I’ve learned a few things about my body image (and intimacy) in the years that I have been working on developing a peaceful relationship with food, eating and my body.
- My size has made no difference to my desirability.
- My size has made no difference to my enjoyment of intimacy.
- My thoughts about my body have made a huge difference to my enjoyment of intimacy, regardless of my size.
- As I’ve taken my focus away from my size and put it on other things that matter to me, I’ve shifted from disgust and shame about my body, to neutrality about it, to acceptance of it, to respect for it, and to appreciation of it. I haven’t ‘tried’ to do this. I’ve simply noticed my thoughts and then redirected my attention. Again and again.
I’m writing this because something happened this past weekend that made me realise just how far I’ve travelled on the road to body acceptance – and dare I say – enjoyment!
My husband and I were having a cuddle and he stroked my bottom. In the past there were certain parts of my body that I hated having touched. It was a real turn off for me. I would cringe. It was only when I told him I enjoyed the touch, that he reminded me that my bottom used to be off-limits. Years ago, I’d given him instructions about what he could and couldn’t touch. I can’t remember now when I let go of the rules and he stopped following them – we never talked about it – I didn’t say one day ‘OK, I think it’s safe for you to touch [whichever body part] now.’ It just happened over time as I loosened up, challenged my thoughts about my body and developed more acceptance of it, he intuitively responded.
Things that helped:
- I asked my husband not to comment on my body when he thought I’d put on weight and when he could feel I’d lost weight. He was never unkind about my changing shape (lucky me) – it was always said purely as something he was noticing – as if he was saying, ‘it’s raining today.’ Still, comments that I interpreted as positive or negative were counter-productive for me. I actively deflected other people’s comments about my body by simply not responding, or making a brief and polite response and then changing the subject.
- I stopped weighing myself.
- I stopped following ‘health/diet gurus.’ I unsubscribed from lists and newsletters that promoted rule-based ways of eating. I taught Facebook and Google which ads I did not want to see!
- I actively embraced size-diversity. When I say actively, that means when I noticed my judgements about larger bodies, my action was to redirect my thinking to some version of: ‘size is not a measure of health or human value.’ When I noticed smaller bodies I did the same. When I noticed that I was comparing myself to any body, I dropped it like a hot potato.
- I managed my mind around my reflection in shop windows and mirrors.
- I stopped wearing clothes that were too tight.
- I stopped yearning to be thin by realising that making myself smaller was not going to make my self-worth, my self-esteem or my loveability bigger.