One of my clients texted me last week and said that she wasn’t coming back for another appointment.
“I know that you’re right and I know that I shouldn’t, but I can’t live with this body!” she wrote, “...it’s impossible to love my body the way it is, I need to go a different route.”
We had been working on Intuitive Eating to stop her binge eating and she had been struggling with accepting her body size the whole time. Her binge eating had completely stopped and she was moving her body regularly but she couldn’t help but think of IE as another diet...and she wasn’t seeing any “results”.
I have heard this refrain from countless clients over the years, no matter what kind of eating disorder or disordered eating they had. The most common reason that people drop out of treatment and return to behaviors is that they feel unable to love their bodies the way that they are. They feel like the only way out of the pain of living inside of them is to try to lose weight.
Unfortunately our society espouses the idea that if something is broken you should fix it. If you don’t like your body, you should try to, whether that means change it (this is the most popular “solution”) or work on your body image and learn to like it. I have had several clients over the years tell me that someone in their lives suggested that they focus on being grateful for what their bodies can do, “Just be happy that you’re not in a wheelchair” was one therapist’s suggestion.
We are born into a culture that perpetuates the idea that the thinner (more fit, healthy, toned, etc.) you are, the better, more powerful, more successful you are. It is nearly impossible to automatically start “loving” your body in a culture that bombards us with the message that thinness/fitness is the most desirable attribute that you can possess. Not only is thinner better in this culture, but fat is the worst thing that you can be. Larger-sized people are widely discriminated against, even though there has never been any evidence to support the fact that weight loss makes us healthier in the long run. And whose business is it to tell anyone how healthy they should be anyway?
So how do we learn to love our bodies in a culture that’s absolutely saturated with both pro-thin and anti-fat ideals? We don’t try. The only thing we can do when we don’t like our bodies is to not like our bodies but continue on anyway. Continue to eat in a way that supports your mental and physical health and continue to move your body in a way that you enjoy, when you are ready. Continue to see your friends and family and go concerts, movies, get-togethers ... nurture your lives. That’s it.
Acceptance doesn’t mean love, it means, “This is my body today and I am going to live my life whether I like the way it looks or not.”
And one day you will realize that your happiness was never about your body anyway.