Having a supportive, compassionate relationship with your body is critical.
But what does a supportive, compassionate relationship even mean? What does it actually look like?
In her book The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care, Anna Borges features a powerful list of body commandments that speak to what a healthy relationship encompasses. Here they are:
- All bodies are good bodies, including your body.
- You’re not required to always like your body but you should never punish it.
- Don’t say anything about your body that you wouldn’t say about your best friend’s body. Don’t say anything bad about bodies, period.
- Take care of your health out of self-respect, not obligation, and do it in a way you actually enjoy (versus in a way you think you’re supposed to).
- Don’t feel pressured to subscribe to any single body ideology or movement. Your relationship with your body is deeply personal. Movements that are empowering to some people, such as body positivity, might feel restrictive or discouraging to you.
- Tend to aches and pains. Become aware of what muscles you tense and clench. Respect your body’s limits and don’t push them.
- Work on not scrutinizing your body. You don’t have to keep track of numbers.
- Don’t put off life until your body looks a certain way—take that vacation, make that move, buy that outfit.
- Forgive yourself for the times you’ve allowed societal pressures to affect you. Having a good relationship with your body doesn’t mean never feeling pressured to look a certain way or never being drawn to diets that offer transformation. A good relationship is about being aware of the world your body exists in and being kind to it.
- Your body will change, so the respect you cultivate for it can’t be conditional. You and your body are in it for the long haul.
Jot down the commandments that speak to you, or create your own list. You can even take this further by adding one tiny action you can take for each commandment.
For example, to tend to your aches and pains, you start practicing progressive muscle relaxation and stretching your body every night.
To stop keeping track of numbers, you toss your scale and stop counting calories.
To care for your health out of self-respect (and satisfaction), you start taking a restorative yoga class and walks around your favorite park.
To be kind to your body, you start taking more breaks and getting enough sleep.
I know that building a positive relationship with your body is not easy. It can be a complex process littered with devastating past experiences, fad diets, unrealistic expectations, unrealized dreams, and a lot of sadness. This might mean turning to professional support to unpack and resolve these complex contributing factors.
However, you can still take the time to reflect on what you’d like your relationship to look like, and take all kinds of small actions to get started.
The key is to give yourself permission to treat your body well, even when you feel uncomfortable, even when you’re disappointed that you’re not losing weight, even when you believe your body deserves the opposite.
Treat your body well. Even, and especially, then.