A couple of years ago a child, a boy of about eight, cycled past me and said, ‘Fat cow.’
My initial reaction was absolute rage. How dare he say something like that to an adult and a complete stranger in the street? My second reaction was that there was nothing I could do about what had just happened. Any attempt to remonstrate with the child would probably have led to further abuse as there is a group of people out there who feel they have the right to comment on a total stranger’s body.
With the media full of negativity about body shape and size and phrases like ‘the war on obesity’ bandied about constantly, along with my own ideas of what my body shape and size should be, I have found it very hard to get to grips with the Beyond Chocolate principle, Own Your Body.
I would not dream of looking at someone else, sighing and shaking my head in disappointment, and yet that is what I did to myself almost every single morning when I got dressed in front of the bathroom mirror. I started each day with a sense of crushing disappointment in myself; I had failed yet again to keep the weight off that I’d lost on my latest diet. If only I had the willpower, the self-discipline, the dedication to stick to the ‘maintenance plan’ … but that was never going to happen and so I needed to find another way to relate to myself which didn’t involve criticism, disappointment and verbal abuse.
The Beyond Chocolate principle, ‘Own Your Body’ is slightly different to other approaches to this issue. The Health At Every Size movement, for example, advocates that anyone of any size or shape can be healthy and that we should accept our body exactly as it is. The Beyond Chocolate approach is that we do not have to accept our body as it is if we don’t want to. We don’t even have to like our body as it is, if we do not want to. We are perfectly justified in wanting to change our body if that’s what we want to do.
So what does Own Your Body mean then?
It means treating your body with respect.
It means treating your body with kindness.
It means working with your body, not fighting against it.
The body is not a brain taxi (thank you to Audrey Boss for this wonderful phrase!).
Imagine your body is a colleague or a particularly challenging relative. You may not like that person, but it is in everyone’s best interests to treat that person with respect and cooperation. Particularly with a colleague, there would be little point in actively sabotaging their work and refusing to co-operate in any joint venture. You and your body are in this together. There is no getting through life without your body. It is to both your benefits to work together.
How might this look in practice?
Tune In and notice how you talk to or about yourself. Are you critical? Judgemental? Negative? Hurtful? Does this help you to lose weight or tone up or whatever it is you want to do with your body? If not, what could you do or say instead that would be helpful? Could you choose to refuse to listen to the negative voices in your head?
What could you say when you catch yourself voicing or thinking one of those criticisms or judgements? What could you say in response to nagging like, ‘This is for your own good,’ ‘no-one else will tell you this,’ or ‘you need to know that …’
How would it be to respond with one of these?
- that’s not kind
- that’s not helpful
- I refuse to be spoken to like that!
- I’m not interested
- I don’t want to hear that
- That’s not going to help
- Don’t talk to me like that!
- I already know that
- F**k Off!
Judgemental thoughts won’t be beaten that easily and it may be that you will need to repeat one or more of these over and over until they stop. Keep Tuning In, keep catching the negativity, keep blocking it or stopping it, keep refusing to hear or believe it.
Work WITH your body. What are you putting off until you are slimmer? Swimming? A holiday? A lovely dress? A new pair of shoes? A cream cake? What are you not allowing your body to do right now? Get married? Go jogging? Apply for promotion? Wear jeggings?
What could you do right now to make inroads into this principle? What’s the one small thing you could do with your body which would make you both feel great? Could you perhaps buy that item of clothing? Agree to go out one evening? Start looking for a better job? Spend time exfoliating and moisturing all over after a shower? Buy something completely delicious for lunch or dinner?
Owning your body is probably not going to happen instantly but every time we take a small step towards working with our bodies, respecting our bodies, co-operating with them, we are making a positive start.
What one small thing could you do today or tomorrow to start to Own Your Body?