Can you love yourself even if you don’t like your body?
You can try.
You can love who you are inside, and try to separate that from how you feel about your outsides.
But we ARE our bodies.
We are body, mind, spirit… and microbe. 😉
Did you know that for every human cell in your body, you have one resident microbe?
You’re half human and half bacteria (and virus and fungi and yeast and protozoa)!
That’s not a bad thing. Our resident bacteria help us with digestion and immunity and brain function and so much more.
How do you feel about your body, now that you know half of it doesn’t even belong to you?
Makes you feel kind of funny, doesn’t it?!
There’s more than one way to look at the body.
You can look at your body as a host for microbial life.
You can look at your body through the lens of popular culture, which tells you that attractive bodies are better than average bodies.
You can look at your body through the lens of medical science, which tells you that healthy bodies are better than unhealthy bodies.
Or you can look at your body through the lens of biology and recognize that your body is absolutely brilliant.
If your body were a machine, there’s no way you could run all those moving pieces. It’s so complex and so intricate that it would take a supercomputer to get a handle on what it’s doing every moment of every day.
So why do we reduce it to how it LOOKS?
Bodies Are For Living In
I love reading up on the latest scientific discoveries.
I just finished How Emotions Are Made by neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett. (Read it. It will blow your mind!) I also finished listening to a series on gut-immune health, all about the gut microbiome. Again, mind blown.
Then I hop back on social media to check what’s going on…
And it feels like such a LET DOWN to see people still harping on “weight loss” and “who’s hot” and who’s not.
That’s the least interesting part of the body!
We live in a culture that doesn’t want us to see our bodies as miracles but rather as displays.
We display our body for the approval or disapproval of others.
We even start to absorb those judgments ourselves, until we forget what it’s like to LIVE in our body and only care about how our body looks. We think our body is “good” or “bad” based on what we see in a mirror.
I’m not buying that.
How Girls Learn to See Their Bodies
It was my experience as a parent that really woke me up to the toxic consequences of gossiping about people’s bodies.
My daughter went through a stage where she thought she was “fat,” back when she was 8.
What kicked it off was visiting her pediatrician, who told me to keep an eye on her BMI. I had to explain to her that the doctor wanted us to cut back on the treats and eat a little more healthy food, and she got really upset.
She thought the doctor was criticizing HER… that she was doing something wrong.
It didn’t help that the girls in her class were also bragging about being skinny.
I didn’t put 2 and 2 together. I didn’t realize that she was starting to notice that her body was something other people looked at and judged.
What I did notice was that I would ask her if she was hungry, expecting her to say yes, and she would say no. She started wanting only light foods for dinner, like soup.
Eventually I asked her about it, and she confessed she thought she’d lose weight if she stopped eating (!). We talked, and a lot of feelings came pouring out…
Feelings I remembered having as a girl!
In attempting to make her feel better, I had to confront my own past.
I remembered all of those things people told me, like, “No, you look beautiful!” that never made me feel any better.
It doesn’t solve a child’s problems to tell her she looks beautiful.
She knows how she looks. She knows whether it matches the images she sees in the movies she watches and the books she reads.
Later, I learned that best way to raise children with a healthy body image is not to talk about how bodies look but instead talk about what they DO.
It’s a lesson we adults need to hear, too.
3 Tips for Genuine Body Confidence
The experience of living in a body is so much more interesting and useful than looking at bodies.
Bodies are made to keep us alive. They do this brilliantly.
And if you’re 30 or older, chances are much of what you learned about how your body works is wrong. Research is overturning so much of what we thought we knew about the body, such as the idea that we only have 5 senses, or that everyone has the same emotions.
So this is my #1 tip for any of you struggling with body confidence:
Tip #1. Learn more about your body.
Find out what’s going on beneath the surface. Discover all those secrets your body has been hiding. You will be amazed.
Tip #2. Learn how to support your body.
I don’t spend time on websites or read books that mention weight loss. The minute I see “weight loss,” I click away. I’m just not interested.
What I spend a ton of time on is books, podcasts, and websites that talk about supporting health.
I’ve spent the last 5 years doing a deep dive into anti-aging research, because the goal of anti-aging is to stay healthy and live a long time without losing quality of life. Isn’t that a better goal than losing weight?
What I hope you’ll see is that weight loss is NOT a goal that nourishes your soul.
When you focus instead on supporting your microbiome, feeding your cells with vital nutrients, optimizing brain health, reducing inflammation, and so on, you start feeling great.
The better you feel, the less you care how your body looks to others. It’s just not important.
Tip #3. Eliminate “body talk” from your life as much as possible.
Don’t buy magazines emblazoned with weight loss messages. Don’t follow social media accounts that are focused on body shape and appearance. Don’t buy something just because it claims to help you lose weight or burn fat.
If the people you’re with are talking about how much weight someone has lost or gain, change the subject.
If that seems extreme, remember that you’re not just doing this for yourself but for all the girls.
No one should feel like they have to start dieting in grade school because they’re “fat.”
We created that world.
We created it by fixating on how much people weigh.
We never even thought to stop and ask whether we were focused on the wrong thing.
You should feel good in your body. You should have energy. You should be able to do all the things you want to do.
And if you don’t feel good in your body, then losing weight isn’t the answer. Supporting your body is the answer.
You need to give your body MORE, not less.
More love. More support. More tender loving care.
And if you have anyone in your life who needs to hear this message, pass it on. 🙂