By Heidi Schauster, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S
Body Trust involves developing a deep connection with your body so that you can make choices around food, exercise, sleep, and other practices that resonate with who you are. Body acceptance encourages care for your body and being. How do you get there if you are feeling disconnected and not so cared for in your daily habits?
1. Don’t Put Yourself Last
I used to believe that being a martyr and serving all was the road to enlightenment. I’ve learned the hard way that the most loving act you can offer those you care about is to love, respect, and care for yourself first. In doing so, you bring freedom and spaciousness for connection, compassion, and the blossoming of deeper, more caring relationships. This self-care takes practice if you weren’t trained this way from a young age, but it’s possible to learn.
Compulsive overeating, restrictive eating, or eating obsessively “clean” are ways that we might reward or take care of a self that is repeatedly put last. So, how do we begin to take better care of ourselves and learn how to get in touch with the body’s wisdom?
2. Try Meditation. Then Try it Again.
There are many ways to meditate. I have taken courses, listened to recordings, and tried many different forms. I encourage you to explore what works for you. Personally, I made meditation a daily practice (and, therefore, found the profound benefits of it) only when I committed to practicing ten minutes of insight-oriented meditation every day.
I had to let go of needing to do it for longer. I had to let go of doing it at the same time each day. I had to let go of the part of me that wanted to do it perfectly and find a way to accept my distracted mind. Of course, I had heard everything about meditation creating more calmness and decreasing anxiety, which sounded great. I had no idea that it would improve my life in so many other ways. I felt like a fog was slowly lifting. I became more in touch with myself, my decisions were easier, my self-doubt decreased, and I stood up for myself more. I felt more compassion for my shortcomings and was able to work on them with humility. I was even more loving and present for my family and friends.
3. Listen to the Body’s Signals
Meditation helps me get in touch with my body. I notice if I feel tired, or if there is a twinge in my leg that needs gentleness. I notice if there is anxiety because I feel it in my head and chest. I notice if my body feels light and energized and how that’s different from the day before. I don’t judge or ascribe meaning to these changes. My mind mightily tries to; I try to gently thank my mind for its concern and move back to my body and to clear presence.
If we don’t take the time to listen and actually hear what our bodies are trying to tell us—hunger, fullness, pain, tiredness, restlessness, cravings, nervous flutterings, other sensations—we miss out on a form of communication from which we might learn so much.. When we are more aware of our needs and feelings, we are better able to meet them and extend ourselves to others.
4. Cultivate Body Acceptance
So, what if you dislike your body so much that the idea of getting more in touch with it is terrifying or uncomfortable? One of my clients shared with me that, in meditation and in physical exercise, she notices how uncomfortable she feels with the fat on her body. Another client who wishes to gain weight gets in touch with how weak and sore her body feels just sitting still. Both of these women feel lousy when they get in touch with their bodies. As difficult as these feelings are, they are important body messages. Ideally, we respond to these feelings with compassion and acceptance. Only then, from a place of nonjudgmental, kind regard, can we decide how best to care for our bodies as they are.
5. Get Help if this is Challenging
Sustainable change sprouts from compassion, not loathing. If you don’t feel that you can deeply listen to and accept your body, I recommend finding a body-positive, Health-At-Every-SizeÒ psychotherapist, nutrition therapist, or coach if you need some support.
I invite you to get quiet, deeply listen, trust your body, and use your internal cues and sense of well-being to help you make decisions about food, rest, sleep, exercise, and other self-care practices. I invite you to be very interested in what your body is telling you. We are distracted and disconnected so easily. Pay careful attention to the wisdom of your very own body.
Heidi Schauster, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S is the author of Nourish: How to Heal Your Relationship with Food, Body, and Self. She is a nutrition therapist, writer, and the founder of Nourishing Words Nutrition Therapy. Heidi facilitates the No Diet Book Clubs, supervises other nutrition therapists who treat disordered eating, and encourages embodied eating and living for all. For more information, visit www.anourishingword.com.