Accepting your body and rejecting the idea that thinner is better is a journey that takes time. If loving your body and embracing body positivity feels like an unattainable goal, then body respect could be a good place to start. Body respect is one way to help you move from from body hatred to body acceptance and eventually body love.
What does it mean to respect your body?
Respecting your body means treating it as you would a loved one and meeting its basic needs including eating enough and nourishing food, moving regularly, resting when needed, and more.
If you are a chronic dieter or have been trying to manipulate your body for a long time, the idea of loving or accepting your body “as is” might feel impossible. This is normal. We live in a society that idealizes thinness, after all.
Diet culture tells us that looking a certain way is the only way you can be happy, successful, and love the body you are in. Diets are not forms of body respect.
In fact they are quiet the opposite because typically in order to shrink your body, you have to eat less than you need and they perpetuate negative thoughts and talk about your body. The good news is, there are ways to take care of your body and respect it, even if you’re uncomfortable in it or don’t like it.
How is body respect different from body love or body acceptance?
It’s unrealistic to think that you will love and feel great in your body every single day, even if you are in a place of body positivity (which that alone is unrealistic for many people). Body image can change from day to day, and may be affected by things going on outside of your control like stress, hormone fluctuations, or social situations.
Body love is not a prerequisite for body respect. In fact, it is really challenging to love, accept or embrace something that you do not respect. However, body respect can support your journey to body acceptance.
15 ways to respect your body even if you don’t love it yet
As a tool, body respect is the concept of providing for our bodies to the best of our abilities and moving from a place of hatred to acceptance. If loving or even accepting your body feels a long way off yet, start by trying some of the things on this list to respect your body today.
Appreciate your body for what it can do
What are some things that you can thank your body for that don’t include how it looks? Try writing down one thing each night that you appreciate about your body or that your body does for you. Gratitude can go a long way to reduce stress and increase happiness levels too.
If this feels hard, here are a few examples to get you started:
- My legs allow me walk to and from work
- My arms embrace my children when they need comfort
- My arms are strong and carry heavy groceries into the house
- My belly digests the food I enjoy
- My body carried my babies to life
Eat foods that you enjoy
If you have been restricting for a long time and are ready to stop dieting, give yourself unconditional permission to eat the foods that you enjoy, which can help you rebuild trust with your body.
Eat enough food
Rebuild your relationship with your body by providing it with enough food, and therefore energy, to not only survive but thrive. Respecting your body means nourishing it and giving it the energy it needs—regardless of how you’re feeling about your size.
A mantra to help with this:
Not sure if you’re eating enough, or feel too nervous to add more food to your day? I help women make peace with food and their body, and learn to nourish their body so they feel their best. Learn more about nutrition coaching services.
Get adequate sleep
Sleep is essential for life and creating a routine that allows you both enough sleep and high-quality sleep is key. Adequate sleep can also help you feel better in your body.
Prioritize sleep and create a bedtime routine to support a good night of sleep. This might mean getting in bed 15 minutes earlier than you do now, turning off screens 30-60 minutes before bedtime, or doing something calming like reading, meditating, or taking a warm shower.
Move your body in ways that feel good
Despite what diet culture sells, movement isn’t punishment. Moving your bodies for joy rather than punishment (such as to shrink it or earn/make up for something you ate) can help improve your physical and mental well-being. Let go of the need to move to lose weight, and instead do it for enjoyment and to take care of yourself.
When you move in ways you enjoy, you’re also much more likely to stick to it. Movement is good for mental health, physical health, and may even offer more social opportunities. It can also be an opportunity to carve out “me time.”
Ask yourself: what kind of movement do I enjoy? If you’re someone who hates all exercise, try reframing the idea of what counts as movement. Some less traditional ideas that count as movement include:
- Gardening and yard work
- Having races with your kids
- Jumping on a trampoline
And remember, walking is a great form of movement, too!
Rest when your body needs it
You may feel like you don’t have time to rest. We live in a culture that praises being busy and productive. But consistently ignoring signals to rest can lead to burnout, exhaustion and feeling rundown. This contributes to negative body image. Respecting your body means listening to it’s needs and taking time to rest when you need it.
Wear clothes that fit and are comfortable
When you try to squeeze into clothes that don’t fit, you’re not only setting yourself up to feel uncomfortable, it’s a constant reminder that your body isn’t what you want it to be. Rather than squeezing into clothes that are too small, buy and wear clothes that fit you. Clothes are meant to fit your body, not the other way around.
Start by removing clothes from your closet that don’t fit your current body. Not ready to give them up? Box them up and put them in an attic or spare closet so they aren’t a daily reminder that you are no longer that size.
This act is not only a form of body respect, but can also help you think about your body less and move towards body neutrality or body acceptance.
Stop body bashing
Are you constantly bullying yourself in your head or talking about all of your body’s flaws with friends? It’s time to knock it off. Show yourself and your body respect by speaking kindly (or at least neutrally) about your body.
Being gentler, kinder and more compassionate to yourself can help you cultivate more body respect. When you notice a body-bashing thought or comment, take the time to correct yourself with a kinder body statement.
Change the language you use to talk about your body
What words do you use to describe your body? Would you talk to a friend about his or her body in that way? Negative thoughts or comments towards yourself feed the belief that your body is problematic and reinforce hatred and discomfort.
Start to show respect to yourself by changing the language you use. Instead of “I hate the way my legs look in these pants,” shift to something more neutral like “I have legs” or “My legs carry me places.”
This will probably feel weird or uncomfortable at first. That’s OK! Keep practicing.
Another tool to use is body image affirmations. They can be helpful in shifting your language and learning to respect your body and improve your body confidence. Read 40 Positive Body Affirmations to Boost Body Confidence.
Stop body checking
Do you suck in every time you walk past a reflective surface or constantly obsess over how your body looks in the mirror? Do you constantly compare yourself to others in the room? This is known as body checking and can contribute to your negative body image, and is a form of disrespect to yourself.
Take the time to present your body in a way that gives you confidence
Do you feel great when you wear a certain color shirt or a specific pair of shoes? Oa maybe you feel more confident if you have your nails done, put on makeup, do your hair a certain way, or put on jewelry? Presenting yourself in ways that feel good is a way of showing yourself and your body respect.
Fashion, clothes, or beauty not your thing? That’s OK, too! This is just one tip that is helpful for some women.
Respect body diversity
Remembering that body diversity exists and that we aren’t all supposed to look the same can help us respect the body that we have. A great place to start is by diversifying your social media feed and filling it with accounts that celebrate different types of bodies.
Meet your basic needs
It sounds simple but if body hatred or body dissatisfaction has been clouding you for a long time, then neglecting your basic needs may prevent you from respecting your body. This includes brushing your teeth, taking a shower, drinking enough water, eating regular meals, and getting fresh air— your body will thank you for it.
Keep up with preventative health
In a similar vein, taking care of your body by booking medical check-ups, dentist appointments or scheduling therapy is a form of body respect.
Commit to taking up more space
If diet culture has been keeping you small for a long time and actively encouraging you to shrink yourself to be seen as palatable in our world, then actively taking up more space can be challenging.
Taking up space may look like setting boundaries with others in conversations about weight and body size. It may look like unapologetically wearing clothes you love and feel happy and confident in. Or, it may look like owning your own opinions and speaking up for causes you believe in.
Respecting our bodies to move from body hatred to body acceptance or body positivity can take time. It can feel daunting but by using the tips to get you started on your body respect journey helps you rebuild your relationship with your body.
Want more support in improving your body image? I support women in their journey to feeling best in their body with my UNDIET approach. Learn more about it and book a free call to see if it’s right for you.