by Maia Polson
To those of us with eating disorders, the concept of loving our bodies is completely foreign. We all engage in some form of over and under-eating, abusive self-talk, and a denial of our body’s real needs. These behaviors seem so habitual that it’s hard to imagine doing it any other way, let alone practicing love. I personally assumed that recovery could get my body healthy, but would still feel miserable about it. I knew the crazy body-love that all these recovered people talked about wasn’t for me.
Yet here I am today, able to say that I honestly love my body. I love it every day, all the time. Allow me to explain…
Changing my relationship with my body was a process of learning to recognize all of the ways I was hurting it, stopping those behaviors, and learning to listen to what my body needed instead of what my mind wanted. It takes a long time. The first step is simply becoming aware that your body has a voice; that it sends you messages all the time: pain, fatigue, hunger, fullness, tears, smiles, and whatever else you want to add.
You send messages back to your body, too. Here’s an example: “My body isn’t ____ enough. There are so many things wrong with my body right now I can’t even count them.” Love for my body always came with stipulations. “Only if it can exercise this much. Only if it weighs X pounds.” Until a few months ago, I had no idea how cruel the thoughts I let float around in my head really were. It was like I had a personal bully following me around all day.
Now, my relationship with my body reminds me of my relationship with the people I love. I don’t always like everything about them, but I always love them. No matter what mistakes I make in the relationship, I always have the intention of loving them. It’s the same thing with my body. When I’m grateful for it, I thank it for what it allows me to do. When it works hard for me, I thank it by resting it. Sometimes I forget to listen to it. Sometimes I get ticked off at it and criticize it, or I forget to nourish it properly.
This relationship isn’t perfect, but relationships aren’t supposed to be perfect. The beauty of this “imperfection” is that I never get bored with it.
I always own the mistakes I make in our relationship and try to do better next time. My intention is still based on love. If my body can’t do something I wish it would, I forgive it. I remind myself that it’s just doing its job, moving me through my life.
My body never stopped telling me what it needed, but recovery taught me to listen and respond to it. Although I still catch myself criticizing it quite a bit, I always remember that I love it unconditionally. The more I give my body love, the more it trusts me and loves me back.
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