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it gets easier, this feeding and loving yourself

Posted by on Mar 9, 2011 in Blog Posts | 3 comments

From my friend and colleague Michelle over at FatNutritionist.com…
You don’t have to love yourself — not all at once.

You only need to like yourself just enough not to do self-destructive things. You only need to like yourself enough to give yourself the common decency you would show a perfect stranger. And since you probably don’t go around smacking random people on the street — or even that annoying coworker who does that thing you CAN’T STAND — this should be manageable.

The reason this is important is, because, when people get involved in size acceptance, or recovering from disordered eating, it seems like there’s this perfectionist tendency or pressure to BE SUPER PERFECT AT IT ALL AT ONCE.

This is not possible to do. And beating oneself up for not doing it is really, really counterproductive.

When someone quits smoking, we don’t tend to shame them for having cigarette cravings (or at least, we shouldn’t — not helpful, guys!) Instead, we encourage them to be strong, to use whatever supports they have available, and just not smoke, no matter how strong the craving. And it will pass.

Likewise, when you’re doing the self-acceptance thing, it doesn’t mean you can never, from this point on, have a day when your body image is in the toilet, or when dieting seems like a really, really great idea, and your mouse cursor is hovering over the BUY NOW! button for some shyster-y fat zapping device.

No no no, my friend.

These things happen. In fact, you can be guaranteed they will happen.You WILL sometimes feel like crap.You WILL sometimes really, really want to stop eating or punish yourself with exercise.You WILL want to dial the 1-800 number on the infomercial at 3am.

The trick is to plan for it — have a friend you can call to talk you down, write your bottom line on a piece of paper and put it on the wall (for a long time, mine was Marilyn Wann’s quote that “You can’t hate people for their own good.” Including yourself.) Use your powers of procrastination for good instead of evil: decide that you’ll wait until Monday. Or Tuesday. Or the fifth of Never.

Make a list of questions to ask yourself while you wait: what will I get from trying to lose weight? What will I give up? Do I want to lose weight because I want to weigh less, or are there other reasons (to be healthier, more attractive, stronger, like myself more)?

Is losing weight the most direct and effective way to go about getting those things? How else might I get them?

Liking yourself, after a lifetime of being told that your size is inversely related to your value as a human being, is hard work. In many cases, it requires more sustained strength of will than dieting does. And it is a process that only works with time.

At the start, you won’t be good at it. You don’t have to be good at it. You don’t have to look in the mirror and be totally jazzed with what you see. You don’t have to be totally poised when people say mean things. You don’t have to love your body.

All you have to do, right now, is not hurt yourself.

It gets easier, I promise.

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3 Comments

Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Lisa

    Oooh – I like that you know Michelle! You two are really breaking a lot of stereotypes about MDs and RDs :))

  2. Emgee

    I love Michelle, pretty much everything she writes is fantastic. And she turned me on to this website, so, yes. This.

  3. Twistie

    One thing that I like to do when I start feeling the self-loathing, diet-y thoughts creeping in is to go read Kate Harding’s essay on The Fantasy of Being Thin for the umpteenth time. (Find it at: http://kateharding.net/2007/11/27/the-fantasy-of-being-thin/)

    It reminds me that no matter what size I am, I’ll still be me, so I might as well find a way to love who I am right now. Even if I did miraculously become a size two, I would still be broke, bookish, and an odd combination of brassy and almost painfully shy. I still would not be particularly athletic, tall, or over my fear of fire. But right now I have a great singing voice, a blissful marriage to a wonderful guy, good friends, a great talent for cooking and especially baking, a good mind, an ability to express myself eloquently, a fantastic sense of humor, an ability to charm small children and animals, a heart full of compassion for others, and a willingness to see the best possibilities in those around me.

    It reminds me that no matter what size my pants are, my contributions to society are worthy… even if I’m not a world traveling astrophysicist slash rock star slash neurosurgeon. It reminds me of who I am, and that I am a pretty darn awesome person to be.

    We all need a reminder like that once in a while.

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