the communities you are part of don’t embrace people of different sizes, shapes, and body types, it may be time to find a new crew.
Check out local Facebook groups or other communities that recognize the value of ALL people without harping on weight or promoting weight loss as a health/fitness goal.
11. Look for qualified healthcare professionals who provide weight-neutral care.
The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) has an ongoing project to provide listings of healthcare providers that endorse HAES or size inclusivity. At the time I am writing this blog, this project is not yet complete, but there are ways you can still search for weight-neutral practitioners.
When searching for a new doctor, you can ask questions like “Does this doctor focus on weight loss or weight-neutral healthy behaviors for his/her larger patients?” You may struggle to find a HAES-friendly doctor in your area, but don’t give up!
There are many other healthcare professionals that do provide weight-neutral care, including dietitians (like me!), therapists, social workers, and personal trainers. Here is a directory of Certified Intuitive Eating Counselors who have been trained to use IE principles with clients in their line of work.
Main Takeaways: Respect Your Body!
Learning to respect your body is a journey. There are many things that can cause us to fall off the path, but I’m here to help you find your way again so that you can live your version of The Joyfully Nourished Life.
Which of these strategies for respecting your body do you want to try? What are other ways that you have learned to respect your body in a weight-neutral way? Feel free to share in the comments below!
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Much love, friends!