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Loving Your Body

A very interesting conversation has been going on in the tumblrverse about the meme of loving your body. Marianne Kirby argues that this meme can be problematic. Kirby explained her issues with the concept on her tumblr page:

It’s very much coming from a place where people want to feel good about themselves and to help other people feel good about themselves, too.

But it homogenizes bodily experience and feeling - basically it dictates the One True Way people are “supposed” to feel about their bodies. And that skeeves me. Because there are lots of reasons people have complicated relationships with their bodies - from trans identity to disability to body dysmorphia in general and so on.

I also think that for someone just coming off dieting or an eating disorder, loving the body is far too tall of an order. I found loving my body to be unfathomable at first and not something I could force. Feeling love for the body can be incredibly challenging, and really is not necessary in my experience.

However, I found that accepting my body is very important. For me, the ideas expressed in the Serenity Prayer, popular in recovery circles, are applicable in this situation:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

I spent many years hating my body and not accepting it as it was. I did myself a great deal of emotional and physical damage with that state of mind.

So, I had to make acceptance important. I could change some things such as becoming stronger or flexible. However, after 30 years of trying, I had to accept my weight as it was.

Additionally, I must accept my body as it is before I can make any improvements. I have to accept my current level of fitness before I can make progress, or I wind up injured and in worse shape. I have to accept my health where it is before I can address any issues, before I try to make it better.

To me feeling love for the body is not as important as accepting it and honoring it. Yet, I think accepting and honoring are forms of love – love the verb. We tend to think of love as a feeling – that ooey-gooey feeling we usually associate with the term. That feeling is wonderful, but fleeting even in the best of relationships or situations.

What is not fleeting is the choice to act lovingly, whether it be to ourselves or others. I can always choose to act lovingly towards my body, no matter how I feel about it. I can always choose to connect with my body. I can always choose to feed it and exercise it according to its needs. I cannot control how I feel about it.

So, in my viewpoint, trying to feel love for my body really isn’t important. Choosing to treat my body with respect and honor, to act lovingly towards it, is vital.

Marilyn Wann's two cents on Weight of the Nation | UK Government criticises obesity epi-panic

Viola's picture
May 22nd, 2012 | Link | I don't have much time to

I don't have much time to craft a good response to this. I'm trying to do some work on deadline, and was up until 3 am, so I'm tired, and now here it is, 10:30 am and I'm just drinking coffee and going back to work on my project.

I'm sure a number of us here have had the same thoughts, but then just sort of gave up on expressing them. Part of why I joined BFB however many years ago it is now was because I thought the forums would be a good place to discuss specific issues, one of which is how do you move to acceptance and even self love. And I wanted to talk about how the books and the ideas of HAES relate to on an individual level when our health has already been compromised by dieting and gaining, as it has for so many fat people. But conversations don't go that way, so I generally just figure other people are in a different place, and I don't talk about it.

When I've tried to talk about self esteem and acceptance issues in relation to fat, a common phrase is that this talk is triggering another person's own fragile self acceptance. Since I don't want to be a stumbling block, I just shut up and write about it in my journal or on my blog.

Oddly enough, I've moved to a place of greater acceptance and even love now, although I'm not sure I'll ever be able to rid my mind of certain warped views. I was a fat child, they've been a part of my psyche for a long time now. However, when it comes to ones sense of oneself especially in regards to body dysmorphia issues, the true problem with the body is in the part of the brain that perpetuates the dysmorphia and the disordered thinking. I know enough to know that attempting to change my body is not going to be the panacea of which I dream. I used to want to cut off parts of me, stab & burn the hated parts, yet I felt enough love and self preservation that these feelings evoked sympathy for myself, and an anger towards those who I feel want me to do just that. There is not enough that I can cut off to really fix what I think is wrong.

So much of what I've worked on is just changing my own inner dialogue, and working outwardly in ways that are less about individuals and more about trying to be of use to society as a whole, or about changing the societal viewpoint.. I agree with you that it's about accepting what is, and reframing that.

vesta44's picture
May 22nd, 2012 | Link | I really find it difficult

I really find it difficult to love my body on a day-to-day basis anymore. And I really resent people who tell me I have to love my body, I need to love my body. I feel like telling them to try living in my body for a couple of months and see how successful they are at loving it. Deal with the knee that swells on the inside and hurts when standing and walking, deal with the back that cramps and screams at you when you have to stand for more than a couple of minutes or walk more than 20 feet without something to lean on, deal with the pain that happens when your cat walks across your lap, deal with the pain in your hips when you try to lay on your side in a bed or your back when you try to lay on your back in that same bed - it's damned hard to like a body that hurts most of the time and doesn't allow you to do most of the stuff you used to do, and that gets worse every year, let alone love it.
So yeah, this is the only body I have, it's the only one I'm ever going to have, and while I don't love it, and there are days I don't even really like it, I do my best to take care of it so it will at least allow me to have some kind of life. But don't tell me to love it, that's an impossible mission that I'm not willing to attempt.

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

NoSurgery May 22nd, 2012 | Link | Self-love vs. acceptance

I so appreciate you pointing out the difference between self-love and self acceptance. In recent years, I've swung wildly between the two -- though thank goodness no where in the zone of self-hatred for a while. I think it's really important to stress that maybe the first part of the journey is self-acceptance and from there we can work on more?

I also feel bad that anyone should hide their feelings around not having self love. Saying "just love yourself" is almost as crass as saying "just go on a diet". If it were that easy, people wouldn't be laboring over it for years!

DeeLeigh's picture
May 24th, 2012 | Link | I had to shift my concept of

I had to shift my concept of body love to something a little more moderate in order to apply it, too. Talked about it a little at the end of this post. After all, I grew up in this society, and just not hating my body feels like a radical and difficult achievement. And I say that as someone who's never really drunk the koolaid.

loniemc May 24th, 2012 | Link | Awesome thoughts, everyone.

Awesome thoughts, everyone. This is a complicated issue with a lot of facets that each person has to reach their own thoughts about.

Nudemuse also had a great take on it. She argues for the idea of love being a challenge and that relationships can be hard, including the relationship with our bodies.

nycfembbw June 19th, 2012 | Link | I tried to click on the link

I tried to click on the link for this in the first sentence and it didn't work. Can it be corrected? I love this!

vesta44's picture
June 21st, 2012 | Link | The link is fixed. WLS -

The link is fixed.

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

jeannec56's picture
July 16th, 2012 | Link | Make friends with your body?

"Make Friends with Your Body" is the title I ended up with when a local dietitian and I were giving size acceptance workshops in the SF Bay Area. I subsequently gave that name to my blog. Sarah Josef (the dietitian) had gotten feedback from her students that our previous title, "Love Your Body at Any Size" was, as the blogger here has just pointed out, too tall an order. When I think about my psychotherapy clients who are working toward body acceptance, and my own personal path, what I see is that pure, joyful feelings of absolute unconditional love and acceptance for our bodies are rather rare. When my body won't carry me up a steep forest trail the way it once did, the thoughts I have about my aching back, knees, and feet are not exactly what I'd call loving. I think maybe it's like that with friendships and relationships, too. Hurts happen, disappointments happen, people don't do everything we want them to. Even so, we reach out, we find compassion, we forgive, and we find ways to get along. Some friendships are more satisfying than others, and each friendship has its own range of good days and bad days. To return to my metaphor, I would say that even though the feeling of being wildly in love with my body happens only occasionally, I've made a commitment to the friendship and I'm willing to keep working on it.

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