For the first episode of 2021 and smack bang in the middle of January, I wanted to talk about a big topic… body acceptance. Now is typically the peak time where diet culture rears its ugly head and I guess I want to try and counter that in a small way.
In the episode I talk about my own journey with body acceptance and share some tools that help me throughout my eating disorder recovery. I hope it helps, listen wherever you get your podcasts or here:
Links and further reading
- The romance of food
- Building self-awareness
- How to build a positive relationship with social media
- What is body neutrality?
- Counselling Directory
- Support me on Ko-fi
Today we’re going to be talking about a big topic – body acceptance and specifically, body acceptance when in recovery from an eating disorder. Because it’s difficult, but I believe it can be done and if I can do it, you can do it. And obviously with the nature of this subject we are going to be talking about eating disorders, so if that triggers you or if you’re not ready to hear this right now, please feel free to skip this episode.
Hello everyone and happy New Year! I hope you all had a really restful festive period and a gentle start to 2021 – I’m actually recording this before signing off for Christmas and I am so excited for a proper break. And on that note, Dan is currently on a work call in the other room, it shouldn’t pick up on here but if you happen to hear another voice in the background… it’s Dan!
But getting on to today’s topic, I wanted to discuss a subject that I can’t quite believe I haven’t mentioned before here – body image. And specifically body acceptance. And releasing this episode in January feels fitting because this is notoriously the worst time of the year for people struggling with their body image. There’s often an influx of New Year, New You bullshit trying to bully you into signing up to a new diet program or exercise regime that will claim to change everything.
So I wanted to try and counter that, even if it’s only in a very small way. I know body acceptance can be difficult. If you have followed me for a while, you’ll likely know that I had anorexia when I was younger and while eating disorders aren’t *really* about weight and bodies at their core, hating how you look is definitely a symptom.
My eating disorder led me to believe that I would only be happy if I was thin, and really, how different is that from the message society spouts? It’s no wonder then that recovery from eating disorders is so difficult. Even when you’re in recovery, it still feels wrong and hard to accept your changing body.
I’ve been in recovery now for over a decade and, honestly, I still find it hard sometimes. I’ve made peace with food, I eat intuitively and freely and absolutely love it. In fact I recently wrote an article about the romance of food which talks more about this, I’ll link that in the show notes. But my body is constantly changing.
Every time a piece of clothing becomes too tight, I’m reminded that what I eat affects my body and that isn’t a reminder anyone in recovery from an eating disorder wants. Every time I look back at photos from years ago and see a different body, a small part of me longs to go back.
But, I feel like I’ve come to a place where I can cope with this.
I can breathe deeply and remind myself that it’s natural for bodies to change. We are constantly evolving and growing as humans and sometimes our bodies reflect that growth. I remind myself that all bodies are beautiful. I draw inspiration from the body positivity community online, read up on the health at every size movement and drive home to myself that I am happier now than I’ve ever been. That line my eating disorder and society fed me, that I would only be happy if I was thin? That was a total lie. And it feels pretty amazing to realise that.
And I truly think, if I can find body acceptance, you can. So I wanted to share some things I’ve done throughout my recovery to help me improve my body image in case they’re useful for you too:
Number one is to flat out argue with my inner critic. This was instrumental in my eating disorder recovery and I think it can help anyone with a particularly nasty inner critic. What I did was make a game of it, so I’d do the opposite of whatever it told me to do. So if my inner critic ever told me to skip a meal or punish my body in some way – I would do the opposite. I would celebrate my body, I would eat whatever it was telling me not to eat. It’s difficult, but an incredible way to take the power back.
Number two is to not hide from my reflection. It can be easy to try and avoid what your body looks like when you’re not happy with it, but I’ve always found it helpful to take the time to get to know it and really embrace it. Recognise how hard it works to keep me alive each day and show it a little bit of gratitude.
Number three is, honestly, a shit-load of awareness work. Meditating, journaling, getting to know myself. All of this helped me realise that when I ‘feeling fat’, for example, it’s not actually a feeling. So if I ever think to myself ‘I feel fat’ I try to figure out what the real emotion coming through is. And I also question myself on why I perceive ‘feeling fat’ as a bad thing, slowly unpicking my own internalised fatphobia.
And finally number four is to diversify my social media feeds. This is where the truth that being thin wouldn’t make me happy really sunk in for me. It inspired me, showed me that all bodies are beautiful and made me see myself in a much gentler light. I started unlearning diet culture rules and fatphobic rhetoric. Um – I talk in detail actually about cultivating a more positive relationship with social media in episode 31, so go back and listen to that if you haven’t already.
So there we go, Just a few thoughts here but hopefully they’re enough to get you started if you find body acceptance difficult. Please try not to beat yourself up if you don’t love your body, take small steps and strive for body neutrality if that feels more doable – and if you’re not familiar with this concept, I’ve written about it on Happiful, so I’ll pop a link to that in the show notes.
And of course, if this goes deeper than just struggling with your body image, if you think you could do with some professional support, then definitely head to your doctor and see if you can speak to a counsellor. Again I’ll pop a link to Counselling Directory which is a brand I work for and a place where you can find private therapists online. I definitely couldn’t do what I did without counselling.
And of course I also have to note my privilege here. It’s easier for me to accept my body as I’m straight sized, white, cisgender, hetero, able-bodied woman. It’s always going to be more difficult if your body is oppressed and society is constantly berating you. And a whole lot of societal stuff has to change to make this easier for all of us, but there are some small steps everyone can take.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, do head over to @katbluejay on Instagram and let me know if you have any other tips to help with body acceptance. To read the show notes, find the links I’ve mentioned or read the transcript of this episode, visit bluejayofhappiness.com/podcast.
And if you found the episode helpful and you want to support my work, I would love you to share the episode with your audience or head to ko-fi.com/katbluejay to add a couple of pounds to my tip jar there.
I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with an episode about mindfulness and how to stop and smell the roses. But until then, please take care.