As her body re-calibrates after years of restrictive dieting - which can manifest as weight gain (temporary or permanent), her brain is shouting at her to restrict food, lose weight, start vigorous exercise - all the old coping mechanisms that got her into trouble in the first place.
Feeling a lot of self-loathing and disconnection from her body and its changing shape, she reached out to me.
It's really common for a woman I'm working with to tell me it’s easier to love her body when she’s “eating well,” exercising, or otherwise doing the things that society tells us are necessary to win the “thin is best” game.
This is totally understandable.
We live in a world that constantly reminds us that our worth is directly proportional to our body fat percentage. Where social privilege and resources are granted or withheld based on how well we adhere to society's narrow range of "ideal bodies". In such a world, it may feel easier to accept yourself when you’re conforming to the rules set by the over culture.
And it's all too automatic to hate ourselves when we do not happen to conform to these unjust standards.
This is where body image work becomes really important.
And to truly heal our relationship with food and our bodies, it's imperative that we accept ourselves - or at least start on the road towards accepting ourselves - just as we are, right now.
By unconditional love, I mean the kind of love you feel for close friends and family. This kind of love doesn't depend on what they look like.
By unconditional acceptance, I mean the way you accept your best friend for who he or she is, in all of his or her colourful wonder, imperfections, foibles, and magnificence. Again, you probably accept this person, independent of his or her physical appearance.
Is body acceptance something you are willing to work on?
Are you willing to let go of the fear of weight gain, the need to regulate emotions using food manipulation and exercise, internalised weight stigma, and the belief that you aren't good enough unless you're thin enough?
Are you ready to make the courageous leap towards building a resilient body image and unconditional love for yourself no matter what you look like?
What would it take for you to do this?
For an introduction to body image work and what I believe lies at its heart, check out this blog.