If someone was to suggest that you “love your body” would you roll your eyes and think “that’s going a bit far! With all its problem areas, I can’t love my body!”?
We are comfortable with the notion that we ‘love someone’ – a partner, a family member or a friend. Loving them doesn’t mean we consider them to be perfect or that we love everything about them. And yet, we are not comfortable saying we ‘love’ our bodies.
Is the reason, perhaps, how we define body love? Body love is not about viewing your body as perfect. That would be body infatuation. Hating our bodies would be at the opposite end of the spectrum. So, is body love not a middle, neutral place between body infatuation and body hatred? Or is the concept more fluid, moving up and down the whole spectrum at different times and life stages?
Maybe the reason we think we can’t love our bodies is how we define love. Love is mainly seen as a strong, positive emotion. But it can also flow between gratitude for what we have, disappointment, joy and hatred. We can have a relationship with our bodies that is more overall contentment.
Love can also be described as a number of virtues. This can include thoughts and behaviours towards our bodies. I think the passage below explains it a lot better than I ever could. Note the words used to describe love and how they can also relate to body love.
‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices
with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes,
always perseveres. Love never fails.’ (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)
LOVE IS PATIENT
Body love is being patient with our bodies. It is when we are impatient and impulsive that we can unintentionally punish our body. For example, we may be keen to get fitter sooner than our bodies can adapt, and in our attempt to fast-forward this process we may get an injury.
LOVE IS KIND
Body love is being kind to your body. It is not feeling guilty for enjoying a treat on a special occasion or forcing your body to be active when you are unwell.
LOVE DOES NOT ENVY
Body love means there are no feelings of jealousy and resentment of another person’s body. It is not wishing for another person’s body. Before diet culture came on the scene, people compared their body a lot less with others. Diet culture has made us want to shrink our bodies, to lust over people with thinner bodies, and to have “the body she’s got”. All bodies are uniquely beautiful, amazing and precious.
LOVE DOES NOT BOAST
Body love is not boasting about the body we were born with or feeling superior over others because of our body size or shape. One body shape should not be put on a pedestal. All bodies are equally valued.
LOVE IS NOT PROUD
Body love is not self-important or arrogant. Being born with a thinner body does not give us the right to be arrogant and to place judgement on other body shapes and sizes.
LOVE IS NOT RUDE
Body love is not rude. It acknowledges and respects body diversity and does not shame, mock, or offend their body or another person’s body.
LOVE IS NOT SELF-SEEKING
Body love does not insist on our body being the way we want it to be, but respects the way itis. Diet culture tells us that our bodies are not good enough, that we shouldn’t be happy with our bodies, that we should and can change them, and that thinner is always better. Body love is about reflecting on what our body needs, rather than what diet culture tell us it needs.
LOVE IS NOT EASILY ANGERED
Body love is not getting angry with our bodies. We are constantly receiving messages to be disappointed with our bodies, which we in turn take out on food. Neither our bodies or food deserve this resentfulness or anger. Our body is not the problem. Restricting our food is not the solution. The calmer approach is not to compare, and to focus on ourselves.
LOVE KEEPS NO RECORDS OF WRONG
Body love is forgiving ourselves when we keep repeatedly following diet culture. We need to forgive ourselves for repeatedly being conned. It is not our fault. These attempts play on our doubts and are cleverly camouflaged as the new breakthrough fad diet, superfood, shake, supplement or app. And they are allllways the last thing we will need to do before we can have our ‘fixed’ body. Repeatedly tell yourself: dieting is dieting; no matter how it is disguised.
LOVE DOES NOT DELIGHT IN EVIL
Body love is not inflicting harm, pain, hurt, suffering or trauma on our body (or another’s). This can be through depriving our body of nourishment, taking unnecessary medications or supplements, or doing excessive exercise. Harm also extends to ways we mentally hurt ourselves, such as through negative self-talk. Our body internalizes negative talk about our bodies and is equally harmful.
LOVE REJOICES IN THE TRUTH
Body love is facing the truth about the connection between weight and health. There’s a misconception that thin automatically means healthy. This can create denial or complacency towards health and may reinforce unhealthy habits. There’s also a misconception that larger bodied people are all unhealthy. This can cause shame, and people to continually buy into fad diets and unattainable body ideals, which can potentially cause more harm.
LOVE ALWAYS PROTECTS
Body love means protecting your body, as opposed to wanting to ‘fix’ your body. It is doing what provides self-care, nurture and healing.
LOVE ALWAYS TRUSTS
Body love is placing our trust in our body’s intuition: trusting our hunger and thirst signals, our fullness cues, our energy levels and our tiredness.
LOVE ALWAYS HOPES
Body love is having hope in our journey of body acceptance and learning to respect our body and all it does for us.
LOVE ALWAYS PERSEVERES
Last but not least, body love is never giving up on our body.
Word to the wise:
- Body love is not about adoring every part of our body
- Body love is not only about what we physically see in the mirror
- Body love is also about our thoughts and behaviours towards our bodies, which ultimately affect the way we treat ourselves
- What do you need to say to treat yourself right?
- What do you need to do to move from a place of body hate or infatuation towards the middle ground of body love?