What has your body done for you lately? Take a moment. Take a handful of moments. Could you answer this question? Many cannot.
We Weren't Born Hating Our Bodies
So much of the time, we take our bodies for granted or tear them down. We view of them as something to conquer, a series of flaws to either hide from the world or correct. We weren't born this way. Maybe you can, but chances are, you cannot remember how you felt about your body as a young child. So look to the children around you -- your own children or grandchildren, cousins, nieces & nephews, or your close friends' children. Observe how they talk about food & their bodies. Do you notice any differences in the way you talk about your own body or how others around you talk about theirs? The next time you have a moment to chit-chat with a small child, ask them what they would change about their body if they could. Note how their answer differs from your own. As children are exposed to more & more of the toxic messages around them and soak up comments & behaviors like dieting from the adults around them, a significant shift occurs in the way they view their bodies. And we're seeing this shift occur among children at younger & younger ages. Don't you see? We are conditioned to hate our bodies. We've been brought up in a body-hating collective. And if something does not change, younger generations will follow a similar path. Day in & day out, whether we notice them or not, our brains are flooded with a barrage of messages that keep us stuck in seeing our bodies as problems that need constant fixing -- not just from the media, but likely from the people around us. That is, unless we choose not to be stuck in this rut.
Getting un-stuck & saying "peace out" to our apperance-obsessed culture is not as simple as flipping a switch. In fact, this is very difficult. But not impossible. It just takes work. Sound exhausting? Honestly, it is a little. But the freedom of seeing your body as a friend rather than an enemy is so worth the effort. Believe me. If doing this for yourself doesn't really motivate you, think about the younger children you interact with, maybe even your own. Through your words & actions, you have the power to model body dissatisfaction, and you have equal power to model the opposite.
One key way to be an active participant in opting out of our toxic culture & starting to shift the way we see our bodies is practicing gratitude for all the incredible ways our bodies serve us day after day. Let's try: Has your body recently recovered from an illness? Climbed a mountain? Lifted a heavy object? Comforted a friend with a hug? Allowed you to travel to far-away destinations? Brought a child into the world? Our bodies do so, so much for us. That's their job! There are so many reasons to be grateful for our bodies. It's recognizing them that is the challenge.
Setting an Intention
I challenge you to set an intention to practice body gratitude each day. Just once. When you have a moment to yourself -- on your commute, a break, or as you're brushing your teeth before you hop into bed -- ask yourself this question: What is one thing my body did for me today? If you need to, go so far as to pencil this into your to-do list. For most of us, body gratitude doesn't come naturally. And chances are, you may really have to dig to come up with an answer, at least initially. Just like any other task that takes effort or new skill we learn, practicing body gratitude sometimes requires setting an intention. Give it a try. Maybe even challenge those around you to try it too. It just might catch on.
Jessica Betts, MS, RD, LD