Wherever your body is right now is where it ought to be. It may be fifteen pounds over where you’d like it to be; it may be bloated, tired, sluggish, or in pain. But in order to steer yourself on a new course and care for your body in a productive, health-affirming way, you have to release yourself from the negative mental baggage. From Women, Food, and Desire.
All of us have an inner critic that just doesn’t know when to shut up, and even worse, this harpy is often hissing at us in such a low whisper that we aren’t even aware that she’s tearing us to shreds (often, ironically, while we’re on a treadmill or yoga mat, virtuously passing on dessert, or otherwise trying to be “good”). I refer to this internal critic as the “bitch brain,” and I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know my own bitch brain and working hard to turn her into my brain’s BFF. It takes vigilance and cognitive awareness to dismantle the negative monologue that runs through my head, to catch those messages that undermine all of my conscious efforts to feel good about my body. But this work must be done; otherwise, all of the brightest possibilities for radiant health stay out of my reach.
Want to find out what your bitch brain has to say to you? Here’s a little test: simply head to the nearest department store, preferably in the off-season, and try on the sexiest bathing suit you can find. Chances are that this will unleash a torrent of negative thinking about your body, and if you listen to the self-talk, or more honestly the self-lashing, that ensues, you may decide that you’ll never go to the beach again.
So get naked. And get real about your body. Maybe your belly will never be flat, not since you had children, but so what? Instead of telling yourself that you’re a loser because you’ve got stretch marks, why not praise that body for producing healthy babies? So what if your build won’t ever be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated? Who besides you in your real life cares? I’m not trying to be cavalier here, or worse, to offer empty peppy slogans, but the fact is, comparing brings nothing but despairing, no matter what you look like. What matters is that you accept the body you have—the body you are in at this moment—and know that as long as it’s supporting you while you move to create the life of your dreams, then it is nothing less than smoking hot.
If you can’t go there, if you can’t love your body—bumps, dimples, ripples, and all—then you’ve got to do the work of breaking the habit of negative body talk your brain is used to. You have to catch yourself betraying your own body, of selling yourself out, and to do this, I recommend you strive to:
• Write a list of ten things you love about your body, post it on the fridge, and read it every single day.
• Refrain from criticizing anyone’s physique, including your own.
• Focus on how you feel, not on a number on a scale or a dress label.
• Enjoy what your body does well (dancing, having sex, playing a sport, etc.).
• Don’t be intimidated by media-driven size/body-type discrimination. In fact, stop consuming that kind of media. Avoid all reality TV.
• Steer clear of diets or exercise programs that are rigid, strict, and based on deprivation.
We’ve got enough stacked against us without being against ourselves. That’s why it’s crucial to break the mental habits that keep us from making peace with our bodies.
When our energy is spent building or reinforcing self-sabotaging habits of mind, body, or spirit, we will remain slaves to our cravings. Shaming and hating your body undermines all of your best intentions and makes it impossible to enjoy eating, making love, or engaging in any activities you love. It dulls our creativity and limits the healthy brain power we need to succeed at work and at home. So you’ve got to fight for your right to love your body. It’s the only way to be truly free.