Body love. Body acceptance. Body trust. These are some of the many words used to describe healthy relationships with our bodies. Yet, too many women, men and children struggle with body image dissatisfaction. The causes are complex and it affects those with and without disordered eating.
In light of February being the month that celebrates love and Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I propose that we celebrate by writing a ‘love letter’ to our bodies. Too often our relationships with our bodies can become neglectful, critical and even abusive. However, our bodies are our constant companions in life. They are our protectors and our alarm system when things are not right.
Like all healthy relationships, our relationship with our bodies needs respect, care, and acceptance. We need to recognize and accept that our bodies are dynamic, ever changing with age and life experiences (e.g., tattoos and piercings, pregnancy and childbirth, accidents and illnesses, etc.). These changes are not something to be ashamed of but rather reminders of how strong our bodies are and how they’ve helped us survive and thrive.
Writing a letter to your body is not easy, so find a time and space that is comfortable. Your letter could be handwritten in a journal or a scrap piece of paper, and/or typed or posted online. You could express yourself with pictures and/or photographs, or musically through a song. Use whatever medium allows you best to express yourself—and amazingly in the process using your body.
To get you started, the following are examples of things you might be grateful for:
-Everyday biological functions: breathing, heart pumping blood, restoration during sleep, absorption of nutrients and creation of energy from food
-Giving clues to your emotional state: the hot flush of anger, the butterflies of nervousness and/or excitement, and the warmth of love and affection for others
-Laughter (especially the deep belly kind)
-Dancing: fast or slow; on your own, with friends, or with a loved one
-Singing (in the shower counts!)
-Creating art through painting, writing, music, etc.
-Hugging loved ones
-Petting and playing with an animal
-Pleasure from (consensual) kissing and sex
-Building strength and endurance through physical activities
-Creating, feeding and nurturing babies/children
Writing a “Dear Body” letter will not necessarily change how you feel about your body, or how you see yourself. Again, the causes of body image dissatisfaction are complex and recovery is as well. However, this letter may serve as a gentle reminder of all the incredible things your body does for you each and every day. It may even help you build a more ‘friendly’ relationship with your body. And, in those darker moments, you can look at this letter and remind yourself that even though you don’t like certain aspects of your body, as a whole every ‘body’ is amazing!
By Carrie Pollard-Jarrell, MSW RS