Wholistic Food Therapy-How to Integrate Intuitive Eating Principle 8: Respect Your Body

The eighth principle of Intuitive Eating is: Respect Your Body. If you have been following along with this Integrating Intuitive and Mindful Eating series on my blog, then you might have noticed how principle 7 and now principle 8 are not directly related to food. (Principle 9 isn’t either—stay tuned!) These principles address how to be with yourself in a more mindful and compassionate way both internally and externally which naturally impacts how to be with your food.

With this principle I will explore and address how to be with your body in a respectful manner, which most people struggle with at some point in their lives. If you notice the chatter in your mind or out loud about your body, what is it usually about? Is it usually positive or negative in nature? The truth is that all bodies deserve respect, yours, hers, his, theirs and mine. There are no exceptions.

When you notice any internal bias you have in relation to what is a “good” or “healthy” body and alternatively what is a “not as good” or “unhealthy” body, where did these biases come from. Let’s be clear, it’d be rare not to have some internal bias seeing as how much emphasis is placed on body image, weight loss and standards of beauty in our culture and naturally we are always concerned about how we are measuring up in relation to these standards.

How you think about, speak about and interact with your own body is what this principle is about. However, it is helpful to consider any body shaming, judging or otherwise you notice that you do internally, or say out loud, towards others and practice shifting these thoughts and words to body neutrality, positivity and kindness. This will support your own process in offering these same concepts to yourself.

Mindfulness offers a significant amount of support to this concept of respecting your body, especially as it relates to the aspect of being nonjudgmental. One of the most effective ways to begin to respect your body is to practice body neutrality through nonjudgment. This is a very useful practice and just like is was applied to food in the fourth principle of intuitive eating: Challenge the Food Police it’s tremendously powerful to apply the concept on nonjudgment to how you relate to your body.

Learning to understand body neutrality is simple but not necessarily easy. To practice body neutrality, find a time when you can just be. Close your eyes and scan your body in your mind’s eye from head to toe moving intentionally through each part of your body. With each body part, first name it and then find the facts about it, for example: ears-used for hearing located on the sides of my head. Notice how there are no judgments, just facts, just what is true about this body part in this moment. Maintain neutrality and nonjudgment throughout. Notice how this feels with body parts you may not have any positive or negative associations about and parts that you do.

The body parts you find it most difficult to be nonjudgmental about with yourself, you will need to practice more regularly. For many this simple and yet not easy body neutrality practice is very helpful and eye opening. Get really curious about why you have the judgments you have about your body. With each judgment consider:

  • What messages did you hear/receive about your body or body judgments from your family growing up?

  • What messages did you hear/receive about your body or body judgments from your peers?

  • What messages did you hear/receive about your body or body judgments from society?

  • Who set the standards for “beauty” and body shape that you adhere to?

  • What messages do you wish you’d heard or would like to live by?

  • Can you begin to offer these messages to yourself now?

Once you practice body neutrality until it feels more natural, acceptable and your mind does not attempt to pull you towards the negative, you can begin to practice body positivity and body gratitude. Within this practice, you go through the same exercise, resting comfortably and work your way from head to toe in your mind’s eye and name each body part and something you like about it and something you can be grateful for about it. If you find it difficult that’s ok! Stay with the practice and continue a few times per week until it becomes a more and more comfortable practice.

Try taking this attitude with you wherever you go. As you begin to shift your own internal judgments about your body and allow that to impact how you judge the bodies of others, begin to notice and reflect on the following:

  • How much mental space is taken up by body judgment?

  • How often do you judge the bodies of others?

  • How often do you compare your body to the bodies of others?

  • How does this make you feel?

  • Why do you think you do this?

  • Are you ready to shift this internal experience?

If so, begin practicing body neutrality of others. Even if your thought begins with a judgment, can you create a neutral thought such as it’s just another person in the body that they have today, it’s not good or bad, it just is. As this becomes more comfortable, begin to shift into body positivity of others. What compliment can you offer either internally to recognize it for yourself or out loud if it’s possible to do so.

These simple but not easy practices can transform your relationship to your body, to yourself and to food. When you can just be with your body without the negativity and noise you will create a less stressful internal environment for yourself. When you begin to shift from body shaming, judging and comparing you open yourself to feel a great deal of respect for your own amazing body as well as respecting the bodies of others.

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