Is your closet filled with clothes that haven’t fit you in years?
Do you refuse to accept the body you have as your own, and instead, cling to an idealized image you hope (with enough diet and exercise) your body will become?
Are you waiting to lose weight before giving your body the love and respect it deserves?
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Respect Your Body as It Is
In our Photoshopped-model, glossy magazine-spread culture, body image is inextricably tied to the food we eat. We are taught that if we don’t fit fashion model measurements, it is a moral failing: We eat white flour, we snack after 7pm, we’re addicted Ben & Jerry’s. Until we drop two dress sizes, we don’t deserve self-care. Or so we tell ourselves…
Intuitive Eating pioneers Tribole and Resch write, “Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size.”
We know what you’re thinking. If I wouldn’t pig out so much, if I could just stick with my Weight Watchers points goal, if I find enough self-control to keep junk food out of my house, I’d be able to whip my body into exactly the shape I want it to be.
This couldn’t be more wrong.
Because self-flagellation as a weight loss tool never works for the long-term. And because diets backfire 95% of the time.
Just ask anyone who fell below their natural weight point by severely restricting calories. It is more than likely that even while at their “goal” weight, the dieters were so busy tracking calories, ignoring hunger pangs, and worrying about “falling off the wagon” that reaching their desired weight never offered the blissful existence they thought it would.
In other words, even if you manage to lose weight, your basic body shape and size is largely determined by genetics. No matter which way you twist your size eight feet into Cinderella’s size six, the shoes will not fit. And if you do manage to get your feet into those dainty slippers, you will be entirely occupied with your newly-forming blisters you’ll never be able to comfortably dance.
When we contort our real bodies into the images we expect them to be, we not only torture ourselves, but we lose the ability to live in our bodies, and to use them for their real purpose — to tag along with us throughout our lives, while we get the truly important things done.
Cultivate Respect for Your Body
- Stop reading fashion magazines or following celebrity, diet, or “fitness inspiration” Instagram feeds that can trigger insecurity and negativity about your own body.
- Treat yourself — a massage or a new lipstick, for example, to send your body the message that it is inherently valuable, at any size.
- Clean your closet out of “thin clothes” that haven’t fit for years, or maybe never fit at all! Too-small clothes, as Geneen Roth writes, “keep you panting for a time in the future when you will be allowed to enjoy yourself again…they tell you that who you are now is NOT ACCEPTABLE…Get rid of them. You have enough mean, abusive voices in your head without having to hang them in your closet.”
- Consider booking an appointment with a personal stylist who can help you find clothes that embrace your current figure.
Rena has found that after working on the “Respect Your Body” principle, her clients can come to a place of peace. She has heard women say, “I may not love my body the way it is, but by having gratitude to Hashem for having a body, and taking care of it the right way, I can respect it and treat it well.”
Find Your Freedom
Wouldn’t it be terrible if we spent our entire lives fretting about not being the right dress size? Geneen Roth writes, “When you get to the end of your life do you want ‘She was thin’ to be written on your tombstone?” Many of us have spent years, if not decades, using our spare emotional and mental energy on dieting. Doesn’t that thought make you feel…shackled?
The spirit of the month of Nissan is freedom. On Pesach, we commemorate both being released from slavery and being presented with the Torah, given the freedom necessary to live a spiritual life. Ironically, people talk about Pesach, in dieting terms, as the holiday that imprisons them; with all the matzah and potato starch cakes, Pesach can indeed feel threatening to the chronic dieter.
But if we focus on body positivity, listening to our intuitive hunger and fullness cues, and respecting the shapes and sizes of our individual bodies, Pesach can be positively freeing.
Rena Reiser is a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. She has changed the lives of countless women all over the world who have tried dieting, and are “fed up”. She helps women come to peace with both food and life by discovering and satisfying our real hunger. Listen to a demo class atmindovermunchies.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elisheva Blumberg is a freelance writer living in Edison, NJ. She has written the Frum Fashion Designer series for this publication. She can be reached at email@example.com.
What is Intuitive Eating?
It’s the anti-diet.
It’s the solution to the diet-binge cycle.
It’s a recovery.
Developed by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating (IE) is an evidence-based approach that relies on your body’s basic intuition to feed itself. While diets depend on external messages to determine our food intake, IE trusts in the body’s natural nutritional wisdom.
We are all born with the instinct to read our bodies’ signals. Just as our body will tell us when we need sleep, and how much of it we need, our body is programmed to tell us how to eat.
IE helps us reverse the damage the dieting culture has wreaked on our body’s natural wisdom. It leads us back to the basics. It may have been many years since you’ve lived fully in your body, but rest assured, you can return.
The Ten Principles of Intuitive Eating
Adapted from Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
- Reject the Diet Mentality
- Honor your Hunger
- Make Peace with Food
- Challenge the Food Police
- Respect your Fullness
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
- Respect your Body
- Exercise – Feel the Difference
- Honor your Health
Rena’s Tool of the Month
Relearning to Love your Body
Make a list of all your different body parts. Categorize them into parts you love, like, and can’t tolerate.
What you’ll notice is there are usually only a few things in the “can’t tolerate” category. We put all our attention into hating just one or two things about our bodies, and we get stuck in a negative pattern of thinking.
Every time we find ourselves criticizing our bodies, let’s shift our focus from “look at my wobbly arms” to “I move so gracefully. I have elegant fingers, gorgeous hair, lovely skin.” Changing our mindset will help us get to the place of accepting our bodies and wanting to take care of them.
(This article originally appeared in Olam Yehudi.)