You might have already caught on to the growing momentum of the body positivity and anti-diet movements. Over the last few years, more and more research has looked into the long-term efficacy of dieting attempts and evidence is mounting for a shift in our cultural paradigm about health, weight and food.
As a registered dietitian, I approach each of my clients from a behavioral and individualized perspective. This means I recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to anything as complex as nutrition and/or body image. However, I do recognize and see the power that harnessing a bit of body positivity can do for people: It can drastically improve a person's ability to tap into their own inner wisdom to make nutrition and self-care choices that are in their best interest, rather than the constant restrict/binge cycle that dieting so often creates.
Due to the growing body of evidence supporting a non-dieting, body positive paradigm for nutrition therapy, one important thing I do as a dietitian is to help people with some of the basics of self-acceptance, developing a sense of love and appreciation for one's body.
It's not as easy in practical reality as you might assume. Many of my clients require many months or even years to really unpack all the struggles and issues they have with their relationship with their own body. Many times, therapy with a qualified mental health provider is a crucial part of the process in discovering body positivity as well.
Still, many people report understanding the concepts of body positivity on an intellectual level, but they struggle to really comprehend how to start the process of creating love and acceptance toward their own bodies from a practical perspective.
For many, the idea of body positivity seems so impossible that maybe they don't even want to try. The truth is, though, there are many ways to develop a healthier view of oneself and many different ways to relate to your own body. You can work on developing more trust with your body, explore more neutral self-talk (as opposed to jumping right into positivity) around your body, or focus on aspects of your body to feel grateful for.
But even if those middle of the road steps seem too daunting at first, you can start doing something today that makes a powerful difference in your own body image. And, many times this idea can feel easier than the above ideas because it doesn't have anything to do with your own body.
Are you ready? Here it is: start practicing kindness and gentleness toward other people's bodies. Start noticing the stories you tell yourself about other people's bodies and start replacing the narrative with curiosity, kindness and gentleness rather than judgment.
You might be thinking, "Wait! I don't judge other people's bodies! I only hate on my own!" If that's true, good for you to not judge others. I'd also encourage you to continue with what you think you might be able to do to develop more kindness around your own body. But, I do believe that all of us could likely benefit from some additional awareness around this, learning where our biases and judgments about others lie and start practicing extending kind thoughts toward other people's bodies.
This can be a powerful process of discovering how to create a narrative around bodies in general that avoids judgment. It can be painful at times to realize your own issues that need to be unpacked and worked through, but going through this process is so worth it. This gets you into practice in thinking this way about your own body and can have powerful implications in enhancing your own well being. Not only that, learning to think gentle and kind thoughts about others opens the doors to more friendships, more connection and more kindness overall in your life.
So, if you've been wanting to embark on a body positivity journey but it feels too daunting to practice it for yourself for now, start with extending those positive thoughts toward others and notice how this enhances your own sense of body positivity in your life.
Paige is a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in helping people heal their relationship with food. She hosts Nutrition Matters Podcast and has a private nutrition consulting business based in Salt Lake City.