Body Acceptance-what is it really?
I live in the midwest and around spring time we get some weird weather. I’d say it’s unusual, but it’s really not for the midwest. Around this time of year I think it’s pretty standard to have at least 3 coats on your coat rack so you’re prepared for the rapid changes in weather and temperature. To live in the midwest you need a really warm winter coat for temps below 30, a lighter jacket for temps between 40 and 60, and another jacket for when it rains out.
Which brings me to why I’m writing to you today about body acceptance. What is it really?
When you hear the words body acceptance, what comes to your mind? Maybe you feel like it’s giving up or "being lazy" or facing some really difficult emotions and feelings towards your body.
All of those things may be true for you, but I’d like to offer you another perspective. Another dietitian told me of this analogy to help explain what body acceptance can really look like.
She told me that body acceptance is like accepting the weather. You may wake up one morning, look outside and realize it’s pouring out (an outcome you weren’t hoping for).
Now if you were unwilling to accept the fact that it was raining heavily outside, it would be like pretending it wasn’t true. You’d head out to work in just your clothes (no rain jacket, no umbrella), you’d drive without the windshield wipers on and drive at your normal speed. Doing these things may make you feel as though it’s not really raining, but you are also potentially inconveniencing yourself at best and putting yourself in harm’s way at worst.
I’m guessing you wouldn’t want to do that. You may not like the rain, but you accept it when it happens and make adjustments to your day or needs to make yourself either more comfortable or safer.
Body acceptance is very similar to accepting the changes in weather. You don’t have to like or love your body, but you accept your current reality in order to make yourself more comfortable and safe. It also entails holding a great deal of compassion for yourself.
- This may look like buying larger clothes for yourself so you can be comfortable and putting smaller clothes away for some time so they don’t trigger you.
- It may look like choosing to nourish yourself fully because it’s what your body needs rather than restricting yourself to avoid accepting your body.
- It may look like moving your body in ways you enjoy rather than using exercise as punishment for changes in your body.
If this feels really hard for you, I can sympathize. The thought of accepting your body for how it is may bring up strong and uncomfortable feelings. Feelings you may want to avoid.
If body acceptance feels like giving up (a common sentiment), here’s another thought to consider. Body acceptance could look like calling a time-out on the tug-of-war with your body, putting the rope down and asking yourself, “is that what I really want to keep doing?” You may decide that it’s not giving up, it’s actually moving on.
Because you have a choice, you really do! The choice is easier for those with more privilege and much harder for those with less privilege. The closer you are to society’s “ideal body” (thin, white, young, able-bodied, cis-gender) the easier it is to accept your body and not face raised eyebrows (at best) or discrimination and harassment (at worst).
This brings me to my next point in this very nuanced topic. There’s no right or wrong here. You’re not wrong if you’re unwilling to accept your body. Not feeling ready to accept your body is rooted in seeking safety- safety within a culture that does not treat everyone equally.
I know you’re doing your best and you know what’s best for you.
I’m here if you want help.
Photo above is by Jade Destiny on Unsplash