It may seem like a simple statement – the relationship we have with our bodies (aka. with ourselves) is one of the most important relationship that we will ever have.
Yet, how many people “hate” their bodies and struggle to find self-love and self-acceptance?
Many. Oh-so many.
As a Registered Dietitian, with over 15 years in practice, I can say that I have met countless people that have a strained relationships with food and with their body.
Why is it important to understand the relationship we have with our bodies? Because without a strong, caring relationship with our body, it is difficult to achieve the health that we truly desire.
As a divorcee, who also loves learning about and doing the “inner work”, I have also had a lot of experience learning about how to have healthy relationships.
I have also learned a lot about dynamics can get I the way of having a healthy partnership. It is amazing how many parallels there are between the romantic relationships and having a healthy relationship with food and our bodies.
We are all inherently deserving of good health. However, some of us were not modeled healthy relationships when we were young… both in love and with food. Now as adults we are responsible for changing the habits and behaviours that don’t serve us well.
Recognizing that you have a strained relationship with food and your body isn’t a bad thing. In fact, having that awareness gives you the opportunity to heal, grow and move forward in the healthiest way possible.
To better understand our relationship with our body and with food, let’s look at some of the similarities to having a healthy romantic relationship.
Spending time together
One of the first things that my marriage counsellor said when we started going to counseling was “you can’t have a relationship with someone you don’t spend time with.” Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?! But, let me ask you… how much time do you spend devoted to your health or your body everyday? How much time do you spend giving it the attention it deserves?
Whether it be through setting out time to exercise, time to meditate, or time to prepare healthy meals, there are lots of ways to spend time with your body and with your health.
However, in our big busy world, how often do you give up this time for other seemingly “important” things like work, going out or doing something for someone else. Yes, there are real reasons why we may have to prioritize our time on other things, now and then. But when this happens over and over, on an almost daily basis, our bodies stop giving back. That’s when we feel exhausted and burned out.
Communication is key! Healthy communication involves honesty, trust and vulnerability. Communication allows us to develop closeness and companionship with another person.
You many be thinking “I am supposed to talk to my body?” Well… sort of…
I am referring to self-talk. In particular, negative self-talk. How we talk to ourselves shapes our how we feel about ourselves and our experiences. When we are telling ourselves that we should feel badly for eating too much, or not working out today, or for weighing 10lbs more than we did 2 years ago, we create a division between our mind and our bodies.
In a healthy relationship with another person, we need to treat each other with respect and compassion. The same applies to how we talk about ourselves and our bodies. We need to speak with respect and self-compassion. Here is an example:
Instead of saying – “Ugh, I ate all that pie for dessert. I have no control and should feel ashamed of myself!”
Try saying – “I just noticed that I ate more than I usually do. That is usually a sign that I am really stressed/tired/overwhelmed. I need to make sure that I prioritize rest and self-care right now.”
Feels different, doesn’t it?!
Don’t forget that communication is not just about talking, it is also about listening. When it comes to our bodies, it is important that we are listening. Our bodies are communicating with us all the time! It may be our hunger cues, pain, fatigue or a full bladder. Our bodies are signaling us to let us know what it needs in the moment.
The question is, are you listening? Do you eat when you are hungry? Do you go pee or do you hold it until you are uncomfortable? Responding to our body’s communication is an important way to help build trust with ourselves.
By far, THIS has to be my favourite similarity between all types of relationships. Why? Because I have struggled the most with setting and holding boundaries. Now that I have learned so much about having strong boundaries, I find it so empowering to recognize the need for them.
When it comes to our bodies and our health, it is about setting boundaries to protect our time, space, resources and mental health so that we can take good care of ourselves.
Boundaries are there to make sure that your body and your health do not become less important than other parts of our life. Here are some examples of having strong health boundaries:
Saying no to a glass of wine or cocktail, without giving an explanation.
Timing your plans around grocery shopping or having dinner at home first.
Staying in or leaving a party early so that you can get the good night sleep that you know you need.
Requesting to eat at a certain restaurant because it has more healthy options for you to choose from.
Being firm about the time you need to workout, even if it conflicts with someone else’s plans.
Not sharing every part of your health history, with every friend, just because they asked.
This list could go on and on. One of the biggest challenges I hear about when it comes to setting health boundaries is fear of upsetting others. The truth is, sometimes you will. That is okay! Your health is not less important than anyone else’s needs. When you suddenly go from having very few boundaries to having strong boundaries, some people will be upset because they simply are not use to it. Remember, upsetting someone with your boundaries, does not mean that you shouldn’t have them.
This topic is one that I love to talk about. It is so beautiful to see individuals start to heal their relationship with their bodies and with food – like a weight starts to lift off their shoulders. Cultivating a healthy relationship with our bodies and with ourselves is truly a powerful experience that has long-term benefits! There is no relationship that has bigger rewards!
If you are struggling with your relationship with food, your body or your help and you would like to get to a healthier place, check out my 4 Week Empowered Eating Program!
I’m a dietitian who works closely with women in Collingwood, Blue Mountains, Thornbury, Grey Bruce and beyond to help them achieve their health and weight loss goals so they can feel confident and live their best life. Find out how you can achieve success by booking your free discovery call today.