“What?!!” you are thinking as you read the title of this post. “Accept my body like I close it?!! I can’t even stand to look at it!” You may think I have gone too far, asked too much, but read on before you dismiss it. (In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes about accepting the present moment as if you had chosen it. This is a body image extension of that idea.)
If you are one of the many weight loss devotees who tries every new diet plan that hits the book stores, you have probably adoped the requisite body discontent that is a part of the up and down roller coaster of this obsession. The diet industry loves you. You buy the books, read the magazines, and try the latest supplements and magic potions that promise to be THE THING that will really work. If you weren’t absolutely desperate to flee your current body ASAP, you would be much less gullible to all of the methods that promise fast results. If you could actually think rationally about a plan, I doubt that you would think these promises offered the best option. The problem is that when there is extreme resistance to the body you have – and there is no other body you can have right now! – there is just way too much negative clutter in the brain to think straight.
If this sounds like you, I realize it is not realistic for me to expect you to love your body, or even to be comfortable in it. I hear you – you really want to change it. I get that. I want you to have the healthiest, best looking body you can have . . . AND the most peaceful contented body image possible so you can do other things besides worry about your bodyfat. So, how is that most likely? By kicking and screaming (or the internal equivalent) and resisting the body you have, or by accepting that it is the only vehicle you have to get where you want to go? This may sound redundant, but the body you have now is the only body you have now. Don’t you think it would be nicer and more effective to make peace and work together to accomplish the goal you both have of a happy, healthy body?
So, take a big, deeeep breath. Blow it out, and see if you can let go of just a teensy weensy bit of that resistance. Don’t worry – I know you may think that without that resistance you would be completely undisciplined, but it is not the resistance that creates control. When do you have more control: when you are wound up tight and feeling resistant or when you are accepting and peaceful?
I hear your next question. “If I am uncomfortable and do not like my current body, how in the world can I possibly be peaceful and accepting?” You can just observe your feelings and not judge them. That is accepting of everything that is part of your “now”. It is possible to be uncomfortable and peaceful at the same time. Acceptance of a situation doesn’t add more baggage on top of the uncomfortable feeling; it just watches it. Resistance, on the other hand, gets the brain going with lots of garbage thinking. An uncomfortable feeling in your body can then become thoughts like “I am disgusting. I can never change. Just look at the size of my . . . . What if I get even bigger?” So much better to just observe a general discomfort – don’t you think?
I had an interesting thought about all of this. It seems to me that getting to the point of acceptance of one’s body, especially if a person has gained significant weight, is probably similar to the steps in a grieving process that get someone to the point of acceptance. I have seen different versions of the steps, but let’s look at the following list of five and how they might apply to body acceptance.
1. Denial – wearing baggy clothes, avoiding swimsuits and shorts, avoiding people from a thinner time.
2. Anger and Blame – “I hate myself for getting to this point.” “My co-worker is sabotaging me with his candy dish.” “My husband’s nagging has made me gain weight.” “It’s not fair that my friend can eat whatever she wants and not gain anything.”
3. Bargaining – “I will eat absolutely no more than 1000 calories until I lose at least 20 pounds. Then I will let myself eat a little more.”
Depression – “I am such a failure.” “I am such a disappointment to everyone.” “I have no clothes that fit anymore.”
Acceptance – “I want to lose weight and be healthy, but I realize that this will take time. My past efforts to get immediate results have taught me some valuable lessons that I can use to set realistic goals for myself. I will do the best I can at any moment with the body I have now. It is reasonably healthy and I may even admit that it is not completely unattractive to me :)”